Parents bring their children along to our classes to help improve their child's confidence.
This is perhaps the most common reason stated on the form that I ask them to fill in at the start of a lesson.
What does confidence look like in a child? Is this the child that runs into new adventures without a care in the world? Just a slight glance over their shoulder as they run towards a potential new friend?
A confident child will be brave and try new things without fearing failure, they have the resilience to try again when they fail.
A young person with high self esteem will feel proud of what they can do and have positive thoughts about themselves.
Many adults and children lack confidence, perhaps not in every situation but there are times when we can be less than confident.
Is confidence genetic?
I am not a scientist but I imagine that the answer is no. Confidence is a trait which is learnt. Our previous experiences feed into our self esteem and help to grow or damage our confidence levels.
Let us consider our adult selves.
Are there situations where you feel confident? It is likely that you are confident when you are at work. Especially if you have been working in the same role for a long period of time. You will have had lots of success in that position, this increases self confidence.
Did you feel that same way on your first day? Probably not, the nervous feeling when we approach something new becomes quite familiar to adults. We know that once we have adapted we will begin to feel less nervous and more secure.
Confidence will grow.
This transition period will be different depending on many factors. I have had lots of different jobs. I have become comfortable with this sort of change. The initial nervous feeling will pass once I have met a few people.
I can imagine a very different scenario where I may have had just two or three jobs since leaving school. I may be less comfortable with new faces and new challenges. That nervous feeling may last a little longer.
Then fast forward a few more years. Another new job beckons. This time the nervous feeling will pass more quickly. The positive experience of having recently changed jobs is still in your sub conscious. Your confidence in this situation has grown.
Now let us consider this same sort of scenario for a child. Their first time at school, a change of school, the step up to secondary. These are all big steps. HUGE for some children.
How did you feel as a child going through these changes? Were you confident? Did you have a happy experience? If the answer to these questions is negative, then how have you made sure that you did not pass on these negative attitudes to your own child?
What kind of language do you use when discussing big events? Are you using positive language designed to excite and engage? School is exciting, interesting and full of new adventures and friends. Or is your language more negative? School is big, a bit scary and full of bullies and teachers.
Generally, how confident are you?
What situations do you look forward to?
This is where you confidence is likely to be high, your language in these situations is tending to be more positive.
I am socially very confident, I am an only child and often found myself in situations as a child where I have needed to start up conversations with a stranger if I want some company. As an adult this has been an excellent skill to have. I start up conversations with anyone and everyone and have a little chuckle to myself if I receive a strange look!
Interestingly, I do not take any rebuffs negatively. They sort of bounce off of me. I have many more positive interactions than negative so overall my experiences in social situations is a good one.
The area where I lack confidence is physicality.
I have struggled with my weight and my level of fitness for most of my adult life. As a result when I have tried to push out of my comfort zone the little self-esteem demon in my head tells me that “I cannot”. I will sometimes stop before I fail. If I had continued then maybe I would be celebrating a personal success.
I was never encouraged to be a daredevil as a child. I did not have a role model who was out there doing amazing things. I did not belong to any clubs where I was being encouraged and supported to push my personal limits.
So I have my personal areas of confidence and low confidence. I believe that both stem from childhood exposure and memories.
I believe that it is a powerful exercise to dig deep into your own mindset. Every little comment we make, every shrug of the shoulder, frown or smile will be interpreted by the children that we are interacting with.
As a secondary maths teacher working in a non-selective school in Kent I taught a large number of children who had been damaged by the 11+ test. When a young person sits a test, which will rank them and compare them against their peers there is always going to be a child who considers themselves a failure.
I spent years trying to help young people rebuild that shattered confidence. Unfortunately, only some have the resilience to push through to their GCSE and achieve well. Some just listen to the little self-esteem demon in their head and do not want to try in case they fail (again).
Obviously, we all want the best for our children. I have lots of conversations with parents who spend years worrying about this test. Should they sit it? What kind of school will best suit their child?
It is an absolute mine field.
What about the little ones? Why do they lack confidence?
Many of our behaviours are learnt. So if as a parent or carer you lack confidence then you are likely to pass on this trait to your children. Your language around a new experience might be apprehensive and your child will pick up on that.
If we are wanting to foster high self esteem in our children then we need to think about how we talk, behave and encourage our child. Positivity and resilience will help build confidence and positive self esteem.
It is essential to be modelling a positive attitude for young people to imitate. Looking for the sunshine moments even on a rainy day will help improve everyone’s attitude.
If we desire children who are confident then as adults we need to be demonstrating a positive attitude and encouraging positive thoughts in our children.
Every time a kid tries or learns something new it is an opportunity to improve their self-esteem. Try to help them build their independence, they might need help with a task but give them time, try to be patient. If you desire a confident child then they need to do things for themselves, make mistakes and try again.
Children need to have the chance to try new things, these can be small things like planting a flower in the garden and tending to it until it blossoms. Success, even in small things will encourage a positive mindset.
Negative language needs to be turned into a positive. “I cannot” should become “I will try”. Depending on the task they may need support and there will be times of failure, but failure is important. This is another chance to build resilience. To try again and achieve that success.
A really lovely way for all of us to become more confident is to give and accept compliments.
Those honest, heartfelt compliments. As adults we sometimes struggle to accept a compliment. “You look great in that dress”……… “Oh this old thing, I got it years ago”……….
Next time someone pays you a compliment accept it, smile and remember to pass on that positive feeling by complimenting others.
Next time you wear that dress you will remember the compliments. You will walk tall, blossom and receive more compliments.
So how do we improve confidence in our children?
We improve our own confidence. We give our children the opportunity to be independent and to be successful. We pick them up when they fall down and help them to try again. We work on a positive mindset.