Instilling Confidence in Kids

by: Dan Florell, Ph.D.

There seemed to be kids everywhere during the first week the swimming pool was open for the summer. The most popular attraction at the pool was the addition of a high diving board. All of the boy’s friends had jumped off it and were telling the boy how thrilling it was to stare down into the pool from that height before making the leap.

The boy looked like he wanted to go up on the high dive, but he never tried it. He was too scared and it was too different from anything he had tried before. Even with his friends coaxing him on, he refused.

There are many times where kids are going to be challenged when they are young. Sometimes the challenge will come in mastering a skill like reading and other times it will be to try something new like a high dive at the pool. However, neither of these types of challenges will be met if kids lack confidence in their abilities. Parents can take steps to ensure their kids develop enough confidence so they can meet the challenges they will face.

Kids learn all sorts of things from their parents, including how to approach challenges and tackling new tasks. Parents who manage new tasks with optimism and lots of preparation serve as models for their kids to approach new tasks in a similar manner. While is okay for parents to acknowledge some anxiety when trying something new, they should not focus on it. Rather, parents should focus on the positive aspects of doing something for the first time.

Confident people try new things and master new skills. Parents should encourage their kids to try a variety of activities of which they are unfamiliar. Pushing them to learn new skills leads kids to become more confident in their own abilities.

In the process of learning new thing and mastering skills, parents ought to acknowledge that mastering challenges will inevitably involve some failures. Parents can emphasize that failures are the best learning opportunities and that everyone fails at one point or another. Confident people learn from their mistakes and don’t let failure get in their way. No one is perfect and people who only accept perfection are likely to be unhappy.

Since failures are likely to occur, parents should concentrate on celebrating kids’ efforts towards meeting a challenge and not the end result. The focus on effort can encourage kids to endure setbacks and continue towards a goal. It takes hard work to develop new skills and it can take time before they are mastered. In the meantime, kids need to learn how to persevere and not give up when a skill does not come to them quickly.

Another way parents can encourage their kids to become more confident is to learn how to set goals. These can include smaller goals that are quick to complete and bigger ones that take some time to achieve. Making smaller, more manageable goals will ensure success and lead kids to have more confidence in tackling bigger challenges.

Encountering challenges when growing up can be hard. Parents can help their kids be more confident in meeting those challenges. Take a minute and think about a new challenge your kid can accomplish and start building up their confidence!

This article was published in the Richmond Register daily Friday on April 1, 2016.

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