We, as parents, want our kids to be confident to ensure a smooth transition from childhood to adulthood. Becoming confident, however, can be a very bumpy road. We can expect great moments of celebration along with tragic moments of defeat. How we help our kids navigate the bumps will either create or deflate confidence.
Confidence is the belief that:
- I have the ability to learn even if the learning is difficult
- I can rely on myself to work hard and know when to ask for help
- I can make mistakes along the way and know they provide the greatest opportunity to learn
Confidence is not the belief that:
- I am the smartest
- Things always come easily to me
- Mistakes are to be avoided at all costs
There are many similarities between the definition of confidence and Carol Dweck’s growth mindset described in her book Mindset (2006). From her research, she concluded there are two mindsets that can positively or negatively impact future success. Someone with a growth mindset holds the belief that intelligence can be developed. Someone with a fixed mindset believes that intelligence is static and can change very little over time. The most important finding, however, is that mindsets are developed and can change.
Developing a growth mindset will help create confident kids. Let’s take a real life example of a challenge a child might face – a bump in the road – and what we can do and say to help create confidence.
Situation: Paul has a huge project due in 3 days that hasn’t been started yet.
Help him realize that he has the ability
What to Do: Teach that our brains can get smarter by learning new things.
What to Say: Our brains actually grow and get smarter by learning. What are you hoping to learn with this project?
Do: Break down something hard into small parts and point out his accomplishments.
Say: You have 3 days. Let’s see what needs to be done and make a plan.
Do: Teach him to use the word “yet”. When they say, “I can’t do that” remind him to say, “I can’t do that yet” and then help him make a plan to get there.
Say: You don’t know how to do that yet. How can you learn to do it?
Help him learn to rely on himself
Do: Praise him for overcoming challenges. *Don’t give praise if there is no improvement.
Say: You stuck to your plan and you finished the project on time.
Do: When he asks for help, be mindful of what he can do for himself and what he can’t. If he can do it, guide him by asking questions such as “Where can you find that information?” If he really can’t do it, show him how.
Say: Did you see that information in your textbook? No? Where else could you look to find out what you need?
Help him understand that mistakes are necessary for learning
Do: Stay calm when he makes mistakes and don’t let him make excuses. Ask him to explain his thinking to understand what needs to be learned or changed.
Say: I can see you’re angry. Take a couple of deep breaths and then tell me what happened.
Do: When he doesn’t get what he wanted, empathize and then help him see where he could have done better or how a new opportunity presented itself. Provide honest feedback. He’ll know when you are sugar-coating.
Say: I can see you are disappointed that you didn’t get an A on this project after all the work you put into it. What comments did your teacher give you?
Got the idea? Next time your child hits a bump in the road, take time to think about what you’ll do and say to create confidence.
All the best,