Five ways to a confident happy child
Nadim Saad, author of the bestseller Raising Confident Kids and founder of website, Best of Parenting, offers his five top tips to develop confidence and self-esteem in children.
Self-esteem comes from understanding what we’re good at and what makes us unique. The most effective way of achieving long-lasting change in a child’s confidence and behaviour is by increasing their internal motivation and helping them develop a ‘growth mindset’.
1. Help them discover their individuality
Help your child identify their unique skills by allowing them to experiment with different activities so that they can find things they enjoy and ‘naturally’ have more facility at. This will help them enjoy the process of learning and they’ll be less likely to give up in the face of difficulty. Sit down with them and make a list of what they find easy and enjoy such as being good at a sport. You can also suggest that they try drama, dancing and singing. These help children discover their individuality. They are also ideal for showing how much progress they can make when they practise regularly.
2. Develop perseverance by challenging them
Self-esteem also comes from struggle and overcoming adversity. It’s important that children don’t just do things that come easily to them. Instead, they should find age-appropriate challenges they can rise to. This gives them the opportunity to develop perseverance, persistence and grit. If they struggle at something, rather than ‘saving them’ by intervening, try suggesting alternatives strategies.
3. Celebrate challenges and mistakes
Children need to feel that it’s normal and important to make mistakes as ultimately they’ll learn from them. Help them to understand that FAIL can be thought of as a ‘First Attempt In Learning’ and that having a go and failing leads to less regret than failing to try in the first place.
When they encounter challenges, start by giving your child empathy for their difficulty or feeling. For example, ‘You seem to have really struggled with your maths homework’. Then help them find strategies to make things less challenging. For example, by ‘chunking’ things, i.e. dividing bigger challenges into smaller parts to make them more achievable.
4. Praise them for effort and progress
Praising children with general statements such as ‘This is great!’ or ‘You’re so clever!’ can backfire because, as soon as they spot that we are so hopelessly biased, children start to doubt the sincerity of our praise. In the long-term, this type of ‘evaluative’ praise is also detrimental because it focuses on things that children cannot control and it can make them afraid of challenges.
Focus on things that your child can control such as the process of learning rather than the outcome.
Instead, focus on things that your child can control such as the process of learning rather than the outcome or the effort they have put into something and the progress they have made. For example, ‘I can see by your piano playing how much you have practised’ or ‘You know your times tables by heart, I can see that you have put a lot of effort into learning these’. When they ask for your opinion on something they’ve done, instead of saying, ‘Wow, this is so beautiful!’, try asking them a question, ‘How did you do this part?’ or simply use descriptive praise by describing what you see, ‘Wow the chicken in your drawing looks so lifelike!’
5. Make it about them
One of the keys to self-esteem is to have a realistic view of ourselves. To achieve this, self-evaluation is vital and our involvement is important in helping our children to learn this. Rather than take the lead by giving them your evaluation of their work, ask them questions instead. Instead of ‘You could’ve done better on this test’, try ‘Are you happy with this result?’ Instead of ‘I'm so proud of you’, try ‘You must be proud of yourself’.
Find more information on how to raise confident kids and Nadim’s other books at bestofparenting.com