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Encouraging Confidence in Kids

July 20, 2022

By: Simón Price, Kindergarten Teacher at Cherry Hills Village Elementary

Confidence is what makes us strive to be the best version of ourselves. Confidence is about knowing you have made it through some struggles and have made it to the other side stronger. Confidence fuels our self-esteem. When kids feel confident and possess a healthy self-esteem, they're more likely to try new things, succeed in school, take on challenges, and even face failure. All in all, confidence is critical. 

Are you struggling to encourage confidence in your kids? Are their insecurities holding them back? As an educator in both general and special education settings, instilling confidence and internal motivation while building children’s self-esteem is a common goal.  

What constantly amazes me with children is that they have an innate confidence and self-esteem when they are born, but the world around them changes this both positively and negatively. 

How do kids develop confidence?

Children typically learn confidence through trial and error, observation, and small successes. In the school setting, there are many opportunities for trial and error. These opportunities remind children that we are not all the same and that our successes may come at different times and in different ways. Kids may need a little help when they are younger to find other ways to solve a problem. For instance, providing them with two to three options, rather than disclosing the answer when they get frustrated, will help build their confidence as they seek a solution.

What hinders kids’ confidence?  

Children‘s confidence grows until it is hindered by adults or peers. Kids will continue to persevere until others change their perceptions about what they feel strongly about. Many of my experiences as an educator have been with children with special needs. For example, if a child is learning to hit a ball with a bat, an adult should give them another way to try that might be more successful rather than telling them they are doing it all wrong. By providing choices, the child can feel empowered and more willing to take risks.

Most children with special needs have not heard that they cannot do a task. While the task might be challenging and take a while to get there, their confidence is often unwavering and a fantastic example for their typically developing peers.

6 ways to encourage confidence in kids

There are many little things that we can do daily to continue to raise confident children, such as: 

  1. Model confidence. Remember, kids are always watching and learning.Seeing their parents, caretakers, and teachers tackle new tasks with optimism sets a good example for kids. 
  2. Encourage kids to take the lead in their areas of strength.Providing opportunities for kids to lead in their areas of strength is an excellent way to boost their confidence in their abilities. Likewise, helping others in areas of strength will make them more open to accepting help in their areas of weakness when it is warranted. 
  3. Support kids in trying new things. While it’s great for kids to take the lead on what they already excel at, it’s equally important for them to try new things. Learning new skills makes kids feel capable and confident that they can tackle whatever comes their way.
  4. Give kids permission to fail.  Mistakes happen. There will be times when they put in the effort but don't do so well, but trial-and-error is the best way to learn. Talk about how making mistakes is the best way to learn and grow. Compliment their effort, point out what they can learn from the failure, and encourage them to try again. This will nurture their confidence and motivate them to keep trying!  
  5. Promote problem solving. Kids can get easily frustrated when they are struggling to solve a problem or accomplish a new task. Rather than showing them how to do it or pointing out how they are doing it wrong, encourage them to explore the problem from a different perspective. Is there another way to approach it? Maybe even involve older kids to see if they have a different solution. This way you’re allowing your kids to persevere and work through problems rather than quitting when they can’t figure it out themselves. 
  6. Praise perseverance. Be very intentional and specific about your praise. Instead of praising your children for success, praise them for how hard they tried. This “process praise” reinforces that successes are due to effort (which the child can control) rather than some fixed level of talent or skill. Confidence and self-esteem are not about succeeding at everything all the time, but about persevering and not being distressed by failure. 

A little about me…

My Uncle Genie inspired my journey into education. He simply exudes positivity and a special passion for life. He strived to do much more than his body and mind often allowed. Genie was born with severe Cerebral Palsy and cognitive limitations, but he had the confidence and positivity of a person half his age. For 22 years, I was an educator of children with varying exceptionalities in various settings–from small group instruction to full inclusion. Feeling the need for a change, I began teaching kindergarten three years ago. I think both opportunities have made me a stronger teacher and a better advocate for encouraging confidence in all of my students. 

About Guion the Lion

Guion the Lion is all about presenting messages of empathy, curiosity and adventure ​​before children begin making their own judgments and assumptions. Through the children’s book, parenting/teaching resources, fun activities and more, kids can learn how appreciating differences and embracing new ideas leads to unimaginable fun. 

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