How to Help Kids Develop Self-Confidence

A woman wrote to us saying she was doing a workshop for children to help them develop self-confidence and could we help her. Klassy Evans, editor of Self-Help Stuff That Works, gave this answer:

I have dealt with many children and what I know about self-confidence is: You can't give them self-confidence. What you can do is give them opportunities to do things well and in doing things well, they become confident of themselves. I've seen many teachers try to say really nice, encouraging things to kids attempting to make them feel good about themselves, but it backfires.

The etymology of the word confidence is interesting. Confidere is Latin meaning to trust fully. Children must learn to trust themselves, to trust their own abilities and I don't know of any way to do that but in the doing of things. Children need to be coached on how to attempt things and how to overcome the barriers and obstacles and to get up again when they fail and learn from that failure and go on. It's back to the good old-fashioned basics of hard work and persistence and learning from failures.

If I was doing a workshop for kids, and I've done a few workshops in my life, though they've been for high-school kids, I'd help them learn how to achieve. When they know how to achieve and get up again after a setback, then self-confidence is the result.

Adam Khan answered the woman's question about sources:

I recommend Martin Seligman's, The Optimistic Child: Proven Program to Safeguard Children from Depression and Build Lifelong Resilience. Don't be fooled by his use of the word "optimistic." He's talking about sane, strong ways of thinking about yourself and the world. End result: More confidence and more competence (those should always go together).

Seligman's work is about ceasing to make common mistakes in thinking. Some habitual false assumptions can prevent a child from trying again after a setback. That causes them to fall behind. It causes them to miss out on the confidence they would gain from trying again and succeeding. Optimism in this sense is not at all trivial and completely relevant for your purposes.

You will be more effective helping a child become optimistic if you yourself are optimistic. So I also recommend you read and take the questionnaires in the another book by Seligman: Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life.

Authors: Adam Khan and Klassy Evans
author and editor of the book, Self-Help Stuff That Works

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