The secret formula to help kids develop self-confidence

Developing resilient children 

A key component to develop resilient children is recognizing that every child already has the necessary ingredients for resilience within. As educators and parents we don’t have to instill it in them. We just have to provide an environment where it is nurtured and can grow. In her book, Thrivers: The Surprising Reasons Why Some Kids Struggle and Others Shine, Michele Borba, Ed.D., identifies a key competency of children who are resilient to be a caring heart. Two of the traits necessary for a caring heart are self-confidence and empathy. While these two characteristics may seem unrelated, it is true that feeling good about oneself, or confident, is a  necessary foundation to caring about others. When we aren’t confident of ourselves, it is difficult to address the needs of someone else, much less be compassionate. 

Self confidence is rooted in competence. When kids take positive steps through practice and persistence, they develop a sense of competence which then leads to self-confidence. Remember your first day on a new job? Did you feel confident of what you were doing? Were you competent… yet? Probably not. Now think about about how you felt one year or more later. Were you more competent? Of course. Did you feel self-confident? I’m guessing the answer is yes. 

We don’t help kids develop self-confidence through telling them they are smart or talented or special in some way. Instead, we can help kids become self-confident by helping them identify their gifts, talents and special interests, then encouraging them to develop competence in those areas. As they develop competence, they will naturally become more self-confident.

Another important message is that we don’t help children develop competence by encouraging them to perform for us, but instead to recognize that we want them to perform for themselves and realize their potential. We want them to be the best they can be, both now and in the future. One of the best things we can say to a child when giving constructive feedback is, “I’m giving you this feedback, (or lower grade) because I have high expectations of you and I know you can do better.” High realistic expectations and unconditional love is the magic formula for helping kids develop self-confidence through competence. 

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