Confidence is one of those things that you think everyone else has except you. When you walk into a room, the door squeaks, and everyone looks at you, you’re 99% sure they’re all making fun of your shoes or hoping yon don’t sit by them. Even as adults, we struggle, some more than others, with self-confidence. We worry about what others think about us, and we’re pretty sure everyone else has it all together.
Now rewind back to when hormones were raging, you had about half the life experiences that you do now, and lacked the maturity or wisdom to know that nobody is worried about you because they’re all too worried about themselves. Being a teenager is rough, and finding self-confidence both in and outside of the classroom can be a rough road. But when students feel confident in the classroom, they are more likely to ask questions, to ask for help, to offer an answer or provide their opinion. When they are made to feel safe, they aren’t as concerned with making mistakes, which allows them to grow and learn.
As adults who have been there, done that, we play a vital role in building high schooler’s self-confidence so they can get the most out of their education. The things we say to them eventually become their inner dialogue and become a part of their identity. We know how hard it can be to feel good enough when you’re a teenager, especially with all of the incoming messages that tells them the opposite. Here are a few ways we, as educators, parents, and teachers, can increase the confidence of the students in our lives, and help them see the potential in themselves that we see in them already.
Confidence comes from the Latin root meaning “with trust” or “with faith.” A child who is confident trusts or has faith in themselves and in their abilities. It takes time for a child to acquire this confidence, and involves trying, failing, trying again and finally succeeding. A child must be given the space and opportunities to trust themselves, which can be hard for parents because it means taking a step back, taking a deep breath, and letting your child try things on their own. It means letting them make their own mistakes, and being there to help them up when they fall. The great thing about taking a step back and giving kids the opportunities to develop this self-trust is that you’ve got a front row seat for when they finally get it right, and you can see the look of pride and accomplishment in their eyes. There is nothing better.
So what can parents do to help their children build this self-trust, self faith, self belief, confidence? Easy. Here are 9 ways you can help your child improve their confidence:
- Be Quiet For a Second – interrupting your child when they are talking is subconsciously telling them you don’t care, you already know what they’re going to say, you’re not listening, and what they think isn’t important. Ouch, right? Listen carefully to what your child is saying and let them finish. Whether they’re explaining lunch room drama (did you hear that Max and Susan broke up?!) or venting about their issues with a teacher, letting him/her speak without interrupting makes them feel heard and validated, and boosts their confidence. When they know their parents want to hear what they have to say, they’ll be more likely to speak up in class as well. If you feel like you’re a chronic interrupter, try a few of these simple tricks to break the habit:
1. Bite your tongue. No, literally. Bite down lightly down on your tongue when you feel the urge to interrupt someone while they are talking. Even if it means you forget what you were going to say, it’s better than constantly cutting people off, especially your kids
2. Ask for help. Admit to family and friends that you are an interrupter (but they’ve probably noticed already) and ask them to give you a gentle reminder when you start to interrupt
3. Reward yourself. Set a goal for how many times you stopped yourself from interrupting. For instance “If I stop myself from interrupting people 5 times today, I’ll stop for a coffee on my way home”
- Let Them Lead– suggest that during homework time, your child picks which subject he/she wants to work on first. This will allow your child to start with his/her strengths and get the homework session off to a positive start. Placing this trust in your child helps build their confidence because they feel that you trust their judgment and decision-making skills. And if you believe in them, they will begin to believe in themselves.
- Watch Your Mouth– after you’ve listened and it’s your turn to speak, pay attention to what you say and how you say it. Be patient, and refrain from sarcastic jokes or put downs at your child’s expense. Focus on their strengths, remind them that they’re math rock stars, and remind them of how far they’ve come already. The way you speak to your child when they are stressed plays a big part in whether or not they give up, or press on.
- Be Part of a Team– If you notice that your child is struggling the confidence department, consider scheduling a parent-teacher conference to discuss your concerns with the teacher. Find out if the teacher has noticed decrease in enthusiasm or excitement in the classroom. Work together and create a plan that helps the student feel better in the classroom, and vow to keep each other updated on the progress
- Help Them Set Goals– Parents can work to boost students’ self-confidence by teaching them how to set realistic and attainable goals. By deciding on something they want to achieve, making a plan to reach that goal, and working hard, students can experience the feeling of pride and accomplishment that comes from persistence and hard work. If we can teach them the tools of goal setting, we cannot only help them feel accomplished in the classroom but also prepare them for success in the outside world. The goals can be academically focused or not, the most important thing is that they set a goal, work towards it, and feel that sense of pride at the end. That is where confidence begins.
- Don’t try to be a superhero– As a parent, it can be tempting to dive in and save the day when we see our child struggling. However, intervening too early can hurt a child’s confidence. They will start to think that you don’t think they’re capable just because it is taking them a long time, and may end up giving up sooner. Resist the urge to give an answer, or even a clue, and let them try to figure it out. They will learn confidence in themselves by doing it on their own, and not having you rescue them every time they struggle.
- Help them by helping others– consider spending a weekend volunteering, or doing an activity that benefits other people. By doing something nice for someone else, and experiencing what it feels like to help others in need without anything expected in return, kids feel good about themselves and in turn become more confident. This is a simple way to build their character along with their confidence. When they are confident outside of the classroom, they will eventually feel the same way in the classroom.
- Be a reflection– your kids are watching you. And listening. (Although it may not feel like they’re listening when you need them to!) If they hear you constantly talk about how incapable, fat, dumb, lazy, clumsy, that you are, they will begin to think it’s OK to think and say those things about themselves. Instead of groaning when you pass your reflection, find something that you like and point it out. Showing your child self-confidence is a great way for them to learn it. When you mess up at work, or when you’re running late, or when you make a mistake, own up to it and show your child how you work through the challenge. Actions speak louder than words, so show them by your actions what it means to be confident.
- Avoid Comparisons – One of the most defeating things a kid can hear from their parents is how they measure up (or don’t) to their siblings, friends or neighbors. To be constantly compared to others is a sure-fire way to trample on their self-esteem, so avoid it all costs. Search Pinterest for the word “comparison” and you’ll find hundreds of visually appealing and cutesy quotes like:
- “Comparison is the thief of joy”
- Comparison kills creativity”
- Comparison with myself brings improvement, comparison with others brings discontent
- Happiness is found when you stop comparing yourself to other people
- Comparisons make you feel superior or inferior, neither serves a useful purpose.
Comparing your child to anyone else minimizes his or her individuality, strengths and abilities, and not to mention isn’t very helpful or productive. It will distance your child from you during a period of their lives when they need you the most. It will decrease the likelihood of them trying new things because they will be worried about how they compare to Joe and Suzi down the street. Comparing siblings to each other could also create sibling rivalry, something that’ll happen just fine on its own without your help. Instead of comparing your kid to everyone else, focus on his or her strengths and talents. Focus on his/her abilities, encourage them to work on their weaknesses, and remind them how unique and special they are. They are your child, they aren’t Mike or Jenny or Amy from school, and they never will be. If you set unrealistic expectations to be exactly like someone else, both of you will be disappointed when they fall short.
When we look at the students in our lives, (and beyond the greasy hair and eye rolling and questionable choice of clothing) we can see young adults full of potential. It can be frustrating when they don’t see themselves as capable, worthy, smart and just overall awesome like we do. However, we can work together to help build their confidence first at home, then in the classroom, and eventually out in the “real world.” When we build confident students, they eventually become confident adults.