3 Ways to Build Your Student's Confidence
Kristin was outgoing and confident as a child. She was always the first to explore new things and ask questions. But as she approached high school, that assurance wavered. She became socially awkward and more withdrawn than she used to be. Her new high school was big, the kids were smart, and getting into college was... competitive to say the least.
Kristin’s parents wanted to help her regain that spirit she once had, but they were sure what to do. Their attempts at encouragement didn’t seem very impactful, and the nice things they tried to do for her to cheer her up only resulted in a fleeting half-hearted smile. They knew their daughter was wonderful and wonderfully important, but she didn’t seem to know it.
Building confidence in your child is one of the most difficult things to do. When she was little, your child’s primary value was in her potential. As she grows up, she has to transform that potential into something more concrete. That’s really difficult. And failure or the fear of failure can lead to uncertainty, uneasiness, and anxiety. These feelings, of course, make moving forward even harder.
Most parents know their child should have confidence and courage in the face of challenges, but sometimes, you’ve said the same things to your child so often that it now just sounds cliché to both of you. The following three areas of confidence building are helpful, but will ultimately be useless if your child can’t hear you.
Be as specific and concrete and current as possible when you are encouraging your child.
When you do that, your words change from a dry moral platitude to a dynamic analysis of your child’s present ability and why exactly it means she can do whatever it is she is trying to do.
Your Child’s Value
If we are trying to help our children build confidence in themselves, it is useful to know where confidence comes from. First and foremost, confidence comes from knowing your own value. All human beings have value because every one of us is capable of changing ourselves and changing the world around us—both for the better and for the worse. That means each of us is important to the direction of the world’s development in some way, even if it is small.
This is something your child may not know. That is normal. The world is very big and your child has been very small for his whole life up until recently. Even we who are adults can feel the same way when considering the big picture. Remind your child that he is important and, more importantly, why. And what he does matters. It may not be obvious; he may not feel that he has any impact, but his choices and actions have ripple effects in his life, in his family, in his school, in his community, and beyond. We can’t say for sure where his influence truly stops.
How Your Child Contributes
This general idea of importance is nice, but it is a little abstract. A secondary aspect of confidence is to help your child notice how exactly she contributes to the world around her. These are things you can specifically point out as she is doing them. Verbalize specific appreciation for her positive efforts even if they are small.
Think about it. When your child does her chores, she contributes to the warmth and friendliness of your home. When she engages constructively in school, her peers are better because she is there and her classroom atmosphere is correspondingly a little bit more positive. When she does her homework, she is making herself into someone who improves herself and honors her commitments. When she participates in sports, she is becoming a teammate who encourages her team and who the others can rely on. This kind of person is clearly contributing in tangible ways to the world around her. When your child sees exactly how she affects the world, it helps her discover that there is purpose even in the uncertainty and complexity of life.
What Your Child Is Capable Of
Another important element of confidence is knowing what you are able to do. Your child used to be an infant capable of nothing. As he grew and developed, his capacity began to expand. As he gained more and more abilities, the confidence those abilities gave him allowed him to venture in new directions.
Remind your child about how he overcame difficulties in the past. Point him toward activities that show him he can do difficult things in areas where he is strong. Perhaps your child is a proficient athlete. There was a time when he was very unskilled and had to struggle past his limitations to reach the level he has. Perhaps your child is gifted socially and was able to adjust to a big new school or other environment, even though it was intimidating. Maybe there was a school project in a certain subject everyone had trouble with, but your child worked really hard to pull it together and got a good grade on it.
Your child has those areas like everyone else. Find them together alongside him. Tell him you believe in his ability to overcome the challenges confronting him in this new area he is struggling with and then say exactly why by pointing to his history and other arenas where he has proven himself.
When you can overcome in one area, it gives you confidence to persist in another area. Humans are extraordinarily capable and creative. We just don’t usually find ourselves in situations where the utmost is required of us. Taking preemptive action by purposefully exposing your child to appropriately challenging activities helps lay a foundation of courage in the face of obstacles. Help your child discover the ways she is stronger than she thinks she is.
We at Spark Tutors help deliver those small wins and successes that show children they are able to do difficult things. We break down hard concepts into comprehensible pieces and guide students as they struggle through tough tests, overwhelming projects, and complicated subjects. Reassuring students as they recover from failures and celebrating their accomplishments allows us the privilege of being proud supporters of you and your child in this academic journey.
This article is intended as a starting point. As parents, your words have the most impact and we hope you’ve gotten some ideas on how to be more effective encouragers for your children. We’ll see you at the tutoring table!