Confidence crushers and self-belief boosters
By Dr Justin Coulson |
Confidence crushers and self-belief boosters

Most parents say they want their kids to be confident. 

What is confidence?

Confidence comes from the Latin, confidere, which means to have trust or faith in something. So to want our children to have confidence in themselves means we want them to believe in themselves, to trust in themselves, or to have faith in themselves and their abilities.

  • We want our children to be confident enough to approach new people (in the appropriate context) and make friends.
  • We want our children to confidently enter a room without us, or to say goodbye to us without clinging to us.
  • We want our children to have the confidence to put up their hand when they have the answer.
  • Better yet, we want them to have the confidence to put up their hand when they don’t know the answer and are trying to understand. That takes confidence.
  • We want our children to have the confidence to back themselves.
  • We want them to be confident enough to say “no” to things that are wrong when there may be temptation or pressure to do the wrong thing.
  • And we want them to have the confidence to say “yes” to things that are good – or difficult – when others are wilting away.

I’ve just written an ebook called Creating confident kids: Scientific strategies that build self-belief in our children. In it, I point out five confidence crushers and five ways to build self-belief.

Confidence crushers

1. Show your kids you’re not interested

We do this so often, and usually without even thinking. Our kids want our attention but we are distracted. In fact, distraction may be the epidemic of our day. No well-intentioned parent would purposefully say to their child, “I am not interested in you. Go away.” If they did, can you imagine how such a comment would affect a child? They would be crushed.

We might not say it verbally, but unfortunately we often say it (usually unintentionally) in our actions.

2. Criticise

Think about it for just a moment. Imagine you’ve done something wrong and you get criticised for it.

“What did you do that for?”

Perhaps some contempt is thrown in for good measure.

“I can’t trust you to do even the smallest thing.”

After hearing those scathing, acerbic words, do you turn around and think, “Gee, I feel motivated to go and be better. I know I can do it right next time”?

Chances are, you feel like dirt. And you feel anything but confident. Defensive, yes. Sad, yes. Angry, perhaps. But confident? Unlikely.

3. Praise them all the time

I’ve written about this at length here so I won’t go into this at length. Overpraising can harm our children’s confidence.

4. Make them feel like failures

My wife grew up in New Zealand. One of her schoolteachers would conduct regular exams in class, and seating arrangements were based on exam performance. That meant that the students who got the best results sat at the front of the room, and students who got poor results sat at the back.

The seating was a daily – hourly – reminder for some students that they were superstars. But for others, it was a daily reminder that they were failures.

What message were these children getting from their teacher? Either “you’re smart” or “you’re dumb”. (Or for some – “you’re kinda average”.)

I don’t know any parents (or teachers) who wake up in the morning and think, “Right, how can I make some kids feel like failures today? What can I do to destroy children’s confidence?”

Yet we do it in a variety of ways – some obvious, and some less obvious.

5. Comparison

The final way that we crush our children’s confidence is by regularly comparing them to others. The more we do it, the more fragile it makes them.

So what do we do instead?

Science is increasingly clear on things that can boost self-belief. These self-belief boosters include:

  • Helping children develop a strong sense of personal identity, and family identity.
  • Helping children increase their skills and competence in activities they enjoy.
  • Encouraging children for their effort, rather than their achievements.
  • Identifying and developing strengths.
  • Creating a safe environment where children feel secure.
  • Finding ways to help others.

Most children begin life naturally confident. But something happens between the ages of two and 12 that batters self-belief. Being aware of these confidence crushers and beginning these self-belief boosters can keep confidence high and develop a strong foundation for the future.

This article was written by Justin Coulson for Kidspot.com.au and has been adapted for Kidspot.co.nz

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