Providing opportunities for children to feel heard, loved and brave do not need to come at a high cost- but do need to be integrated into your routines consistently and meaningfully.
“If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning. That way, their children don’t have to be slaves of praise. They will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence.”
― Carol S. Dweck, Developmental Psychologist
Here are 5 ways that you can support self-confidence at home or in your classroom:
1. Positive Affirmations
Do you ever feel like your accolades have become white noise?
While praise is often seen as a positive way to encourage children, research suggests that relying solely on external validation may not be as effective as we once believed. In fact, constantly praising children for their achievements can inadvertently contribute to a fixed mindset, where they may become more focused on seeking approval rather than developing a true sense of self-worth. Extrinsic motivation, such as rewards or praise, tends to be short-lived and may not foster the internal drive needed for long-term success. Children who are consistently praised may develop a dependency on external validation, making it challenging for them to navigate setbacks and failures independently.
Affirmations, however, are long-term and deeply rooted in progress. When we explicitly talk about the process vs. the product, and actions alongside attributes, we are setting them up for the greatest chance of success.
Inviting kids to get into the habit of acknowledging their own strengths and abilities, is the most powerful tool of all.
Looking for a way to integrate daily affirmations into your program, but not sure where to start? We love this call-and-response positive self-talk video that encourages students to stand tall and set a positive tone for the day from circle time onward.
2. Be proactive, not reactive.
One of the most important pillars of childhood (and adulthood- let's be real), is making mistakes- and when they do happen, your reaction has a tremendous influence on their growth mindset.
Avoid: "You just aren't a Math person, like me."
Instead: "Thank you for sharing that [Math] has been tricky for you. I see how hard you are trying. Which part frustrates you the most?"
Avoid: "You should have known this."
Instead: "Walk me through what worked and what didn't during the test. Let's focus on a glow (something we excelled at) and a grow (something we're working on) from today."
Avoid: "What were you thinking, getting into a fight?"
Instead: "If you could imagine a new ending to the disagreement, what would it be?"
3. Let their strengths shine.
Let them feel the rush of taking ownership for something. Whether it's reading their little brother a bedtime story, being the calm line caboose during line-up drills, or making posters to remind friends how and what to recycle, it's important to let them experience leadership.
4. Embrace their uniqueness.
Flip the childhood narrative and let kids cheer about what makes them different. How?
⋒ Picture books
There are some fantastic suggestions at the Children's Library Lady blog to get you started here.
⋒ Through play
⋒ Highlight the insecurities you had, that turned into strengths
They are always watching, so we have to be very cognizant of how we carry ourselves, speak about our own insecurities and handle our own mistakes (or react to the faults of others).
Show them grace, persistence, assertiveness and pride and they will thrive.