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Communicating confidence in kids

15 February
Posted by:
Michael Grose

On the weekend I read a great article about a successful captain of a current Australian Rules football team. It seems the great strength of this captain being featured was his ability to instil self-belief in his fellow players.

According to the reporter he doesn’t so much inspire or motivate his team-mates. He communicates confidence in them.

That’s what great parents do. They communicate confidence in their kids. They find ways to get across to their kids that they believe they can perform & succeed, deal with life’s challenges and do things on their own.

This is timely as there’s been a lot of debate recently about whether it’s genetics or environment that determines kids’ confidence levels.

I believe that the confidence trait is genetic.............. to a point. The Australian Temperament Study demonstrated that shy kids don’t change that much, but they do in fact, learn to socialise and function well among others. They are the quieter kids who take their time warming up in social situations. Many adults are like that!

But there’s no avoiding it - the family environment does shape how a child reacts to challenges, and how they tackle new tasks and do difficult things.

Contrary to the recent musing of Tiger Mother Amy Chua, the best way to bring out the best in kids is by providing a psychologically safe environment where mistakes aren’t thrown in kids’ faces. Kids thrive in environments where parents don’t freak out because they drop things, mess things up or don’t get 10 out of 10 in every test. Kids are more likely to stretch themselves when adults don’t have huge stakes in their outcome!

It’s important to shape an environment that has high yet realistic expectations, that is nurturing of children’s talents & interests and that’s rich in love, time and supportive of kids’ goals.

The words in bold contain the keys to shaping an environment that’ll help you raise brave (confident) kids. But there’s one important aspect missing!

You need to modelconfident, brave behaviour. US psychologist Martin Seligman in his research over fifteen years ago, informed of us of what we all know!

That is, kids are natural copycats!

He found that children have a natural tendency to copy their primary parents’ explanatory style. That is, they tended to approach problems and challenges with similar self-talk and mindsets as the parent they spend most time around, or a parent they admire most!

You want you kids to be brave, courageous & confident? Then, you go first!

Seligman also found that kids could change their explanatory styles by being exposed to adults with confident mindsets.

Nothing is set in stone!

Parents, rather than teachers, hold the key here because kids spend far more time at home than at school, and the relationship obviously is long-term rather than rotational (a new teacher every year) as happens at schools.

There are plenty of ways you can communicate confidence. Here are 3 ideas to start you thinking:

1. Challenge kids with real responsibilities: Give them a challenging task or a job to do with an awesome responsibility.

2. Describe their successes: If they’ve done something brave (i.e. given a talk at school despite the fact they were nervous) then throw a little spotlight on how they did it. Giving this type of self-knowledge is one of the keys to effective parenting!

3. Encourage more, praise less: Your comments that focus more on the processes of doing, than the results of what they do will help your kids feel brave and take more risks.

Yep, genetics plays its part but the psychological environment that you shape is also significant in raising confident children.

  • brave
  • confidence
  • copycat
  • self-esteem
  • shy
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