Whether you’re a teacher, coach, educator, or parent, helping the children in your life develop self-esteem is a crucial element for their future success. With so much negativity surrounding children these days, such as poverty, cyberbullying, divorce, natural disasters, and more, today’s children need to face each day with a strong sense of self. Here are four ways to help foster self-esteem and confidence in the children around you.
Opportunities to Succeed
One way you can help the children in your life build confidence is by providing them with opportunities to succeed. Whether these opportunities to succeed are big or small, kids need the chance to demonstrate their competence and feel that their contributions are valuable. Clinical psychologist Meg Jay, who specializes in adult development, explains that, “Confidence doesn’t come from the inside out. It moves from the outside in. People feel less anxious — and more confident — on the inside when they can point to things they have done well on the outside.”
As a parent, try to encourage your child from a young age to join extracurricular activities like school sports and clubs or other organizations such as Girls on the Run, Scouts, piano lessons, dance classes and so on.
As teachers and educators, you can provide extra credit projects catered to your student’s strengths, helping them find accomplishment in a subject matter that they normally find difficult. Coaches can keep track of your players’ improvement by recording mile times, pushups, shots made, and other physical achievements. Helping children to see their successes will help to build their confidence.
Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset
Carol Dweck, a Stanford professor and author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, has made a distinction between the two mindsets that profoundly affect the way we lead our lives: a growth mindset or a fixed mindset. With a fixed mindset, you believe your skills, talents, and personality are limited to a personal capacity that you were just born with. You’re either smart or you’re not. You’re athletic or you’re not. You’re charismatic or you’re not. Individuals with a growth mindset, however, believe that they can change, grow, and improve their skills and talents through their efforts, application, and experience.
One way to help the children in your life build self-esteem is by teachinging and modeling a growth mindset. Help them understand that they can improve their skills and get better if they work at it. Angela Duckworth, Author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, explains, “Without effort, your talent is nothing more than unmet potential. Without effort, your skill is nothing more than what you could have done but didn’t.”
While modeling a growth mindset, it is important to be specific with your praise. When a child does well on a test, try to avoid platitudes such as, “You’re so smart.” Phrases like this can cause a child to think they are not smart if they struggle the next time. If they aren’t smart, then there is no point in trying to do well. But, if you praise children by saying, “You worked really hard,” or “You stayed after class to review problems that you didn’t understand,” these compliments will help them to cultivate a growth mindset. They did well because they worked hard, not because they were naturally talented. This will inspire them to continue to work and grow and push past challenges.
Taking the time to listen to the children in your life will help them to feel valued and remind them that they have worth. This is especially important for teachers and coaches to do because life at home may be hectic and that child in your class or on your team may constantly feel overlooked or invisible.
Children who are displaying negative behaviors and acting out are often in need of some extra support in their lives. Strive to reach out to these children and try to talk with them about what they may be experiencing. Don’t be shocked if they aren’t responsive at first. These children may not be used to sharing their feelings or may feel that they have to hide what is really going on in their lives. But as you keep trying and keep listening, their walls will slowly come down and they will feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings with you.
Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, studies courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. She explains that, “We live in a world where most people still subscribe to the belief that shame is a good tool for keeping people in line. Not only is this wrong, but it’s dangerous. Shame is highly correlated with addiction, violence, aggression, depression, eating disorders, and bullying.”
She further explains that there is a difference between guilt and shame. Guilt is a focus on behavior whereas shame is a focus on self. If we have done something wrong, guilt tells us, “I’ve made a mistake.” Shame tells us, “I am a mistake.”
When you correct mistakes or bad behavior, do so without shame. Call attention to the mistakes a child has made, but separate the child’s actions from who the child is.
A high self-esteem is a child’s shield from the negativity of this world. Using these methods in your parenting, teaching, or coaching will help to boost the self-esteem and confidence of the children around you and increase their chances of success.
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Author: Brindisi Bravo