Raising Confident Kids

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The musical The Sound of Music has a particularly memorable ditty sang by its lead character Maria, and it goes this way:

I have confidence in sunshine

I have confidence in rain

I have confidence that spring will come again

Besides which you see I have confidence in me!

After reaffirming her confidence in herself, Maria goes on to meet the Von Trapp children, and eventually win them over.

The Sound of Music might just be a work of fiction and "I Have Confidence" a song, but their message about the importance of having confidence in one's self is true.

Teacher Tricia Hosaka, co-owner and directress of Eduplay School Manila in San Juan City, says, "Confidence is defined as 'a feeling or belief that you can do something well or succeed at something.' I believe all parents would like their children to know that they can be good at something. Such a belief is nurtured through time and its foundation depends upon the ability to experience self-trust."

She adds, "In preschool, I often refer to this as the 'I can' attitude of the child. As a teacher, it is very important that we foster this kind of strength of character or attitude at a young age. This attitude determines how a child will take on future challenges in life. It is the 'fuel' that allows them to engage, try, and helps the child get up when he fails."

When a child completes a task, whether simple or complicated,  he gets a good sense of his strengths and abilities. More importantly, he becomes conscious of his self-worth, allowing him to face challenges that come his way.

How then can parents help develop in their children a sense of confidence? Teacher Tricia lists down five things that parents can do.

#1 Let your child make mistakes and learn from them.

It is important for a child to go through the rudiments of life. The overprotective parent may do everything in his power to spare his child from pain, frustration, or possible hurt. But shielding a child from a potential learning experience means he will never learn and know his ability to overcome. She says, "When children overcome failure, let us remember that it is always a learning experience. To be successful, we must go through life’s ups and downs."

#2 Praise your child appropriately.

Parents have a way of showering their children with rewards and praises, making a big deal out of every little task accomplished. It's not a good idea, for example, to praise a child for something he's supposed to do like brush his teeth or pack away his toys.  Instead, validate his efforts by saying thanks, says Teacher Tricia.

A better approach to praising is pointing out exactly what the child did to accomplish the task, she says. It's easy to say "What a beautiful drawing!" to an abstract artwork. But a more appropriate praise would be, "I like the way you combined the colors here. I can see you are learning to draw circles and stars!"

#3 Allow your child to make decisions on his own.

If a child is to grow up to be a competent and responsible individual, he must be allowed to make decisions on his own. Allowing a child to make choices, says Teacher Tricia, will help him feel confident about his own judgment or decision. For young children, it's best to limit their choices to two or three options.

#4 Let him solve problems on his own.

Mom and Dad can’t solve all of their child's problems and actually, they shouldn't. Teacher Tricia says, "Sometimes, we find ourselves trying to fix things and not realizing we are missing out on a perfect opportunity for them to learn and be competent."

By allowing the child to solve problems on his own, he gains confidence after each attempt.

#5 Encourage your child to pursue his interests.

Allowing a child to pursue a project he is interested in and encouraging him to finish it builds confidence. Ask him to choose a work activity or a task to do for the day. Praise him for his enthusiasm to take on a project. Commend him for accomplishing the task, she says.

Choosing the appropriate learning environment

It is also important for parents to choose the best learning environment to help develop confidence in their child. As Teacher Tricia points out, the school is an extension of a child's home.

She adds, "A school must foster a positive and engaging environment. A child should be able to engage in activities that will allow him to develop his skills. If he fails, he is encouraged to overcome and try once more. What is important is for the child to go through the process of achieving a task and to feel good about it."

"We often wish for the perfect school environment when in fact, we live in an imperfect world. So I find it equally important for our children to be resilient when the environment is not as encouraging. A child must be spirited in finding ways and means to figure out how to achieve a difficult task. This can be achieved by a child who is aware of his abilities and confident enough to ask for guidance if need be."