Time and again parents share with me their concerns over their child’s lack of confidence and self-esteem in school. They intuitively understand that grades and confidence often walk hand-in-hand. Confidence among children seems to be such a fleeting emotion. A young student can start the day feeling that all is right with the world but come home feeling like an utter failure. The challenge for parents is to help their kids move past the “emotion” of confidence and, instead, understand that confidence is more than a feeling—it’s a mindset.
Confidence is more than a feeling – It’s a mindset.
While there are many factors that can contribute to a young student’s level of confidence, here are three approaches or “mindsets” that, followed consistently, can go a long way in building your child’s academic confidence and self-esteem.
Actions vs. words
As kids grow older, they begin to recognize the difference between words and actions. For example, if you tell your child that you believe she can accomplish a certain goal, but the end result is failure, your words will ring hallow.
The challenge is to not simply tell your kids that you believe they can succeed at something. Tell them they can succeed, but explain what they’ll have to do in order to be successful. From there, come alongside your child and “get your hands dirty.” In other words, be careful not to do the task for your son or daughter, but be there to teach, model and assist.
Cause and effect
In school, many struggling students often don’t recognize, or ignore, the connection between effort, organization and good grades. The truth is, most students who struggle on tests rarely study for them. Yet, these same kids would insist that they are simply not able to achieve a better grade because they’ve bought into the myth that ability is the sole requirement for academic success.
It’s important for parents to help their children understand cause and effect. For example, not studying equals poor test results. If a child continues to be convinced that she lacks the intelligence or ability to succeed in school while never understanding the true causes, her self-confidence will only continue to plunge. It’s important, as parents, to debunk this myth.
Some parents and teachers, in an effort to inspire a child’s confidence through success, will assign tasks that fall well short of a child’s ability. The problem is not with the intent but it’s with the approach. Sooner or later, a child will recognize that she is being given assignments or tasks that are anything but challenging. In turn, a student will likely perceive this as confirmation of her lack of ability or intelligence.
Don’t be afraid to give your child a real challenge, even if there is the possibility of failure. However, it is just as important that you make your son or daughter realize that you believe that he or she can be successful, but only with some real effort. As always, work with your child to teach the tools necessary for success. The feeling a child gains from accomplishing challenging tasks, and being recognized for them, is like nothing else.
Remember: Measure success in small increments and build upon each step with meaningful encouragement. With time, effort and patience, a child can gain the type of confidence that isn’t fragile or fleeting and has the potential to propel her to great things.