Self-confidence is one of the best tools we can have for success. It helps us push forward in the tough times and grounds us in the great times. Therefore, it is an important trait to bring out in our children. I am not sure all children can be taught self-confidence. However, it is worth the effort and any attempt at teaching self-confidence will be beneficial to a child.
Self-Confidence Requires Honesty
The thing about self-confidence is that it accepts reality. One can not be taught how to stay confident through good times and bad without acknowledging both. I think this is where many good-intentioned parents fail. Rather than openly discuss struggles and failures, success is always the focus. Even when failure is not condemned, but merely not spoken of, it still implies that failure is something “bad” or wrong. When failures and setbacks are openly discussed and used as learning tools, it takes away the stigma of non-success.
Failure as a Teacher
There are almost no hard and fast rules in life. We even say that only death and taxes are guaranteed, and even death does not stop taxes. Thus, we have to experiment our way through life. No matter what your strengths or chosen field are, you have spent time in trial and error. You advanced by learning from your mistakes.
This is an approach some video games are excellent at teaching. Specifically, I know of “Geometry Dash” and “The Impossible Game.” The latter game gives it away. Essentially these games can not be one on the first try. The whole experience is to incrementally move through the course until failure and then keep re-trying until you succeed. It makes failure not so much a negative as just a way to keep score. The objective is to keep the fail count as low as possible.
Success is Earned
The flip side of this equation is handling success. The best teachers of confidence do not focus on success due to greatness. Instead, they point to success as a reward that comes from hard work and sacrifice. Little Johnny did not magically win the baseball MVP award. He earned it by paying attention during practice, working on his skills beyond scheduled games and practices. When success is a reward and not a right or something that was given, then it helps build confidence.
At its core, confidence is the knowledge that hard work and effort will be rewarded. Any discussions of a child being “so smart” or “so talented” can erode real confidence. It sets up the opportunity where one “lacks the talent” to be successful.
History is The Guide
Of course, the best way to build confidence is through success. When a goal is achieved, it helps remove doubt. Point to past successes rather than skills or gifts as the reason for optimism. These facts allow one to rely on experience to re-affirm their confidence. When you can say “I have done this before” then it is easy to be convinced that another success is just around the corner.
This approach worked best when the prior successes came after setbacks. Thus, there is an acceptance the success will come (confidence), but likely only after some failures and setbacks.
Praise is never a bad thing. We like to be told when we have done well. Also, praise from those we love and respect has the highest value. So do not hold back on praise, but follow up with reinforcing the fact that hard work is what leads to success. This approach will help keep a child confident even in the hard times. They will be able to accept that although they are in a dark tunnel, there is a light up ahead, they just need to walk towards it.