Dr Richard C. Woolfson
Your child’s self-confidence is so important. If she feels confident, then she will have the courage to try everything once. This is of note when she is five or six years old, when school is a significant part of her life. There are new learning experiences every day, and your child needs the confidence to tackle them. There are new social experiences every day too, as she mixes with her classmates, and she will not enjoy these as much if she lacks self-confidence.
You can help your child build her self-confidence in these ways:
1. Listen to her fears Even though you may not agree with your child when she says she is afraid to try because every other pupil in her class are brighter than her, let her tell you this anyway. If you don’t provide a sympathetic ear, she will worry silently and this only reduces her self-confidence even further.
2. Emphasise her strengths When she explains that she will not try something new because she lacks the necessary skills, encourage her to think about all her strong points. Highlight previous moments when she was sure she would fail and yet she eventually succeeded.
3. Avoid comparisons You may be tempted to encourage her to try something new by telling her what her brothers or sisters did in the same situation, but this will probably make matters worse. Your child may regard herself even more negatively when compared to siblings. It is best to treat her as an individual.
4. Involve her in decisions Your child feels more confident about herself and her skills when she is allowed to make decisions for herself. For instance, she can choose which one (of two) breakfast cereals to eat, or which T-shirt (of two) to wear this weekend. Decision-making empowers her and lifts her self-confidence.
TRY IT AT LEAST
Psychologists have found that children who have low self-confidence are easily put off when facing new tasks. The challenge can seem insurmountable.
When your child is faced with the prospect of learning a new skill, you can help build her self-confidence through a series of small steps, each one progressing slightly from the previous one.
For instance, the first stage in learning to ride a bicycle can be for her to sit on the bike, hands on the handlebars, feet on the pedal, while you hold it steady for her. The next step can be for her to sit on the bike while you push it along the road. And so on until she can turn the pedals without any support. Each stage should be more difficult than the previous one, but not too difficult in case your child feels it is beyond her reach – otherwise she may give up.
Always take a positive approach. You may feel annoyed with her reluctance to try something new, but do not let your irritation show. Comments such as “You’re behaving like a big baby”, or “None of the other child are afraid like you” will only lower your child’s self-confidence.
It is far better to coax her gently, all the time reassuring her that she will succeed eventually.
Related: Teach your child perseverance
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