Five ways to build self-belief in children
Think back to your childhood. While there are likely many happy memories, I am sure you will remember traumatic and saddening times, too.
I remember moments when I felt so low and alone that I would curl up on my sheepskin rug, wishing the time to speed up until I became an adult.
As a child anxiety sufferer, I struggled with many aspects of life. However, I had a fantastic support network, and I managed to transform my life significantly. I went from a shrinking violet (one of my primary school teachers called me that when I returned to do some work experience with her before my teacher training) into a much more confident, well-rounded human being. It took me a while, but I did find that self-belief somewhere inside.
Here are five ways you can support your child to build their own self-belief, hopefully much sooner than it was for me.
How many times do you hear yourself saying ‘good girl’ to your daughter or ‘good boy’ to your son? She does a wee on the potty. Good girl. He says Dada when his dad walks into the room. Good boy. She devours all of her vegetables. Good girl. He does his maths homework without needing to be nagged. Good boy. It may seem as though you are praising them for their achievements and good behaviour. However, they just become meaningless words. Try rephrasing your pride or happiness at what they have accomplished, such as “Well done. You managed to tidy your room without any fuss!” or “I’m so proud of how hard you worked on that science project!”
- Reframe negativity
While many falsely believe that children have it easy, in reality, they face tough situations every single day. Think about the past year and the impact this global pandemic has had on them, the increase in children needing support from mental health services, and the difficulties they have found themselves up against. However, rather than compounding your child’s negativity, try to help them to reframe it. Do not criticise their expression that “home schooling sucks”, for example, instead offer a more positive light, such as “Home schooling has been a shock to the system for all of us, hasn’t it? But we are all doing our best, and you’ve put in huge amounts of effort. I’m so proud of you.”
- Positive words
Instilling in children that they are enough is of vital importance to boost their confidence and self-belief. If your children have packed lunches, why not write a few positive words on their banana or add a sticky note to the inside. If they’d be mortified by such a public declaration of love (we all know how embarrassed kids can get from time to time), why not try adding something a little more subtle? A small heart drawn on the banana skin or even a crisp packet could be enough to remind them that they are loved and worthy. I’m also a massive fan of the positive affirmation hoodies, particularly this Believe in Yourself one. They are of fantastic quality, help boost children’s mental health and well-being, and look amazing. In fact, I’m tempted to buy a family set of them! Their kids’ wristbands, reinforcing positive self-belief with statements like “I am kind” and “I am incredible”, are another fantastic option.
- Mistakes are part of learning
My youngest daughter is wise beyond her years and often comes out with some cracking declarations, such as “If you don’t sleep for eleven days, you will die!” However, when it comes to mistakes, she regularly repeats a mantra she hears from both school and home. “Mistakes are ok because when you make them, they help you to learn,” and this is precisely what we are trying to instil in our children. From being a child to becoming an adult, we regularly make bad choices or have regrets. These things do not make us bad people, just humans – it’s part of our nature, and we learn from these errors. Reminding children that we love them, even if we don’t love their behaviour, is essential.
- Work on yourself
Growing up, we parents are role models to our children. They seek comfort, love, support, education and guidance from us. If I feel stressed out, it is likely that my child recognises this, and I perhaps become that energy vampire I so desperately try to protect them from. Rather than thinking that building self-belief in my children is about working on them, I now recognise that I need to spend time working on myself, too. Criticising how I do things, cursing myself for making poor choices and being down on myself will undoubtedly impact the way my children view the world. If I can’t believe in myself, how on earth will I encourage my children to believe in themselves? I am, after all, their primary caregiver, their mum, the person who carried them and birthed them into this crazy world.
Vicki is a mum of two daughters and a qualified primary school teacher, currently working in a special school. She is also the founder and owner of Blossom Tuition and Blossom Education.