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Thursday, August 19, 2021

How to have confident children





Guest post by Geoff Taylor, the Head of Young Learners at the British Council in Malaysia

If I could give my daughter one gift, and one gift only, it would be self-confidence. I would choose this over academic achievement or sporting success or anything else that parents traditionally wish for their kids. And it seems I am not alone. Malaysian parents often tell me they wish their kids were more confident: “I want my daughter to speak out and assert herself”, “I want to see my son standing at the front of the class giving a great presentation.”

Parents recognise that without self-confidence it is difficult for our children to succeed in life. Confident people are more likely to make the most of opportunities and achieve success. When they make a mistake they don’t get upset, they try again and keep trying until they get it right. These traits give them a massive advantage in life. So how can we give our children this gift?

Reward effort as well as results

We all know the old cliché “It’s not the winning, it’s the taking part that counts.” A better phrase may be “It’s not the winning, it’s the trying your best that counts.” If a child has really struggled over a piece of homework, for example, but has not given up, then this should be recognised and rewarded, even if the homework is not all correct. Insisting on perfection every time is not realistic and will damage children’s self-esteem. It teaches them that they are not good enough, and that no matter how hard they try, they never will be good enough. It is far better to grow the mindset of if you have tried your best, then the result is not important. Phrases like “Well done for trying so hard / I am really pleased that you didn’t give up / I know this was difficult, but I am very proud that you completed it” are very useful.

Teach them by doing it ourselves

It is important that as parents we show our children what confidence looks like. They should see us embracing challenges and see how we prepare for them. Even if we do not feel completely confident ourselves, it is important that our children see us demonstrating a willingness to ‘have a go’. We can tell our children that we feel anxious, but we are not focussing on the nerves, we are focussing on the positive steps we are taking to succeed.

Embrace failure


Even Superman (or woman) fails sometimes. What children need to focus on is that making mistakes isn’t a bad thing at all. In fact, it is the opposite. Trial and error is how we learn. If a child does not manage to reach a goal, that is fine. They need to think about what went wrong and how to fix it. Focus on not making the same mistake again rather than on the fact that it wasn’t perfect first time.

Teach them how to achieve challenging goals

My daughter, who is 8 years old, told me recently that she was going to write a book that was longer than the Harry Potter novels. I was pleased, but doubtful that she would succeed. Rather than letting her fail, I suggested we break it down into more manageable chunks. We focussed on first writing a paragraph, then a page, then two pages and so on. Finally, she had filled her notebook with an action-packed adventure story. It was not longer than the Harry Potter books, but by taking it one step (or page) at a time, she had succeeded in doing something very challenging. Helping kids to break tasks down into several smaller, more achievable chunks, is an excellent skill. It can be applied to many areas of life and can help them to achieve things that at first look impossible.

Encourage them to try new things


While all kids have certain things they are good at and enjoy, it is important that they learn there is nothing to be afraid of when trying something new. Mastering a new skill or talent is a great way to show how they can feel confident whatever situation they find themselves in. If they are not successful, this is no reason to be upset, and no reason to avoid trying new things in future.

At the British Council we foster confidence among our students by encouraging them to do challenging tasks in a supportive and relaxed way. For example, some shyer students may feel nervous about giving a talk to the class, however once they have seen their friends have a go, and once the teacher has given them plenty of help to prepare, they realise that they can do it and there is no need to be afraid. Facing and overcoming fears is a very powerful way to develop self-confidence.

British Council teachers embrace mistakes as being the best way to learn. We encourage children to express their ideas and make mistakes and learn from mistakes. If they were perfect already, they wouldn’t need to attend classes!

We also focus on the less obvious ways to build confidence. For example, the way you stand can show how you are feeling, but it can also directly affect how you are feeling. Posture and body language are important and often overlooked areas of development.

All children have the potential to succeed and excel in any field they choose. A few simple measures can help to really increase their chances of success.

Join our upcoming September intake and take advantage of our new weekday online English classes at an introductory price of only RM599! Let us help you develop your child’s confidence. Contact us today

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