Confidence is a key skill for success. In an ever-changing world, having the confidence to experiment, learn and engage in tasks outside of your comfort zone is more important than ever before. At Nord Anglia, it’s also key to the education we provide.
Confidence lends itself to various aspects of life, including education and a person’s personal and professional life. Confidence is closely linked to self-esteem. This is why I think it is such an important skill to develop; it’s crucial that our children have a sense of self-worth and a can-do attitude — for their wellbeing as much as their education.
Challenge and change are a part of everyday life, and we should teach our children to be comfortable with that.
Building confidence in our children also means helping them recognise their strengths and weaknesses. Part of understanding what we’re good at, and our worth, is also recognising where and how we can improve. Crucially, our children should recognise that with practice and perseverance, they can be successful in whatever they choose to do.
In my experience, the source of confidence isn’t entirely straightforward. Of course, there are children who have an innate confidence and others who just need to practice building it. Ultimately, I believe confidence can be nurtured — and I’ve seen it happen myself many times!
I’m very fortunate as a teacher because I get to witness first-hand the development of my students into confident young learners. I’ve had students come into my class lacking the ability to talk to their peers or engage with the learning. Through our work in the classroom and with their peers, they’ve grown into confident young people.
It’s very easy as a parent to compare our children to what we’ve heard or been told by others. However, just as they all learned to walk and talk at different paces, so too do they develop confidence.
Parents know their children better than anybody else. Encourage them to step outside of their comfort zone, whatever that may be, in small and achievable ways. As they begin to trust themselves in these situations, their confidence will inevitably grow.
At Nord Anglia, we do this in a multitude of ways; from sending our students on expeditions around the world to helping them to engage with their communities to make a social impact. At home, there are some more simple things you can do:
Engaging in play can really help a child to develop confidence, especially when it comes to interacting with others. Having adult conversation and reading to a child can also help them feel more confident and valued.
Affirmation is so important, but don’t just praise a child’s achievements, praise their effort too. For example, “Thanks for your honesty” or “I love how hard working you were just then”. By using praise, you’re giving your child a sense of pride and helping them to recognise self-worth —an important and often undervalued skill.
If we want our children to be confident, it’s important that we reflect the behaviour that we want them to embrace. Embrace challenges and talk about them positively — reframe things you may have complained about previously.
Don’t fear failure, rather, embrace mistakes in your life. Just as before, if you show your child that mistakes are okay and a part of the learning process, they’ll be far more comfortable in doing the same.
I touched on this earlier when I spoke about helping your child outside of their comfort zone. A good way to encourage confidence and maturity is to give your child age-appropriate tasks to be in charge of around the house: tidying toys, getting dressed, loading/unloading the dishwasher, or doing the recycling.
In class, I often give children little jobs to be responsible for and I see this as having a real effect on both their confidence in that space and their engagement with learning. This trust, coupled with a role contributing towards the class helps my students to feel important.
We all want our children to be innately confident young people but naturally, many of them won’t be. I think the most important thing to stress is children will develop in their own time — it’s not a race. Sometimes, it’s those who have learned confidence later in life who are the most successful as they are able to recognise their self-worth and have a sense of authenticity. Honestly, you just have to trust the process!
By Carolyn Gorham, Deputy Head at Prague British International School.