Tuesday, December 18, 2018
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Building Confidence Within Your Child

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As we watch our children grow one of the most common fears of parents is that their child should have a lack of confidence.

Having taught performing arts, and in particular early years drama, for twenty years, I have had many parents enrol their child in drama classes in a bid to increase self-esteem.

This article details a few practical ways in Building confidence within your child.

Parental Support

Parental support is the behaviour a parent displays in order to confirm their acceptance and approval of their child.

Actions such as praising your child, showing affection and listening to your child when they speak are all forms of parental support.

Punishment, criticism and favouring of siblings are all unsupportive.

Our children look up to us, and if we are telling them that they are not worthy through our responses then they will believe it.

Children are not always well behaved of course and it’s easy when you haven’t had five minutes to yourself all day to get frustrated and angry.  There are methods however that put a positive spin on dealing with those terrible two moments. One such method is positive discipline. You can look in to this further within the book   Positive Discipline by Jane Nelson which supports the theory of parental support.

Being Heard

Often when a parent expresses a concern over their child’s shyness I encourage the parent to arrive early to drama class. This to enable me to engage in conversation with the child in a relaxed setting when other children are running around or desperate to tell me some exciting news before class starts.

I make a point of listening to every child regardless of the subject matter, whether it is relevant to the class or not. I am communicating that their words matter to me, their thoughts matter to me and that they are an important member of the class.

Giving a child your time and your attention, letting them know that their feelings and thoughts are valued is a basic step to building confidence.

One Step at a Time

 Setting a goal for your child within a fun environment can be a great way to build self- esteem.

One of the best ways to do this is through physical play. However, tasks must be set to meet the capabilities of the child. A simple example would be:

Can you throw the ball in the air and catch it? (Praise)

How high can you throw the ball and still catch it? (Praise)

Can you throw it in the air, clap your hands, and catch the ball? (Praise)

Can you throw it in the air, touch the ground, and catch the ball? (Praise)

This is a very basic example but the idea is to take it in small steps to avoid overwhelming the child and of course setting them up for failure.

Another example of taking it step by step from my own experience would be when I teach an exercise known as ‘My name is..’

Standing in a circle the students one at a time say “My name is {child’s name}”. We then have to repeat the phrase displaying different emotions, anger or excitement for example.

For some children, speaking in front of their peers is a little overwhelming so for the first few weeks I have the student whisper the phrase to me, telling them not to look at anyone but me. Thereafter the student will move on to saying the words in to the circle, but still quietly. The next step would be to increase the volume at which the phrase is being said and by the end of term I would hope for the student to be displaying at least two emotions within the exercise.

Breaking the task down to build it up again increases the child’s trust in you but also their trust in themselves. Most of us will not be engaging in one on one drama classes with our child but the principle is the same for setting goals and allowing your child to feel a sense of achievement.

Responsibility

Giving your child some responsibility is a great way to instil confidence. It not only proves that you believe in them but allows your child to experience success and satisfaction as well as creating belief within themselves. It doesn’t have to be a huge task, it could be something like helping to cook the dinner, taking care of a pet, as long as lots of praise is given and the task set is within the capabilities of the child.

Activities

I have left this point until last as while it works well alongside the other suggestions made in the article, you cannot expect one hour of an external activity to make up for the rest of the week. The support must come from the home first.

Activities external to the family setting are an excellent way to raise self- esteem. Children are not just developing the skills of the chosen activity e.g. football, drama, music class etc. but are also developing social skills within a fun and stimulating environment.

Performing arts classes seem to be the first stop for a lot of parents of shy children as actress’, dancers and singers are often seen to be extrovert and bursting with confidence. Such classes do work for a lot of children but only if they enjoy the class and performing arts is not for everyone. Your child could excel in gymnastics, languages, cooking, maths; whatever it may be that they enjoy and show passion for, that is the activity that will raise their confidence.

A Few Points to Remember…….

There is nothing wrong with having a shy or quiet child, the world would be an unbearable place if it was full of confidence bursting extroverts. However, if being shy is having a negative impact on your child’s day to day experience or mental health then you may want to take some action.

Building confidence takes time. It will not happen overnight. I have worked with cripplingly shy children that have taken up to a year to come out of their shell, so be patient and don’t put too much pressure on your little one as the last thing they should feel is that they are disappointing you.

It is not a one size fits all solution. All children are different. Listen to them, praise them and enjoy watching them shine.

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