There have been a wide variety of studies and published psychologists’ opinions around the effects of early conditioning on young children – particularly when it comes to likes and dislikes, belief systems, and personality traits and characteristics. Some say the most impressionable times are 3-11 years old, others claim that 2-6 years old is the most influential period. Whatever the truth of the matter (and perhaps it is just different for each individual), the fact remains that a child’s early years will play a massive role in who they grow up to be.
How we teach early-years children, and the experiences they are exposed to – good or bad – will potentially be the single biggest influence in the rest of their lives. So, paying attention to this time in their development is life-critical.
The confidence to be themselves
There are many areas of social, physical and mental health that good upbringing and education can benefit: but, for the purposes of this post, I wanted to focus on one that affects almost all of the others. What can we do – as parents, teachers, guardians, mentors or other influencers – to help build a child’s confidence?
The benefits of confidence are far-reaching and can enhance everything else that a young person puts their hand to as they mature and seek to make their mark in the world.
Primarily, a child with confidence can have the courage to be themselves and stand up for what they believe to be true. This means that when bad influences close in they might just have the strength of will to say ‘no’. Confident children are also able to ask questions that others fear to ask and create more generous learning opportunities for themselves. This confidence also helps to cultivate a positive attitude, cognitively and emotionally, within the child’s own mind and about the world around them. Finally, a child with confidence often excels socially, both within their own age group and when conversing intelligently and respectfully with adults.
Five great ways to build a child’s confidence:
1) Value your children’s views: Give them your full attention when they speak and respond in a constructive way that shows you have listened. (But be careful to teach them that there are appropriate times to speak too.)
2) Encourage their passion: Children everywhere excel in the things they enjoy the most – and being successful in something builds confidence – so encourage these activities (sport, singing, dance, reading, drawing, etc).
3) Give appropriate praise: Successes and good performances (not just winning) should be recognised and praised. Children know when they are being patronised, and this is unhealthy, but they also know when that have done their best – and the smallest pat on the back can often create the biggest momentum.
4) Avoid over-attention: Young children often get a lot of fuss and attention, particularly at family events, in a manner that is non-representative of the real world to come. So, try not to create a false expectation of life revolving completely around an individual child.
5) Be kind and show love: Children are impressionable during their imprint years so nothing will do them more good than being loved and treated with respect. Do this genuinely and you will install true confidence in that child.