10 ways to increase your child's self-belief

I just heard the inspirational speaker James Shone who founded 'I can and I am' a charity that inspires children (and adults) to focus on what they can do, not on their weaknesses.   James was inspired by the psychologist Carole Dwek who writes extensively about growth mindset. She says we need to help our children see that change takes place over time and that the effort they make is what will pay off. We need to show them that skills are learnt and that they come from working hard. If children are lead to believe that 'natural talent' is what they need, then they become reluctant to try at things if they aren't immediately good at them. I was inspired to compile a list of 10 things we can do as parents to help children thrive. So here are some things you can do to help your child develop. 

  1. Notice and mention the small steps they make to improve. Don't wait for the end result. 
  2. Give them small areas of responsibility 'You have strong muscles so you can push the chairs in when we get down from the table, I need a helper like you!'. Setting small responsibility and adding to it bit by bit shows children how much they can improve.
  3. Let them teach you things 'I need you - you can show me how this game works?'. Setting a child in the role of a teacher helps expand the way they process information.
  4. Praise your child for their characteristics - 'You were so kind when you shared your sweets', 'That was brave to try cucumber, even though you didn't think you would like it'. It really helps when they are faced with another situation when they need bravery or kindness (or other qualities that you praise).
  5. Set them little challenges and then praise effusively 'You tried so hard and reached up so high to put those books back on the shelf and you got every single one back on'. Each time they are exposed to a task that is slightly difficult for them, they get the experience of trying hard. 
  6. Model facing challenges yourself 'I was so puffed out when I went for a run last week. I didn't enjoy it but today I ran a bit further!'. As parents, we are such powerful role-models for our children and by letting them see that we face challenges too, they realise that you never stop growing and learning.
  7. Model bouncing back from failing at something 'I tried to make a cake today and it went completely flat. I worked so hard too, it was disappointing. I'm going to see if I can make a better one tomorrow'. This is a simple example but any time you fail at anything, describe it to your child.
  8. Don't try to make things better for them if the have a set-back. Focus on how hard it is when they are disappointed and look for ways they can bounce back. 'You miss your old teacher so much. She was your favourite and it's hard when people go away'. Then you can encourage them to look for ways to bounce back by saying something like 'Would you like to do a drawing to send her?'
  9. Encourage them to be supportive of others and cheer them on 'Amy learnt to ride a bike - let's give her a cheer and a clap when she rides by'. By learning how to give support, children get the experience of being a good team player.
  10. Don't tell your child they are 'clever', instead praise for effort and improvement. Clever is fixed, effort and improvement show that we are always evolving and growing.

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