Boosting your child's confidence

Here are some confidence builders:

1. Focus on your child's strengths (rather than weaknesses) and comment on the ways they always help him.

2. Help your child dictate or write lists of things she's good at doing; qualities she likes about herself; experiences she values. Even young children can do this.

3. Encourage your child to come up with his own solutions to problems (rather than trying to fix them) with others at school, the playground, or on playdates.

4. Praise the effort your child makes rather than getting the right answer, the best grade, the winning trophy.

5. Share positive ways that you talk yourself through new situations or challenges during the day. Suggest affirmations or brief sentences your child can say to boost his feelings of capability at any given moment.

Some of the central ideas about self-confidence might not be apparent. For example, focusing on strengths is a little counter-intuitive. It's taking a positive perspective like "my child stays back and observes in situations before he starts joining in play."

Viewed as a weakness a person might ask herself, "Why isn't Billy confident enough to join right in?" or say to her child, "Don't be shy. Why don't you play like the other children are." Even when children are young, we can boost their self confidence by supporting their natural strengths, "I see you like to watch what everyone's doing." Or on another subject, "You worked on that block tower a long time. You really stick with a job."

What Works! Strengths-Based Approaches to Early Childhood Education
A Three-Week Virtual Conference
October 26 through November 16, 2009

What Works! is designed to shine a spotlight on strengths-based approaches to preschool teacher–driven change in early childhood learning environments.

The conference will be conducted entirely online, so participants may attend whenever their schedules permit.

The real-time workshops will be recorded and made available to attendees throughout the conference.

Co-sponsored by a wide range of agencies and organizations dedicated to the education and welfare of California's youngest children, this online conference is underwritten in part by a grant from the Packard Foundation to the Institute for Teaching and in part by additional funding from the California Teachers Association.

For information, e-mail

About Susan Kohl:
She is the author of five parenting books and numerous articles. She is also a regular parenting columnist for Diablo magazine.

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