Confidence and resilience
Confidence provides children with the skills needed to cope with life’s ups and downs.
- trust that the world is safe and that there are caring people to help them
- belief in their ability to do things for themselves and achieve their goals
- feeling good about themselves and feeling valued for who they are by their family, educators and peers
- knowledge that things generally turn out well
- regulation ability to manage their feelings, thoughts and behaviours.
Children initially develop these skills and qualities by learning to cope with small stresses with help from supportive adults. When bigger stresses come along, even though at first it can be distressing, children can draw on what they have learned about helping themselves to cope and feel better.
Children’s resilience is enhanced when they:
- feel they are loved by someone unconditionally
- are praised for doing things on their own
- can count on their family being there when needed
- believe things will turn out all right
- are willing to try new things
- feel that what they do makes a difference in how things turn out
- like themselves
- can focus on a task and stay with it
- have a sense of humour
- make goals and plans, both short and longer-term.
Be You Professional Learning
Confidence and praise
As they grow, it becomes more important for children to gain approval from the adults in their lives. Families and educators can help improve children’s confidence and sense of self by giving them regular encouragement and praise.
Praise is most effective when adults are mindful of how and when they use it.
When praising children, focus on their efforts and achievements. Praise that’s specific and acknowledges the processes of completing an activity or solving a problem helps develop children's learning and motivation. For example, you might say “You put away your toys so nicely” or “You've used so many bright colours in your painting.”
Praising children for their efforts is motivating as it teaches them what they're doing well.
They can then use this learning when they have similar experiences in the future. For example, an educator might say, “I noticed you were really trying hard at building that block tower” or “Wow, look how smoothly you're rolling out that playdough.” This kind of praise is effective as it refers to the process of completing an activity.
Confidence and motivation
Self-motivated children tend to stick at things for longer
They feel a sense of control over what they’re doing and are more likely to take on new challenges. When children feel they can achieve their goals, they feel good about themselves which benefits their confidence.
Children can be more curious about some things compared to others
Their level of confidence can also vary depending on what they’re doing and how they’re feeling. Like adults, they can be motivated to do some activities more than others. Sometimes children can be less motivated because they feel tired or unwell or because of their temperament or personal style. This tells us motivation is complex and can be influenced by many factors.
There are many ways families and educators can support children's developing motivation.
You can provide an inviting and safe environment that can be explored in the presence of warm, caring and trusted adults. You can scaffold children's learning and gradually reduce involvement over time. You can ask children questions, talk them through activities, and praise their efforts.
Remember, motivation doesn't always need to be facilitated by adults – children can be very good at motivating each other too.
Confidence and optimism
Self-esteem is an important part of conﬁdence
Having good self-esteem means accepting and feeling positive about yourself. Conﬁdence is not just feeling good but also knowing you’re good at something.
Helpful ways of thinking include:
- believing that if you try, you can succeed
- ﬁnding positive ways to cope with failure that encourage having another go
- enjoying learning for its own sake by competing with your own performance – not with others
- making sure that goals are achievable by breaking down large tasks or responsibilities into small steps
- knowing you can ask for help if you need it.
Confidence involves dealing well with disappointment
Everyone fails to achieve their goals sometimes. And this isn’t a bad thing. Families and educators can build children’s ability to deal with challenges when they:
- respond sympathetically and with encouragement
- help children focus on what they can change to make things better, instead of thinking that the situation is unchangeable or that there’s something wrong with them
- challenge “I can’t” thinking by showing and saying you believe in them and reminding them of what they’ve achieved.
Optimism recognises what has been achieved more than what is lacking. It looks at the glass as half-full rather than half-empty. Adults can help children focus on their own effort and on achieving personal goals as the best way to measure success.
What can I do to help?
Building children’s confidence allows them to have a go at and try new things
It allows them to develop social and emotional learning skills and tackle new tasks – even when they might be daunting or completely new. Confidence improves through building on small successes.
You can support children when you:
- explain that skills develop with practice
- make sure that goals are achievable by breaking down large tasks or responsibilities into small steps
- scaffold their learning and help when necessary, without taking over
- encourage them to persist when they don’t succeed straightaway
- praise effort, persistence and individual improvement
- acknowledge what they’ve done well and not so well
- arrange safe and interesting spaces where they’re free to explore and see the effects of their actions
- answer their questions appropriately – sometimes you won’t know the answer, and that’s OK
- ask them questions to help them solve problems and promote further learning
- help them experience that learning is fun
- use rewards and praise selectively, focusing on the child's effort rather than the outcome.
Beaty, J. (2014). Observing development of the young child (8th edn). New Jersey: Pearson Education.
Mann, M. M., Hosman, C. M., Schaalma, H. P., & De Vries, N. K. (2004). Self-esteem in a broad-spectrum approach for mental health promotion. Health Education Research, 19(4), 357-372.
Marshall, S. L., Parker, P. D., Ciarrochi, J., & Heaven, P. C. (2014). Is self‐esteem a cause or consequence of social support? A 4‐year longitudinal study. Child Development, 85(3), 1275-1291.
Ricci, M., & Lee, M. (2016). Mindsets for parents: Strategies to encourage growth mindsets in kids. Texas: Prufrock Press.
Building children’s confidence
Confident children are motivated to engage in more experiences, more able to build positive relationships, and become happier, successful adults.