A woman wrote to us saying
she was doing a workshop for children to help them develop self-confidence
and could we help her. Klassy Evans, editor of Self-Help Stuff That Works, gave this answer:
I HAVE DEALT with many children and what
I know about self-confidence is: You can't give them self-confidence.
What you can do is give them opportunities to do things
well and in doing things well, they become confident of themselves.
I've seen many teachers try to say really nice, encouraging things
to kids attempting to make them feel good about themselves, but
The etymology of the word confidence
is interesting. Confidere is Latin meaning to trust
fully. Children must learn to trust themselves, to trust
their own abilities and I don't know of any way to do that but
in the doing of things. Children need to be coached on how to
attempt things and how to overcome the barriers and obstacles
and to get up again when they fail and learn from that failure
and go on. It's back to the good old-fashioned basics of hard
work and persistence and learning from failures.
If I was doing a workshop for kids, and
I've done a few workshops in my life, though they've been for
high-school kids, I'd help them learn how to achieve. When they
know how to achieve and get up again after a setback, then self-confidence
is the result.
Adam Khan answered the
woman's question about sources:
I recommend Martin Seligman's, The Optimistic Child: Proven Program to Safeguard
Children from Depression and Build Lifelong Resilience. Don't
be fooled by his use of the word "optimistic." He's
talking about sane, strong ways of thinking about yourself and
the world. End result: More confidence and more competence (those
should always go together).
Seligman's work is about ceasing to make
common mistakes in thinking. Some habitual false assumptions
can prevent a child from trying again after a setback. That causes
them to fall behind. It causes them to miss out on the confidence
they would gain from trying again and succeeding. Optimism in
this sense is not at all trivial and completely relevant for
You will be more effective helping a child
become optimistic if you yourself are optimistic. So I also recommend
you read and take the questionnaires in the another book by Seligman:
Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and