Raising confident children

Raising confident children

 

At the end of each term I make time to reflect on what has occurred during the term, and so plan for the next one. This term has been quite remarkable. Despite the pressure that can occur with a huge growth in school enrolment, the students have settled well and are working hard. There has been a large number of events, including the Moon festival, photos, and university visits. The new canteen operations are humming, and there is an enormous increase in choice for students. The student leadership are leading the student body well, and both primary and secondary school assemblies are a delight to witness.
When we think about what we really want for our children, it is our desire that they be happy, successful and productive contributors to our society. To do so, they need to able to deal well with the challengesand demands they will face each day. I have already written once about perseverance, but the more I reflect on being successful in life, the more I see that this quality – resilience or perseverance – is crucial. Drs Brooks and Goldstein, who wrote Raising Resilient Children, state, “Resilience embraces the ability of a child to deal more effectively with stress and pressure, to cope with everyday challenges, to bounce back from disappointments, adversity and trauma to develop clear and realistic goals to solve problems, to relate comfortably to others and to treat oneself and others with respect.” A resilient person is one who has developed the ability to cope with change and adversity. He or she is emotionally strong and secure in his/her character and abilities. He or she can then persevere.
We cannot underestimate how important our role as parents is in all of this. One of the dangers we face as parents is that, in our desire to do the best we can for our children, we can overindulge and /or over protect our children and, as a consequence, they are unable to cope when things go wrong or they do not get their own way. Boys especially are good at a learned helplessness. They practise this early on their mothers! They soon work out if they do things badly or look hopeless enough, someone is likely to do it for them. Girls, on the other hand, tend to do the opposite, they tend to do too much or try too hard to do exactly what was asked, often because they don’t have the confidence in their own abilities.
Another danger is that we believe we need to praise our children constantly, even when what they do is wrong or a poor effort. We do this because we want to build up their esteem. Children know when what they have done is worthy or not. The difficulty in constantly praising is that this false praise does the exact opposite to what we intended. It encourages children to give less than their best because they know it will be accepted. Their esteem ends up being built not on rock but on shifting sand.
A better way to build esteem, and so perseverence, is to provide opportunity for children to build skills. I call this the opportunity cycle. When children acquire skill, they grow in confidence because they know they can do a particular thing. We all know as adults how good it is to accomplish a task or master a new skill and it is no different for children. The praise we give they know has been earned and reinforces the sense of accomplishment and confidence.
When children have confidence they will then seek out more opportunities to grow and learn, and so the cycle goes on. In doing so, they become resilient (in other words, they persevere) because they have the skills and support to face life’s challenges.
For more information, I thoroughly recommend the following website for ways we can encourage our children to be more resilient. http://www.raisingresilientkids.com/

Dr Roderick Crouch