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You Can Do It!
We asked child experts in Queens for their best advice on how to instill and cultivate self confidence in children.
Experts agree that self-confidence is one of the most important contributors to good mental health for any individual, and the earlier you instill this trait in your child, the better his chance of success in many areas of life.
In addition to setting a good example for your child, one of the keys to fostering self-confidence is to genuinely support your child's efforts-even if the outcome of those efforts is less than perfect. "If a child has worked hard, that should be acknowledged. That is what motivates children to keep trying," says Siobhan Powers Streams, director of Landmark of Ridgefield Academy in Westport, CT. It's important to keep in mind, though, that encouragement and flattery are two different things, and the latter can actually harm your child's self-confidence in the long run.
"I believe that encouragement, rather than praise, is most helpful in developing healthy self-esteem in children," Powers Streams says. "Praise is evaluative and teaches the child to seek the approval of others, while encouragement teaches the child to value herself and the efforts that she makes. As a parent, your goal is to help your child develop the confidence and sense of competence that will allow her to make good decisions and not need the approval of others."
Read on for more advice from local experts on how to instill and cultivate self-confidence in your child.
What is your best advice for raising self-confident children?
"One of the best ways to build a child's self-confidence is to give him real opportunities in which to succeed. Every single thing he does need not be identified as 'excellent,' 'the best,' or the same superlatives over and over again, but you should identify and compliment the task or skill at hand. Brushing teeth, washing hands, putting away a toy, being a good listener, jumping, eating, sharing, waiting, splashing, and singing are all examples of specific things that will build a child's self-confidence when pointed out to them as a job well done. Use different phrases; for example: 'Well done,' 'Good for you,' 'I'm so proud of you,' or 'Super.' You can also compliment your child through a positive gesture like a high-five, kiss, hug, or thumbs up.
Having your child participate with you in a class can also provide opportunities to build self-confidence in a space that's a little larger than his immediate world at home."
-Wendy DeAngelis, center director, Mommy, Music, & Me, Inc., with locations in Astoria, Bayside, Forest Hills, Middle Village, and Howard Beach
"'You can do it' are four simple words that can instill confidence in any child. Whenever a child doubts himself, always remind him that, whatever it is, he can do it. It might mean that he has to put in more effort, but he has the ability to accomplish the task with time and perseverance.
Also, don't think that your child can only do what you (the parent) can do, as your child may have a different set of skills or talents than you. If you were never able to write a poem but your child wants to write, don't discourage him. If you were never good in science, that doesn't mean your child will not do well in that subject. Don't assume. Listen to your child closely and respond accordingly. Remind your children that, with time and effort, they can do it, and they will."
-Vera Borukhov, director, Veracity Learning, Fresh Meadows
"Self-image is the single most important factor in the development of mentally healthy children. It also plays a large role in their achievements and interpersonal relationships. When they're very young, children's self-esteem depends on their perceptions-on how they are being judged and valued by the important adults in their lives. Young children are unlikely to have their self-esteem grow stronger from excessive praise or flattery; on the contrary, it may raise some doubts in children and subsequently cause them to mistrust that person. Young children are more likely to benefit from tasks and activities that offer a real challenge, and earn them real appreciation, rather than fun activities that are rewarded with superficial praise.
To help them establish healthy self-esteem, treat children with respect, ask their views and opinions, and give them meaningful and realistic feedback. You can also help your child develop and maintain healthy self-esteem by helping him cope with defeats rather than emphasizing constant successes.
As they grow older, children become increasingly sensitive to feedback from their peers. You can help your child maintain self-confidence during this difficult time by being supportive of her values, accepting her when others may not, and encouraging her to keep an open mind about experiences outside the home."
-Marina Doulova, MD, child & adolescent psychiatrist, director of ABC Psychiatric Services, Forest Hills
"Healthy self-confidence springs from our inner strength and physical/mental balance. A parent with a healthy self-confidence can coach a child to become aware of his strengths and talents as well as his weaknesses.
As parents, we can teach and transfer to our children only what we know and have accomplished. If we are preaching one thing while our lifestyle contradicts our words, our children will receive a confused message. Therefore, parents need to achieve a healthy lifestyle themselves, and teach their children by example how to be self-confident individuals."
-Denis Licul, president, Yoga in Daily Life-New York, Whitestone
"I am a firm believer that a child is a product of his or her environment. It is important to teach children to keep their heads held high while also being humble and respectful to themselves and others. Encourage them to be self-confident without being negative or condescending to others. We teach children from the very beginning, before ever throwing a kick or a punch, that respect, discipline, focus, and above all, self-confidence, are the reasons why they are here.
Positive reinforcement from parents is very important, but there are limits. While children should be encouraged to attain any and all goals they dream of, they should also be taught that these goals must be earned. Once accomplishing the task at hand, a child will feel better about themselves. This approach also ensures, for the parents, that their child has followed the rules and has earned his achievement without being 'spoiled.' At a young age a child learns the value of hard work and dedication. They will gain the self-confidence that they can do anything they put their mind, body, and spirit to.
These are essential values that we encourage parents to instill at home. A value such as self-confidence lasts with a child forever. Proper self-confidence will turn a child into a model citizen in a society that could sure use individuals of this nature."
-Master Joseph Lupo, Jr., owner, New York Black Belt Center, Whitestone
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