How to develop confidence in children

By Ben J Henry

Confidence does not mean being loud. In our aversion to the label ‘shy’, we sometimes mistake confidence with attention-seeking behaviours, expecting children to beat their peers to the front of the line and have their hand up to answer every question in class. Confident children are not always the centre of attention. A confident child joins the conversation or volunteers to do the activity because they know it’s okay to make mistakes. So how can we help to nurture this confidence?

Having taught in the primary classroom for twelve years, I understand the temptation to shower children with praise every time they are successful. The problem here is that the child learns to associate happiness with success. So what happens when things go wrong? Rather than jumping on the success of those tied shoelaces or that perfect spelling, praise the effort. Let them know that we don’t expect them to get everything right; we want them to have a go and give it their best shot. This way, they’ll be more likely to try something new, or something they know will be challenging, if they’re not worried about how unlikely they are to succeed straight away.

Nobody is good at everything. When a child realises they’re not as fast as their peers during the race at Sports Day or mental arithmetic, they might choose to avoid it altogether. We don’t want them to opt out of something just because it doesn’t come easily to them. We want them to know that there are things we are good at, things we want to get better at, and things we are quite happy to leave as they are. Help your child to find their strengths by introducing them to a wide range of activities, from music and drama to sports and art. Remind them that we don’t need to be the best at something to enjoy it. Get out of your comfort zone with them: pick activities that aren’t strengths of yours and model how to laugh at yourself. Every endeavour is an opportunity to succeed, learn or laugh!

Bristol Academy of Drama 2

Image courtesy of Bristol Academy of Drama

As parents and teachers, we can create opportunities for children to make mistakes in a safe environment. One of the best ways to achieve this is through drama. According to Claire Vincent at the Bristol Academy of Drama, “Not only does drama nurture children’s creativity, it also gives them the opportunity to work collaboratively, think independently, and solve problems imaginatively. Building those skills naturally encourages confidence within young people before they even step out on stage.” Bristol Academy of Drama holds after-school, weekend and holiday workshops for children aged 4 -16 years as well as private lessons for LAMDA examinations for any age.

For other practical opportunities to boost confidence, the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School holds weekly classes on Sunday mornings for those aged 4-18 in performance and technical theatre and film.

“Giving young people the opportunity to express themselves in a safe, supportive environment allows self-discovery and empowerment through creative exploration.” – Faye Elvin, BOVTS.

And finally, one of the best ways to learn through mistakes is improv acting. Acting without a script not only gives children the chance to be creative, but it’s impossible not to make mistakes. During an improv scene, there are golden moments when the scene is actually going somewhere, and then moments of hilarity when it all falls apart. Children associate ‘failure’ with laughter and want to have another go. For this reason, Clifton Private Tutors is running a series of free improv sessions at the Alma Tavern. The first was a huge success and the second will take place on Sunday 23rd April. To book a space or for more information, click here.

At Clifton Private Tutors, we help your child to master their strengths, develop their target areas and enjoy the learning process, building confident, happy children. We don’t need them to be the loudest in the room, but we want them to walk up to that group at Brownies, Scouts, or on the university campus and join the conversation.