Developing Our Children’s Sense of Competence, Confidence and Sense of Worth
From The Happy Child set of talks and materials
As your child grows, they are developing a sense of who they are, and whether they believe that they are good enough. This comes from developing sense of their ability to do something (competence); their belief in themselves (confidence); and whether this is enough (worthiness).
All of which is developing through their maturing abilities; as they learn to manage their bodies, to process their thoughts and meet their basic needs and drives.
But what does it mean to be competent, confident and full of self-worth? And how can we develop this in our children?
To have competence in something means being able to do it. And this requires a personal ownership of your actions and their outcomes. This sense of ownership begins developing early on in childhood, recognised alongside a fondness for the word “Mine!” and the phrase “Me do it!” This shows your child’s developing personality as they begin to recognise and take ownership of themselves.
As you support this natural part of your child’s personal growth, you can encourage their thoughts by recognising them. Support their developing emotions by giving them the words to describe them. And notice their actions as you stop for a moment and draw their attention to the things they are doing, “Do you see how you just managed to do that, that’s because you kept trying.” “You look really sleepy, I think it is time for your nap, are you feeling tired?”
Even long before they have the words to answer you, your child is listening to you. Associating terms with feelings, and recognising what they mean to you
While being competent is all about their abilities, feeling confident is about whether your child believes in them. And this comes from experiencing your successes, proving to yourself that you can do the thing you feel confident about. However, your child is learning new skills that they have yet to master, so confidence can be easily dented. Help them develop their skills as you build their resilience. All the while taking the time that is needed to recognise and celebrate their achievements.
When children are confident, their belief in their ability to learn and develop new skills grows.
As children experience going from not being able to do something, to doing it with ease, they realise; learning is just a process. This allows them to take on any challenge and follow their dreams. Help them identify and build on their strengths. And when the going gets tough, that they can try harder and dig deeper. Seeing renewed efforts result in even greater success as a true faith in themselves begins.
But always offer praise or encouragement focused on behaviours your child is in control of
Praising the effort they have put in, rather than how clever they are, or how much better they are than others, might seem like similar approaches when speaking your child. However, the differences in how these messages are received is substantial. How you praise your child, or talk about their success tells them something about where their success has come from. And the effects this is having will differ hugely as a result of how these messages are received.
So as you do, be mindful of your child’s competence, confidence and sense of worth. And ask yourself, “Does your child believe that they are good enough??”
Dr Kathryn Peckham is an Early Childhood Consultant, author and researcher and the founder of Nurturing Childhoods. Providing all the knowledge, understanding and support you need to nurture your growing child. www.nurturingchildhoods.co.uk
DEVELOPING EVERY CHILD’S POTENTIAL