The new school year can be an exciting time. And yet, for many children, back to school means back to worrying. Worrying about try-outs, managing homework and projects, juggling activities, navigating social circles, and doing well in the classroom. There is a lot of pressure on young children to succeed these days.
Many times, what is keeping a child stuck in worry about the year ahead is fear of making mistakes. Or memories of a time they didn’t do so well on something and disappointed themselves, a teacher or a parent.
But often the most meaningful moments in a child’s learning journey is realizing that they can learn through mistakes. This is when a child actively discovers their own inner confidence! And that worry doesn’t need to go with them to school each day.
So what can parents do to help children break the cycle of worry and fear in this next school year?
Here are three strategies to boost your child’s confidence for the new school year
1. Choose encouragement over praise
Instead of using evaluative statements such as “good job” and “you are so smart!” try using encouraging words with your child instead. Encouragement focuses on effort and the process of learning. Encouragement sound like this:
“I noticed you didn’t give up, even when you looked a bit worried you wouldn’t make it. You stuck with it!”
“It seemed like you couldn’t remember how to spell that at first. And then you remembered! Did you notice how you remembered?”
While using praise may sound nice and important, praise can actually feed insecurity! Encouragement on the other hand helps your child feel capable, even during a struggle. And it builds her confidence from the inside – out.
2. Use this very helpful word
If your child is stuck in worry or discouraged mode about school assignments, there are helpful words you can use to help her. In particular, the word YET can have a really big impact on how children choose to move forward.
If your child is complaining or struggling , for example, with a homework assignment, instead of stepping in with a helpful “it will be just fine, stop worrying” or “ just let me do that for you” try instead reflecting your child’s worries back to her. And then add the word YET into the mix.
So “I just can’t do this multiplication work sheet mom!” can be met with a “You haven’t figured out this multiplication, yet.”
And “I just can’t read this whole thing!” can be met with “I hear you haven’t finished reading that book, yet.”
World-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck says that “YET” is a fantastic and encouraging word and a great confidence booster. Because it focuses on your child’s potential instead of pre-set expectations.
3. Value Grit over perfection
Knowing that trying and putting effort forward counts more than the actual outcomes can make a big difference in how confident your child feels.
A child’s confidence doesn’t just build up from many “jobs well done”. Actually, confidence comes from moving through any mistakes and feeling capable of trying again.
More than anything, children feel capable and confident when they feel secure and understood. Worry about the upcoming school year is really normal, but it doesn’t have to rule your child’s experience.
With small changes, you can create a home that values trying, and effort. And most likely as a result, your child will feel more at ease. And flourish into her own abilities!
So, for the next school year, focus on encouragement, have patience when your child struggles and more than anything, remember that mistakes can always be used as opportunities for learning.
Peace & Be Well,