How to teach your children to believe in themselves
Why does one child stare at the ceiling and sigh, while another takes a deep breath, focuses on what he has to do, and digs into his work?
What’s the difference between the two children?
In contrast, the second child believes in himself. Therefore, he has more emotional resilience. He’s not afraid to tackle something hard. He has a more optimistic view of his ability to figure it out.
And believe it or not, optimism, thinking positively, looking for the best in things, a growth mindset, whatever you want to call it… is not something you were born with.
But it’s your kids’ bridge to learning to believe in themselves.
So even if you (or your kids) are self-proclaimed pessimists, you can LEARN to be more optimistic. I’ve seen it firsthand in my own family and in others. It might take some work and learning to think a little differently on your part as well as theirs. But you can teach your children to believe in themselves.
Teaching your kids to believe in themselves starts by learning to be more optimistic.
Research (sources below) has actually shown that being more positive yields really great benefits for those who practice it. In general, it makes people:
- happier and more satisfied
- believe that they can influence their circumstances instead of having no control over them
- less fearful about trying new things and of making mistakes
- do better in school
Therefore, if your children learn to believe in themselves NOW, while they’re in your home, while they’re homeschooling… you’ll have given them a priceless boost. You will have taught them to work hard and not be afraid to try new and hard things–and that effort is a huge factor in success.
The first step to teaching your children to believe in themselves is to do it in a non-stressful, peaceful environment.
Constant stress and learning don’t go together. So when kids live in a daily environment of stress, learning just doesn’t stick. But what if you’re trying to homeschool as a single mom, or with an unfriendly-to-homeschooling spouse, or have a child with a learning disability?
Even though you have challenges that others might not have to face, as much as you can, make school an oasis for your kids. Try and create a routine. Be as organized as you can. If you have a plan and a routine, your kids will have more confidence in your ability to teach them.
Also, emphasize that everyone speak kindly and respectfully to you and each other. Even if you have to close the math books in order to work through a sibling squabble, it’s so worth it to have a peaceful (for the most part) homeschool.
I say “for the most part” because we all know it can’t be like that 100% of the time. 😉
The idea is not to do it perfectly, but as well as you can in the areas that matter most.
Again, homeschooling in a peaceful environment gives your kids the right foundation to learn and grow.
Before you can teach your kids to believe in themselves, they have to believe that YOU believe in them.
There are lots of Bible verses that show how important it is that we speak to one another carefully. Thoughtfully. Graciously. Kindly. Sometimes we think this kind of speech just applies to our husband or our friends.
(Sometimes we forget that our kids are learning a lot more during homeschooling than just the three R’s.)
Our children also need to be treated with and spoken to with respect. And if you weren’t raised like that by your parents, it’s something you’ll have to learn how to do for your children.
Your kids won’t believe in themselves if you don’t learn to build them up with your words instead of unconsciously tearing them down.
Every mother on the planet can look back and see things she wishes she’d done better. Learn now how to consistently express yourself in a way that builds children up. (Examples to follow.)
Speaking kindly and in a way that helps you show your belief in your kids may take some work on your part. It may involve learning to reframe some of your thoughts into more positive thoughts. As a result, those more positive thoughts will turn into more positive and encouraging statements.
EXAMPLE OF “I BELIEVE IN YOU” SPEECH
Your daughter has botched a math test. You don’t think she worked hard enough, so your temptation is to give her an earful about what you think of this latest bad test score. Consequently, what you’re thinking might be, She’s lazy. She doesn’t do her work. I wish she was better at math, like her brother.
But instead of letting those thoughts have free reign in your head and pushing you to say something unkind or discouraging, simply tell yourself:
She doesn’t understand math….YET. She hasn’t learned to work as diligently as she should….YET. She can do it… she just hasn’t done it YET.
And then, that new thinking helps you say:
Annie, I see that your math test score was lower than I think you can do. Let’s make a plan of working the test problems together and retesting over some of your homework problems. You don’t understand this YET, but with a little more targeted, diligent work, you’ll get there.
Speaking positively in this way gives Annie HOPE that she can learn to achieve more in math.
And just as important, it underscores that YOU think she is able to do better in math.
So far you’ve read about:
- the value of your children being more positive and optimistic about their abilities.
- the importance of having a positive and non-stressful environment in your homeschool
- how important it is to believe in and speak encouragingly to your kids
So besides all that, what else does it take for students to believe in themselves, and what can you do to teach them how?
Steps to teach your children to believe in themselves and their abilities.
Research shows that these seven tips help children believe in themselves.
1. Show your kids that you believe in them. Tell them you’re on their side. That you’re in this homeschooling thing together. And that you’ll do whatever it takes to help them succeed.
2. Help your kids to build on their successes. Help them have a string of past successes they can look back on before tackling something harder. It’s better to give them incrementally more difficult tasks they can succeed with, rather than blow them out of the water with something that’s a huge jump in difficulty.
I’m not saying not to challenge them. Instead, don’t let there be a huge gap from what a child is used to until he’s ready for it.
If your high school student is just learning to write essays, don’t hit her with a 25 page research paper. Her first research paper should be more like 5-7 pages, and let her choose a topic she’s interested in. That way she can concentrate on learning the research paper format before tackling that lengthy one on a less familiar topic.
3. Compare your student’s current achievement with his past ones — not with his older brother’s or someone else’s.
You did so much better on this math test than you did on your last one! Great job!
You did better on this math test, but I wish you’d done as well as your sister.
4. Tie your praise into the effort that you see your child put into something.
I’ve watched you work hard on getting your letters right. Good job.
5. Give clear, detailed, and honest feedback (but make it kind), focusing on the facts instead of making vague, emotional comments.
Your short story has an interesting premise. It would make it more interesting if you included some smaller struggles that lead up to the main conflict of the story.
Your short story is a little dull. I don’t know where this story is going. You need to add more.
6. Teach your children that success isn’t something they are born with or born without. In fact, success is earned with effort. So help your children connect the dots between hard work and success. That gives them hope that if they work harder, they’ll do better.
Your lab reports are getting better and better as you’ve paid more attention to recording your findings and clearly explaining your results.
(OR, If the lab reports need work, make sure you tell your student WHY it needs work. Be specific so she knows what needs to be improved.)
You’re a natural-born scientist! You always ace science.
So can you see why it’s so important to praise effort rather than natural ability?
If your student grows up thinking he’s “all that” in a subject and then goes to college without learning how to work hard….
He’s probably going to come up against something a lot more difficult than he’s encountered before. Perhaps this happens in a subject he thought he had “natural talent.”
At the least, he’s going to have a bubble burst and might want to give up instead of knowing how to push through it.
7. There are no failures, just lessons. Teach your children that it is OKAY to make mistakes. FAIL stands for First Attempt In Learning!
Especially if you have a sensitive child, you will have to really hammer this truth home. Just think about it. If “failure” is just a “lesson,” instead of a “moral weakness” or a “lack of ability”… Doesn’t that make it easier to try hard or new things?
Consequently, if fear of failure is taken off the table, there are no limits to what your children might accomplish! (Or you, for that matter.) Besides, you can tell your kids that it is the STRUGGLE to learn something that helps their brain grow!
So the fact about success is that it takes work. Practice. Struggle. Perseverance. But to get your kids to do those things, you have to teach them to think differently about themselves and their abilities.
In many cases, you have to bring them from a pessimistic view/fixed mindset that they aren’t capable of learning something… to the positive, optimistic, growth mindset that THEY CAN learn it.
Then they’ll be able to rise to the challenges you give them and that they’ll encounter later in life. They’ll know that working hard is what will take them to the heights they want to reach.
if you want your kids to work harder, be more motivated, and achieve more academic (and every other kind of) success, please teach them how to believe in themselves.
It’s a lesson that will pay a lifetime of dividends!
So do you think any of these tips might be helpful at your house? I love to hear from you, so leave a comment if something resonates with you. And look at the P.S. below if you’d like a copy of this post you can print.
With hope and grace,
Resources and Sources:
Big Life Journal – teaching your kids grit and resilience
Mindset, by Carol Dweck
Fiona Parashar, The Psychology of Optimism and Pessimism: Theories and Research Findings, Positive Psychology.org.uk, October 24, 2009
Academic Optimism of Schools: A Force for Student Achievement, American Educational Research Journal, Fall 2006, Vol. 43, No. 3, pp. 425–446.
Maggie Wray, Ph.D., Why by Students Earn Better Grades, Creating Positive Futures, October 12, 2015.
Optimism and your Health, Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School, May, 2008.
The development of optimism and perceived attainment from elementary school to junior high school by Renzo Koizumi, Japanese Psychological Research, 1999, Vol. 41, Number 4, pp. 206-214.
Nancy Barile, M.A.Ed., The Truth About the Effect of Teacher Optimism on Student Performance, Hey Teach!, Western Governors University, accessed May 19, 2019.
Nancy Barile, M.A.Ed., Teacher Comments are Powerful, Hey Teach!, Western Governors University, accessed May 19, 2019.
Educational Psychology. Authored by: Kelvin Seifert and Rosemary Sutton. Located at: https://open.umn.edu/opentextbooks/BookDetail.aspx?bookId=153. License: CC BY: Attribution
Elizabeth Scott, M.S., The Many Benefits of Optimism, verywellmind, Dotdash Publishing, accessed May 20, 2019
“The Power of Belief” Ted talk