Recently someone posed a question about what to do to help her daughter develop confidence. I thought back to when I was a young’un and what I wish someone would have told me when I believed some people were “naturally” good at some things and others less so, or not at all.
Here’s what I told her: Process-based feedback. Rather than using essentializing descriptions (e.g. “you’re good”, “you’re smart”), point out the strategies she uses to be successful. I wish someone would have explained that we are neither “good” or “bad” at something. It’s just a matter of working hard, learning from mistakes, and keeping at it–even when you feel like quitting. Things that are difficult can still be worth doing.
I’ve written before about “logging your time”, It’s only when we push through our performance plateaus that we see what we’re capable of. There are no shortcuts to true competence, and no worthwhile confidence that isn’t hard won.
So when you see your child struggling with learning some new task, point out what’s working–and where they could improve. Remind them of other scenarios where they overcame obstacles. How were they able to be successful then? Praise them for their effort; help them learn from mistakes. Watch them bloom into competent, confident young people.