Helping children to develop self-belief

Children who have a strong self-belief are able to share their thoughts and ideas and have a sense of determination and perseverance that motivates them to do well. They are able to commit to achieving their goals and work towards them, for example, finishing a piece of work. These children appear to have a drive to do well and are intrinsically motivated to do this. This self-belief is initially developed through external mechanisms such as parental support and encouragement and rewards. This is particularly important for children in early primary who are reliant on the feedback from adults for their sense of self-worth and thrive on praise, acceptance and validation and have often not yet developed an internal sense of self validation. They also may not have a solid enough sense of who they are to be able to cope with criticism or failure and can find this very difficult to manage without plenty of adult support and reassurance.

Schools can play a crucial role in supporting children who have little or no self-belief, and whilst this is initially a slow process it is one that is achievable and can make a fundamental difference to children’s lives. The development of self-belief initially starts within the family and for a child who lives with criticism, hostility and rejection it is an enormous task to alter what they have learnt and experienced. A child’s sense of self-worth can be activated by instilling a sense of them deserving to experience good things in their life, this is difficult but crucial for children who have experienced rejection or who have a sense of themselves as not being good enough. The work of school staff in managing this is immense but achievable.

Strategies to develop self-belief:

• Identify attributes you appreciate in children and share these with them, for example, ‘I can see you were being really kind when you were helping Matthew find his shoes.”
• Acknowledge children’s efforts and attempts at achieving things, for example, ‘You tried hard to complete all your writing today, well done for working so well.’
• Introduce motivational vocabulary throughout the day, for example, ‘I could see you worked really hard when you were doing the jigsaw today.’

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