Teaching your child to be confident is a precious gift. But while certain words can hurt, other phrases and turns of phrase can, on the contrary, fill one’s reserves to better move forward in life. Gisèle George, child and adolescent psychiatrist and author of Your Child’s Self-Confidence, explains to us the phrases that make the difference.
Self-confidence is one of the greatest gifts that we often wish to pass on to our child in order to grow as well as possible. But in everyday life, we often forget, certain little hurtful phrases can tarnish this achievement. Other phases, or turns of phrase, very simple, can however accompany and reinforce this feeling of confidence in the child. Gisèle George, a child psychiatrist who works on this concept as a priority, gives us her recommendations.
Trust is built in the eyes of parents
First thing to know: a child’s confidence depends on the parents’ outlook. This shows if our reactions and our words have an importance on its construction. “What is self-confidence? It is above all a feeling, which by definition has nothing objective about it. I ‘feel’ that I can do something or that I can’t. But from the first months and years of the child’s life, this feeling of being able or not, of achieving something, is drawn from the parents’ perspective.
Therefore, it is important to mention that you must above all trust your child, especially in his or her abilities. “There is an example that I like. When your child is on all fours, you have no doubt that he will eventually get up, you know it and you address him that way. It is this same certainty that you must maintain to help him move forward in his achievements, his duties, his successes.” So it’s not enough just to say “you’re the best”, “you’re the most beautiful” to boost your confidence. But to really show him how to find his solutions himself, under your watch.
8 phrases to repeat to your child to boost their confidence
- “I look at you, I see you.” This simple sentence is not so obvious when you are in the middle of a thousand things to do. Yet it is essential, since trust is built in the eyes of parents. “It means I take time for you, to accompany you. There is no judgement, I’m here if you need me”. A bond of trust is already being created.
- “I ‘know’ you can do it.” By involving the “I” + a feeling, you involve yourself in the relationship. And the verb “to know” here is beyond doubt. The child clings to this certainty, so be convinced and convincing! The variant of this sentence can also be “I know you can do it but I’m surprised you can’t.” “We start from the principle that it can be done, but it’s a matter of seeing together what isn’t working. It’s not the child who’s doing things wrong, it’s simply a problem that needs to be resolved, the message is there.”
- “I really like what you do”. Here again, changing “what you are doing is very beautiful”, putting an “I” in it and affirming a feeling has more impact on the bond of trust between parents and children. Furthermore, this same turn of phrase can be applied the other way around, for example “I don’t really like this attitude”, here, it is not the child’s ability that is judged but its application.
- “What have you put in place to succeed (an assignment, a game)”? Discussing with your child the strength he has developed is also more impactful for his confidence than a simple value judgment or a compliment like “Yes, you are very good at math, well done”. “The idea is to see with him the skills put in place that can increase his efficiency.”
- “I like talking with you, and knowing your vision of things.” For the psychiatrist it is more interesting to address the difference as well as granting “the right” to have a different opinion. “Saying you have the right to have your opinion subject the child and then gives him the right to everything ultimately. It’s better to encourage ‘I like talking with you and it’s normal that we have different ideas’ which is more of an equal discussion.”
- “How are you going to solve this problem?” This is a sentence that can be said when the child has made a mistake, something stupid, or broken something…”The idea again is not to say ‘you’re unbearable, you’re worthless!’ which completely breaks trust by pressing the “you”, but boosts one’s ability to sort things out. You stained Grandma’s tablecloth, that hurts her, how can you avoid doing this stupid thing?” Our expert also indicates that the remark must always end with what we clearly want from the child: to correct this error, to be careful next time… The child must learn something from it.
- “I’m going to teach you how to do it.”. No need to give the correct answer to a child during homework, for example. On the other hand, to give him confidence, let him do it and restart with him if he makes a mistake. “you want to know why you’re wrong and how to succeed? I’ll show you.”
- “I am proud of you”. Finally, whether your child groaned to go to bed, to tidy his room, or whether he made a mistake, it is important to celebrate success when he listens to you and responds favorably to your advice. “There, you managed to calm down and do your homework until the end, I’m proud of you, and that makes me very happy” is a real gain for the child. He thus knows what he must do or not do to achieve a result. “Being praised and making your parent happy is the icing on the cake for a child.”