Our children with special needs know we love them and wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world. No matter how hard we try to help them realize this, some may still struggle with self-confidence. Here are a few ways to help your child build self-confidence at home.
1. Open up about your struggles
Talk to your child about how everyone has struggles, even you. Open up about the things you find difficult and how you overcome them. Focus not on the difficulty, but on the solution.
Example: If you have trouble remembering the items on your grocery list, you can tell your child, “I have a hard time remembering what I’m supposed to buy at the store. So, I solve that by making lists on my phone and reading them at the store.” Then, focus on how you and your child can overcome his struggles with helpful tools like lists or other strategies.
2. Give clear feedback without being critical.
Focus on the problem, not the child. Even if your child makes a mistake, she isn’t the problem. The mistake is the problem. You know that, but she may not, unless you spell it out. Children often take criticism personally. Beyond taking criticism personally, children may not clearly understand what they can do to improve themselves. You may have to spell that out too.
Example: If you child always makes a mess, instead of saying, “You’re so messy,” say “Your clothes are all over the floor and your plates from dinner are on the counter. Please pick them up before you go outside to play.”
3. Foster a growth mindset.
A growth mindset is the belief that abilities can improve over time (rather than the belief that a person is permanently bad at something). Helping your kids believe that they can grow is crucial to their development.
Foster a growth mindset by focusing on what your child can do to improve rather than focusing on what she is unable to do well.
Example: Say your child has dyslexia and says “I can’t read 4th grade level books. They’re too hard.” It’s best to answer with a comment like, “Yup, reading is tough for you now. I know you could improve and read those books one day. Let’s figure out a way to do that.”
4. Mistakes are not failures. They’re learning experiences.
When your child makes a mistake, he might feel defeated or inferior. Help him focus on ways to act differently next time to prevent the mistake from happening again…rather than dwelling on the mistake itself.