Five Ways to Help Your Child Build Confidence
It’s no secret that parents want their children to succeed. The same goes for camp instructors: we want to see your children learn how to rock climb for the first time, or try something they’ve never done before. It makes our day. More importantly, we want to be there with them on that journey of learning and exploration. And while helping kids succeed may seem like an easy task, teaching them to learn confidence can be much more daunting. So, from someone who has worked with kids her entire adult life, here’s how to support your child through any challenge they might encounter—and help them build confidence while doing so.
1. Have a conversation.
In a world of smartphones, smart televisions, and smart refrigerators, we often forget the impact of a face-to-face conversation—uninterrupted by technology or other distractions. First, observe and listen. Notice which activities are exciting for your child, and which are more fearful for them. Then, talk to your kid. Sit down with your child and talk about risk. Next time your family goes to the park, suggest they try the big slide. Or next time you take them to the slopes, maybe they should try putting on their skis by themselves. Remind them you will help them along the way.
2. Tell a story.
There are hundreds of resources that tell us the importance of personal narrative in children’s lives. It’s not just telling your child stories, but including yourself or your child’s siblings in those stories. Share what makes you want to try new things. What else as a parent, relative, or sibling makes you fearful? Tell a story about a new experience, whether you accomplished the skill or reached the goal, or not. Or talk about something your child has tried that you’ve never done. (“You went kayaking at camp, I’ve never done that, what’s it like?”) Remind them that each time they try something new or out of their comfort zone, they are gaining confidence, even if they don’t succeed.
I once had a camper who was the only kiddo in his age group who didn’t know how to ride a bike— yet. We ensured the parent that that’s what adventure camp is for, and that his son would be up on the pedals in no time. During the first day of biking at camp all the campers were excited to get on the dirt trail. Our one camper who didn’t know how to ride refused. Instead of learning to ride through the Avid4 Adventure biking progression, he wanted to sit and watch. Using the 'Love and Logic' approach, we told him instead that he could choose from these options: practicing on the paved section or the dirt trail. He agreed to give it a shot, but after seeing his frustration as he struggled to pedal, I suggested we try a new approach. To compromise, he and I could go practice separately until lunchtime and then rejoin the group. With his focus on his own abilities, it took him less than an hour to get on the pedals. He was beyond excited—and confident in himself. A skill that seemed impossible to achieve was now his new favorite sport. By the end of the week he had the confidence, and understanding, to push his own boundaries.
4. Have your child establish a goal list.
In Raising Resilient Children, by Robert Brooks and Sam Goldstein, they stress the importance of helping your child set goals. Help them write down five activities they’ve tried and five activities they’ve never tried (ones that they may or may not feel confident about). Empower them by asking questions: “Would you want to try an overnight camping trip?” or “What might be different about this new experience?” (Avoid using the word “scary”, this could introduce a fear that wasn’t there.) Talk about how new experiences lead to discovering new things (a favorite flower on a hike, enduring unexpected weather, or learning to cook your child’s favorite meal on a camp stove.) Set a timeline for each goal.
5. Join them on their adventures.
Try engaging with your child intentionally. Immerse yourself in their world. Children constantly surprise me with their perspectives. Ask them what they learned at camp (a new activity or a game) and tell them you want to try it too. Ask for their help. See what your child can teach you. You might just be surprised with what they are capable of. You can encourage them through your participation—whether kayaking on a windy day or conquering a tough hike—that strong confidence is something to work towards, and yes, is much more important than immediate success.∎
Author, Mary Murphy is an Adventure Camp instructor at Avid4 Adventure and teaches everything from rock climbing to canoeing. Her favorite sport is stand up paddleboarding. At Avid4 Adventure summer day and overnight camps in Colorado, California and Oregon, skilled instructors help kids build confidence through positive risk taking in outdoor adventure sports like mountain biking, rock climbing, kayaking and hiking. Whether they're first-timers or experienced explorers, our instructors give them the tools the need to set goals that they feel comfortable with in a "challenge by choice" manner. To get more information on our programs like discounts and offerings, click the button below.