I’ve just finished watching an episode of The Wright Stuff, broadcast on Wednesday 26th June 2013. http://www.channel5.com/shows/the-wright-stuff/episodes/episode-123-49
One of the topics for discussion was “Can you teach confidence?” following reports that a school in London is teaching children comedy in order to make them more confident people. The panel were debating the merits of learning comedy and acting in order to improve confidence. My thoughts immediately stray to one of my private therapy clients, a twelve year old girl who loves acting. She belongs to a youth theatre group in Berkshire and walks out on the stage in lead parts regularly. The reason she came along to see me: severe lack of self confidence and self-esteem. In our first session together she was unable to look me in the eye and barely managed to talk to me.
Teaching acting or comedy, while great for a child’s confidence at the time, is very situational. While up on stage, a child can be whoever they want to be and act in any way directed. Once off the stage, they are laying themselves bare for all to see, without direction or instruction. It is very common for comedians to be lacking in self-confidence off stage, Rod Gilbert, is one such comedian who has openly talked about his lack of confidence when “just being himself”.
Michael Rosen (http://www.michaelrosen.co.uk/index.html), author of children’s books including “We’re going on a bear hunt!” asks a very astute question to the panel – “Can you learn un-confidence?”
“Of course” is the reply. Children are being taught how not to be confident about themselves and their abilities numerous times every day. They’re being told they are not good enough by parents, teachers and friends. They’re taking tests to validate understanding at school which gives them a measure of whether or not they are good enough. They are watching parents, who dealing with their own self-confidence issues, give away vital clues as to what the child should not be confident about.
Here are a couple of examples, I watched a friend of mine interact with her 13 year old daughter last week. She stood in front of the mirror complaining about her “ample hips and bum.” She turned to her daughter and said “it’s a shame you’ve got my shape and not your dad’s”. Instantly, in that moment, mum’s insecurity has rubbed off on her daughter. That was just one interaction in one small portion of the day that will knock that young girl’s confidence in her physical appearance. How many times a day do we accidentally let our own insecurities rub off on our children?
I also watched an interaction between a family in a coffee shop in Berkshire at the weekend. A traditional family, mum, dad, older sister and brother, sat together discussing plans about the weekend. I watch mum, her public strong persona battling with her inward insecurities. She needed to be right, the most knowledgeable and best at everything they discussed. I could see the conversation was doing wonders for her confidence but to the detriment of both of her children. Each victory for her, every time she proved she knew the answer or had more information about something, either or both of her children became a little more deflated and a little less confident about what they were saying.
Back to The Wright Stuff; the next comment – children who are “bigged up” by their parents, continually validated, supported and told how great they are, were the ones considered to have the most confidence. Not by allowing children to believe they are right when they are not, but by pointing out improvement that can be made and giving praise for what they have achieved. I was disapprovingly amused by the next statement; “yes, but you don’t want them to get over confident and be cocky.” How old school British!
At NLP4Kids Berkshire we teach techniques to increase confidence. Not only can it be taught, it can be done quickly and effectively. The learning’s are not situation, the tools we use can be applied to any situation, in fact we ask that they are tested in as many situations as possible, to prove they are effective. Not only do we help kids directly, we can help parents too, dealing with their own personal confidence issues to ensure they are not transferred onto their child and by teaching them how to boost their child’s confidence.
So, in answer to your question Matthew Wright – Yes, confidence can be taught. Here at NLP4Kids Berkshire we are implementing it through confidence building workshops (privately and via schools) and through 1 to 1 support of individual children.