With confidence, you have won before you have started. – Marcus Garvey, political activist, orator, and entrepreneur
The middle school years are very important to a child’s self-esteem and child development. These years plus the elementary school years are when much of who we are is really shaped. As children enter middle school, they often become more interested in how they fit in with their peers. They just want to be liked and accepted. There is a lot of peer pressure.
What are some of the issues middle schoolers are faced with today?
It’s not always easy being a kid, especially in the twenty-first century. Besides peer pressure, bullying is an issue that is very prevalent today. In addition, there is increased pressure to do well academically. Your middle schooler may experience uncertainty, too, as they want to test boundaries and are transitioning from being young children to soon-to-be high schoolers.
Here are 11 tips to help boost your middle schooler’s self-confidence.
- Show a genuine interest in your child so they feel valued. Ask about their day and their friends. Get to know their likes and dislikes. Support their interests and passions. When possible, involve them in decisions so they know that their opinions matter. Encourage open communication.
- Use positive encouragement when things need to be done. When they are working on a task or an activity, notice their efforts and give them praise when it is warranted. Don’t always wait and focus on the outcome. Sometimes, it never comes. There are many appropriate phrases to use to give the encouragement that is needed. If they fall short, encourage repeated practice and effort. Or there may be times when a certain task or activity just does not fit them. Teach them to move on to other things. It’s a big beautiful world out there with lots of opportunities.
- Model how to act and react. There are undoubtedly life situations that they may not know how to navigate. This is where your experience as a parent comes in. When you guide them, do so gently. Help them understand appropriate communication and manners. Talk to them about how to behave in specific situations so then they feel more confident when faced with a similar situation.
- Offer correction and feedback. You need to continue to teach right from wrong. Use a positive way that supports and respects them, rather than an approach that dictates and punishes. Set age-appropriate rules and be consistent. Following family rules helps kids to feel secure and builds confidence. As they get older, invite more and more input from them about the rules, responsibilities, and consequences.
- Give positive attention. To feel loved, supported, and valued is necessary to boost confidence. You can spend quality time with them, help them with setting limits and boundaries, and show interest. If you find yourself falling short (e.g., raising your voice, ignoring them, or not spending enough time with them), tell them you are sorry and love them, and offer a hug. Loving your child unconditionally helps to build a strong foundation for confidence.
- Assign tasks that are age-appropriate for them to complete. When they accomplish a task, they most likely will take on more and more initiative to assume more responsibilities.
- Speak with a school counselor, teacher, or principal if there are school-related issues (e.g. everything from not completing work to poor work habits, academic struggles or social issues, etc.). Work with them so your child can be their best self.
- Monitor your child’s social circles and influencers. Be aware of negative influences as children this age will be meeting many new friends and experiencing many new things. Talk to them about any changes or concerns you may have and involve them to make good decisions. Continue to teach your child the importance of kindness, compassion, self-assertiveness, and confidence to handle relationships and to maintain an inner core of confidence when others’ actions impact them.
- Help them set realistic goals. Guide them in the process of reachable short-term steps toward a larger goal. This will help them to be more successful and not feel so overwhelmed or discouraged if they don’t reach a particular milestone (especially if it is so grandiose). At the same time, talk about their efforts, talents, and skills to achieve their goals. Reaffirm the strengths your child has and how specific areas can be developed. When children feel competent, they are more self-confident. They have positive and realistic perceptions of their strengths and weaknesses.
- Teach resilience. Let’s face it, setbacks are a part of life. When your child does not do as well as expected, talk about what they could have done differently so there is most likely a better outcome the next time. They can work on identifying the stressors that make them feel sad, upset, overwhelmed, etc. Then talk about what to do when presented with their stressors, brainstorm ways to deal with them, and teach coping skills, so they can be in charge of their reactions rather than be controlled by emotions or situations. This will help them to feel empowered as they positively cope and transfer this resilience to other areas of their lives now and in the future.
- Encourage independence and exploration. Children who are self-confident willingly try new things without the fear of failure. Encourage new hobbies, sports, trips, classes, foods, friendships, etc. There are additional benefits to physical activities and sports. Physical activities help children stay healthy and fit. Sports show children that with practice, they can improve and reach goals. They learn to handle defeat, meet new friends, and work as a team. In the end, they are more independent and engaging in life by exploring!
Helping your middle schooler boost their self-confidence goes a long way in their transition from childhood to young adulthood and the years beyond. Hopefully, this guide offers the guidance you need as a parent to do just that.