Build a Sense of Competence

Children with a sense of competence are not only aware of their strengths, but are also able to accept their weaknesses. Here are some suggestions for building a sense of competence:

Help children focus on their own strengths.

  • Explain that everyone does something well.
  • Have them make a list of their strengths.
  • You make a list of their strengths.

Analyze the situations in which children say "I can't."

  • Do they mean, "I feel incapable?"
  • Do they mean, "I won't because I'm afraid of failure and disapproval?"
  • Do they mean, "I am unwilling to do what you want me to do because I want to do something else?"

Be aware of hidden messages in some verbal communications.

  • "Let me do it for you." (You're incompetent.)
  • "I like the way you told that story." (You're competent.)
  • "Don't bother me." (You're not important.)
  • "You're in the 10th grade, you should be able to do 10th grade work." (You're stupid.)
  • "You got only five A's, next time bring up that B." (Be perfect or you can never do enough to please me.)

Appreciate the progress that is made in correcting undesirable behavior.

  • Catch them being good.
  • Recognize the efforts of children.
  • Acknowledge any improvements towards the overall goal.
  • Appreciate your own efforts and successes in correcting undesirable behavior in a manner that enhances positive self-esteem.
  • Set tasks.
  • Allow children to complete tasks in their own way whenever possible.
  • Acknowledge the part of a task that was done well.

Build self-reliance.

  • Allow children to do for themselves those things they can do, even if it's not done as well as you could do it.
  • Be supportive without being too hasty to help.
  • In giving praise, be sincere and specific.

Highlight successes rather than failures.

  • Direct attention to the number of correct responses.
  • Recognize and appreciate creativity and clarity of thought.

Plan activities so that children's chances of experiencing success are increased.

  • Instead of one big goal, have several small ones.
  • Divide activities so that one stage can be completed at a time.
  • Provide resources when necessary.

When children say they can't do something, point out that they haven't been able to do it up to now!

  • What they don't know, they can learn.
  • Can't is not forever!

Turn problems into challenges!

  • Thomas Edison conducted 9,990 separate experiments in his search for the electric light!

Some fun ideas

  • Photograph or videotape special moments.
  • Invite your children to spend the day with you at work.
  • Hang up your children's work or progress reports.