Nathan Wallis – Why confidence is an important contributor to your child’s learning
13 May 2021
We all know learning is a foundational part of a child’s early development, but in the midst of teaching our children the alphabet, numbers and colours, we can often overlook the impact their confidence can have on their ability to learn.
Confidence, and many other traits such as perseverance, self-discipline and a ‘can do’ attitude, are called learning dispositions. Essentially, it’s the underlying feeling a person has towards themselves as a learner, which impacts how they learn and how effective they are in learning.
Research has shown that under the age of seven, it doesn’t matter how quickly children pick up traditional school subjects as such - like reading or maths. Regardless of whether they can read at age four or seven, by the time they’re eight, their reading ability is often about the same. But what does matter (and what will set a healthy learning trajectory for the rest of their life) is how confident they feel in their learning.
As parents, how do you support your child and set them up for a positive learning experience? Here are some of my top parenting tips to put in practice for your under-sevens
Let them take leadership
Building confidence is all about giving your child autonomy – especially when it comes to their ability to understand and solve problems.
Instead of assuming the leadership role during playtime, help your child feel confident by listening to their ideas and giving them space to explore them. If they say, “I think I can build the tower this way” – even if you know it’s not going to work – allow your child to try it their way.
Be there for them when they fail and encourage them to come up with alternatives. Offering suggestions is fine, but remember, it’s all about letting your child take the lead in coming up with solutions themselves. This will teach your child resilience and also equips them with problem-solving skills for the future.
Learn to persevere with them
Perseverance is commonly mistaken for concentration and often disciplined wrongly by making children focus on a task such as reading a book or sitting still. However, that’s not the case at all.
Instead, perseverance is when your child finds an interest, takes action themselves and sticks with it. Take something like blowing raspberries, for example – your child blows a raspberry at you and you blow one back; they giggle and laugh; you blow them another raspberry. You might get sick of that interaction after a few rounds, but your child will persevere with that for another half-an-hour. By following your child’s lead and playing the raspberry game for half-an-hour, they’re learning the underlying learning disposition – which is to apply themselves to a half-hour period.
When they get older, this can translate into other activities like stacking up blocks and knocking it over. Learning to persevere through it until they reach a solution or goal, will help your child get into a life-long practice of finding new ways to succeed when things don’t work out the first time.
Self-discipline starts with you
In the early stages of development, helping your child cope when they feel distressed or upset can set the foundation for their self-discipline. Since they’re still figuring out how to regulate their survival response, it takes longer for a child to calm down by themselves as opposed to having a parent by their side to soothe them.
So as parents, it’s almost impossible to over-indulge or spoil your child with love and support because the faster you help calm them down, the faster they’ll be able to calm themselves down for the rest of their lives. Children mirror your actions, which contributes to how they put in practice a sense of self-discipline in the future, which is especially important for building healthy learning habits.
About Nathan Wallis
Nathan Wallis is a Neuroscience Educator, nib health insurance parenting expert and regular media commentator. He hosts sold-out learning events for parents up and down the country (and abroad), talking to different stages of child development – including the first 1000 days - and how parents can support their children in order to achieve the best possible outcomes.