Children will come up against competitive situations at all ages. Terri Apter, author of The Confident Child, says parents should “gain a fuller understanding of how children develop their sense of who they are and how they relate to other people”.
Children in competitive situations, like exams or sports days, can feel like failures. Apter says, “If there are so many people who are smarter, more talented, more clearly focused than I, why should I keep trying and caring?”
Rather than suggest competitiveness should be avoided, Apter discusses ways to help children deal with it.
In at the deep end
Take swimming, for example. Aquatots advocates that babies should learn to swim without floating devices.
Its website says, “Regular use of armbands and similar swimming aids can create false security and confidence. Learning to swim freestyle (doggy paddle swimming) from an early age is far more natural, fun and easy.”
This is a truth I can attest to, because I took my youngest daughter to Aquatots, where she went underwater and learned to swim confidently and without armbands – as you can see from the picture below, taken a few years later.
Confidence building through sports and activities
Steve Furlonger, co-author of Golf Made Simple For Kids, provides golf lessons tailor made for children, to help them learn the game confidently.
PGL was started in 1957 by Peter Gordon Lawrence, who started by leading similar canoe trips back on home turf along the River Wye, for small groups of young adults.
Today, PGL works closely with the Royal Yachting Association, the British Canoe Union, the Grand National Archery Society, British Fencing Association, British Orienteering Federation, Small Bore Rifle Association and the British Horse Society.
“Sometimes it is Mum and Dad that need persuading, not the children,” says Steve Hougham, head of holidays at PGL. “Regardless, we believe every child will not only have a wonderful time, but return home brimming with self-worth and confidence.
“Our Introductory Adventures are ‘taster’ stays of one or two nights for children who’ve never tried PGL – and perhaps never been away without a parent.”
Or give them that X-factor confidence
Clinical Psychologist Dr Jay Watts says, “It’s difficult for anyone born before 1980 to realise how central social media is to children’s lives nowadays. Adults tend to have Enid Blyton fantasies of how kids should spend their childhood.”
Social media, and the internet in general, have made celebrity a bigger feature of everyone’s lives, and many children harbour desires to be the next X-Factor star or the next rising star of the theatre.
You need confidence to get up on stage, and that’s why confidence building is a key part of the famous Stagecoach Theatre Arts School programme.
Sarah Kitt is a journalist and mum of a 16-year-old Stagecoach pupil. She says, “She has been attending weekly Stagecoach classes for years to learn how to sing, dance and act… and generally have loads of fun.
“In 2014 she took part in the fabulous Stagecoach Choir Festival and the Stagecoach Summer Showcase production ‘Seussical the Musical’, which featured 75 students from across the UK and overseas.”