The Words you Choose and a Child’s Self-Confidence

by Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. on October 4, 2009

in Quick Tips for Preschool Teachers

When speaking to your young students, you need to be aware that what you say and how you say it will impact their self-confidence. Choosing your words wisely and maintaining a constant awareness of how you are speaking to your students takes a tremendous amount of skill and commitment.

Impact on self-confidence
Young children need to feel valued and supported as they venture into their learning environment. As a teacher, you play a valuable role in helping preschoolers develop their sense of self-worth and confidence. What you say to a young child impacts whether or not they will be confident participants in the learning process. Preschoolers need their teachers to direct them and care for them in a respectful and loving manner so they will be confident to try new ideas, not fear failure, and enjoy the learning process.

Choose your words wisely
There are many ways to communicate your expectations to a young child. It is important to remember that as an early childhood educator, the words you say can either be encouraging or discouraging. Your role is to always encourage. You are there to help preschoolers be successful within the world that they live. When children feel successful in the learning environment, they will also feel good about themselves.

Examples:
The following are examples of both encouraging and discouraging comments a teacher can use to manage situations that may arise in a preschool classroom.

Discouraging Comments: discouraging comments undermine self-worth and confidence.

• “Why did you do that – you know better than that!”
• “Trees aren’t supposed to be purple – now go back and color it the right way.”
• “You are not going to get a star because you are not a good listener.”
• “I wish you would stop yelling – I am standing right next to you.”
• “You need to stop being a tattle tale.”

Encouraging Comments: encouraging comments foster self-worth and confidence. Try saying each of the above statements this way…

• “Let’s try that again only this time I am going to do it with you so we can both do it better.”
• “A purple tree would look lovely in my yard. I have never seen such a beautiful purple tree before.”
• “I just love it when you take the time to listen. It helps me be a better teacher.”
• “Oh my, my! Where did you put your quiet voice?”
• “Thank you for sharing your concern with me, I will be sure to think about it.”

The students who are in your care are impacted by what you say and how you say it. Try using a kind voice even when dealing with difficult circumstances. Expect your preschool students to make mistakes, misbehave, or to do the unexpected and when they do – respond with words that will teach, encourage, motivate, and build their self-confidence.

Copyright ©2009 Deborah J. Stewart; All Rights Reserved!

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