Dealing With A Child's Self Doubt

Sophie says "Your work is so good James,  I could never do something like that! "

The above type of statement is something we hear a lot from new students.  After 2-3 sessions this self doubt behaviour has gone and is replaced by self esteem. 

How does this work?

A child in self doubt mode will praise someone else's work and say that they could never do that.  Often this is not because they genuinely don't feel good about what they've done, they just want recognition and reassurance.   We all do!

There seems to be a trend to react to this behaviour with gigantic praise. "But your work is absolutely amazing too Sophie" This may work a few times at best and then loses its effect very quickly as the child a) realises that your saying it for every bit of work whether they think it's good or not, b) what bit is amazing? how can I improve?  

At Jarratts if we can see a student is having doubts (through body language or comments) then even before things can escalate we will identify something either in their work or their behaviour and ask them to share it with others in the group, so THEY can become the expert. "Sophie, I love how nice and big you have drawn out your design, could you give Tommy some ideas how to get started because this is not an easy thing to be able to do."  This method can snap a child back to their usual self instantly.   Also once others hear and see help being given they become more aware that this is acceptable and will openly offer their services to share a technique they have found works or will feel more confident about asking " Wow, that is great, how did you do it? Can you show me?"

If a self doubt comment cannot be pre-empted we gently bring into the conversation, "Sophie, I love listening to you using nice positive comments about James's work, you're right he has blended his colours beautifully."   I will then ask others in the class to stop and have a look at each others work and find something they really like and then make eye contact with that person and tell them.  Immediately students spirits are lifted as they hear from their peers how well they have done.

Often I will prompt 'Sophie'  with "you must have been listening really carefully because I can see some very beautiful detail in your drawing"  What I am also doing here is role modelling suggestions of how to give positive praise.

We also make a point of telling our students how much they have inspired us and when they ask to look through my ideas and sketchbook  I will explain who's work it came from and what I liked about it.  Yesterday, I heard a student say 'Wow, Ellen's drawings are just so good, she gets those ideas from us!"

You can see that setting a consistent environment, where children feel safe to share their feelings is so important.  The positive behaviours  can be instigated by the adult but must be passed over to the children to follow and uphold.  That way when self doubt strikes, either the child self corrects or another child kindly reminds them.  

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