From taking their first steps to learning how to read, children gain self-confidence as they master new skills. This gives them the courage to continue to explore and expand their abilities. Seven-year-olds can set goals and make a plan for mastering new academic and physical skills – from math facts to soccer kicks. As you encourage their interests and independence, you may also need to help them talk through their frustrations and fears. They may be discouraged when a new skill doesn’t come easily to them or when a classmate or sibling seems "better than me" at a task.
Kids may encounter intense feelings of self-doubt when they are overwhelmed by a task or situation. For example, instead of remembering that they already know how to dribble when joining a basketball team, a child might take in the whole scene — the hoop, the other kids, the fast movement, the size of the court — and become lost in self-doubt. Teach your child to "zoom in" on both strengths and challenges. Instead of looking through the wide-angle lens and assuming they can't do something, they can zoom in on what they can do and what they cannot yet do — and make a plan for improving specific skills. (For example: "I know how to dribble a ball, so that will help me play," "I don't know how to do a layup yet, but I can ask my coach for help with that.")
Reframe Negative Self-Talk
Some children this age can sabotage themselves with negative self-talk. This often sounds like, "I can't _______," or "I'm bad at _______." Teach kids to reframe their thoughts by countering negative self-talk with self-talk that is both positive and realistic. For example, instead of saying, "I'm terrible at math," they can reframe the challenge as, "I'm working really hard to understand my math homework." That's more realistic and valuable than having them say, "I will get 100 percent on my next math quiz," because it focuses on their effort, not on an outcome.
Let Your Child Borrow Your Confidence
Kids look to parents to see, "Should I be scared here?" Psychologists call this "social referencing." For instance, when children see a dog for the first time, they'll look up to Mom or Dad to assess whether or not the dog is dangerous. If their parent looks relaxed, it's easier for the child to approach the dog. When kids are scared, our instinct might be to help them escape — or to avoid scary situations entirely. But that tells them, "This is too hard for you to handle!" Instead, provide encouragement. Tell your child, "It's hard, but I know you can do it." Show your faith in your child's ability to cope.
Never Do for a Child What a Child Can Do for Themselves
Identify what tasks your children are capable of handling and let them do these — such as getting themselves ready for school, keeping track of their belongings and tackling challenging academic tasks. Resist the urge to step in and make the process quicker. Instead, try to provide time for them to complete the tasks.