Self Belief, is it taught?

This week I’ve been thinking about self belief. Why some have an abundance of it and others scarcely any at all. Is it determined by childhood experiences or at conception? Okay, classic nurture vs nature argument! But it made me think, am I teaching my children self belief? I have to say I don’t have a shed load of it myself, so is that fact in itself contributing to their own characters?

Like everything in parenting these days there are so many conflicting views and bits of advice out there. When the children were tiny praise seemed to be hailed as ‘king’ of self belief promotion, but more recently this has been challenged, even going so far to say that praise can actually damage self belief and place too much pressure on the child if used in certain ways. Newer advice tells us to phrase our praise very specifically:-“I love how you did that!” Rather than, “You’re amazing at that!” As the latter may induce feelings of expectation, which may eventually result in the child giving up altogether, through fear of failure. “Well done!” Is definitely out as it is apparently just too non specific. There are certain areas in which it is sometimes not recommended to give any praise at all, such as intelligence or sporting ability as the child will likely feel they have no control over continuing success in these areas.


It’s a minefield and definitely something I have over thought! I want to tell my kids they’re amazing and they seem to beam when I do, but at the same time, I can see the theory of expectation through some of my own experiences.

As a child I was randomly put into the 100m race at school for a sports day, I, by my own complete surprise won, then was entered into a race for the school, against other schools. Somehow I won this race too. I was then sent to a running club that competed for the county. It felt extraordinary to have this new found skill with many telling me what a great talent I’d found. But then the pressure of protecting my ‘fluke like’ reign of obtaining the gold (haha!) just became too much and suddenly I wanted to give up. After lots of tears and to the complete confusion of my parents, I did give up. And it was a relief! Which sounds awful doesn’t it?! But I didn’t want to let people down by not winning. I was of course the one who ultimately put all the pressure onto myself, but that feeling of expectation felt terrifying at the time.

I try to balance the praise I give as much as possible, I’m in no doubt that the occasional “Well done!” Slips through the net, (regularly!), but by some stroke of luck both Henri and Molly are actually really confident. Whether its just in their genes somewhere or through experiences its just ‘there,’ and I really hope it remains for them.

They recently performed in their first local theatre shows and took it completely in their stride, for me this would have been my idea of torture at age 7 or 9! But they loved it, and naturally, I told them both that they were superb!

How do you praise your children and what do you find is most effective?

2 thoughts on “Self Belief, is it taught?

  1. This is such a reflective and important post for so many parents (and teachers) to read. I have done a lot of work on this at school with colleagues and was lucky enough to listen to Carol Dweck talk about helping children have a ‘growth mindset’ through praise. It is really important to be mindful of what we celebrate through our positive comments. Your description of the 100m race is classic fixed mindset! However, we mustn’t beat ourselves up when the odd ‘well done’ slips out – it’s really not going to do any harm and is just brilliant that more people are even aware of this stuff. It’s funny that tonight I shared something on the blog’s FB page about this stuff – it’s the Austin’s butterfly youtube clip. Have you seen it? #thesatsesh xx

    1. Hi Hayley,
      Thank you so much for reading, I haven’t heard of Carol Dweck but I’m definitely going to look her up now. Yes, it’s all about being mindful of what we say and do, it’s an area that I really want to learn more about. I think self belief is such an important thing to possess for children and throughout life and I think a good chunk of it comes from environment, and not just our genetics. How funny you posted about this recently, thank you for such a considered comment, I’m going to pop over and have a watch xx

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