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Confidence is Not Everything - Encouraging My Child

By Michelle Higgins - 17th September 2012

My daughter had an audition for a local youth orchestra and, not surprisingly, she was nervous.

"You are playing your pieces beautifully," I told her after a particularly trying practice that ended in hot angry tears.

"No I'm not. I sound terrible."
Yes she was looking for reassurance but it was more than that.

"I'm glad to hear you say that. It means that you have high standards and are not easily pleased with yourself. That means you will always be aiming higher, striving to do better."

We talked about writing, and how often the worst writers have the highest opinion of themselves and the best are riddled with self-doubt. I want her to recognise that her doubt is in fact a strength, that rather than crippling her it can be the engine that drives her forward.

"You know if you don't get in you can try again in a few months." I said. "You can figure out where you went wrong, where you need to improve."

It would have been easier to pull out a cliche, to act as my daughter's dutiful cheerleader. But our kids are excellent detectors of parental bullshit, knowing how prone we are to well intentioned hyperbole when it comes to their talents. Indeed, more than once my daughter has met outright praise with "You are just saying that because you are my mum. You have to."

So instead of drowning her in praise I have chosen a different path. Of course I whispered words of encouragement in her ear on the way to the audition, and I felt at least as nervous as she did when she started to play. And when she got in I jumped around the house like a madwoman until she told me to stop.

But if she hadn't got in to the band, I wanted her to view it as a setback rather than a catastrophe, a challenge to work harder rather than a signal to give up.

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