Building youth with the 5 C’s: Confidence

How can adults positively influence youth development? This article explores the second of the 5 C’s of youth development- confidence.

Michigan State University Extension continues to look at ways adults can encourage the development of youth in the next article of this series. Promoting positive youth development builds on Lerner’s 5 C’s which are classified as competence, confidence, connection, caring/compassion and character. An additional sixth C, contribution, is attained when a person has more fully realized the five C’s.

Confidence is defined as an internal sense of overall positive self-worth and self-efficacy. Confident youth believe in themselves and can envision a positive future. Adults cannot give young people confidence, but we can provide experiences and opportunities for young people to build confidence.

Confidence is built on small successes. When a young person does something and gets positive feedback, they are more likely to try it again and maybe go a bit further than the first time. For example, many children learn how to ride a tricycle before moving on to a bicycle. Once some confidence is built on the tricycle, we might move them on to a bike with training wheels before taking the training wheels off. We do this in small steps to provide safety and prepare the young person for the next step. Building confidence in youth is a similar process. We need to give them opportunities to succeed while providing a safety net for learning. Making mistakes is expected and a part of the learning process, just be sure to process mistakes together. Youth need positive feedback and direction to prepare them for whatever is next.

What can you do to build confidence? Encourage young people to take safe risks. Perhaps this involves running for a class office, trying out for a play or sports team, making a new friend or just trying something new. Give positive and constructive feedback frequently. When giving feedback avoid saying things like “great job’ or “good try.” Instead, let them know what they are doing well and what they can work on. Perhaps the young lady running for class president has great ideas and just needs to work on speaking louder so others can hear her. Another example would be to compliment the great rhythm of the young man who is trying to learn to play a new instrument while encouraging him to practice reading music to hit all the right notes. Notice improvements and also recognize the effort. By helping a young person see their own gifts, whether it is people skills, science or organization skills, you will help build confidence.

By helping a young person gain competence you contribute to positive youth development and help prepare a young person for success. The next article in this series will focus on the third C, connection.

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