Character DevelopmentParenting Tips

Help Children Learn Confidence

Challenge them, even if it annoys them.

Challenging people with opportunity introduces them on the level of application to the cause and effect of how a little discipline or perseverance can bring amazing things.

When the dishes stay clean, there is extra time for tv.

When the veggies are eaten, then there might be cake for dessert.

This puts the emphasis on a rewarding consequence, or a learned lesson of cause and effect, rather than a prolonged punishment to avoid. It helps give people the tools to learn through thinking, instead of fearing.

Pointing out someone’s flaws or mistakes does not motivate most people to fix it. With children it can begin to make them feel like they have a ton of things wrong with them and destroy their confidence. Same with using the word “don’t” instead of telling them what to do. It puts all the focus on the negative. (more on that in another article to come).

If it does motivate them, then a confidence problem isn’t necessarily what they may have. In martial arts, this is something we begin to test a little more at intermediate and advanced ranks. As they learn to be more critical of their own technique as well as testing it in others. This way we see how a persons mindset grows.

But that isn’t the point looking at your own family, beginners or children. Pointing out flaws does not motivate them to fix it. All it does is create a negative focus on the situation. If the person you are talking to feels solid in themselves and what they are capable of, they will not see it as negative in a way that hurts their feelings. Rather they see an opportunity to improve.

However, most beginners, children, and even adults are not there. It causes them to get frustrated with themselves because they don’t feel like they can meet any of the expectations and just won’t be any good. After repeatedly being told the flaws without how to fix them, they won’t feel so solid and capable anymore.

Pointing out someone’s flaws directly can also be embarrassing to them, and it draws more attention from everybody to the flaw, out in the open. In some cases a child will see the only way to get attention is to do it wrong, and will continue to do so until you start building them instead of tearing them down in how you make corrections with them.

This is generally because the attention of you spending time on them, even if they are know they might get in trouble, is a reward to them, they want to play with you, more on using time with you as a reward to get them to take the action they need to in the moment to earn that play time farther down.

Adversely, at this point, have you noticed your instructor start pointing out your flaws more directly? Because this is also something used by instructors to test the mindset of confident humility.

Instead of criticizing them, challenge them.

Instead of focusing entirely on what is wrong, first make sure you focus on what is right and use that as a launching pad to suggest improvements that could be made and a reason or reward for trying their best to complete it.

In a group setting, as a leader, this way of going about things increases competition for positive accomplishment and takes the focus off of the negative attention. Because now the only way to get attention in class is to pay attention an do your best.

In a personal setting it gives them a challenge they can accomplish and receive a small reward, and begin to learn that challenges often reap great benefits.

Instead of pushups as punishments, we use pushups as a challenge to compete for the best or most pushups.

Make sure the reward is appropriate

The best reward is your time. When you are talking about children, they often like nothing more than time to play and interact with you in a positive and fun way. This also helps with bonding among family members!

POSITIVE FEEDBACK is one of the most powerful rewards you can give to a child who looks up to you. You are a mentor to them, they look up to you, they hope to be where you are one day. Show them how.

Something as simple as a high five goes a long way. In all of our programs make sure you are giving a ton of high fives when someone does something really well! Even if the WHOLE movement wasn’t that great.


We ask students for some great suggestions of promises of great things they can do to help out around the house in Tigers. We start asking what people have done to follow up their promises. If very few respond or raise their hand we pick them to listen to as a class and highly praise them for following through on their word. We tell the whole class how proud of them we are. We give him a high five from more than one instructor for it!

The next day every instructor will have 5 kids pulling at their pant leg to tell them of the awesome things they have done to help out at home. This is what keeps what we do going.

Challenge Bad Behavior

Kids act up and act out, who knew? When they do, challenging them with good behavior and a worthwhile reward to them can handle that in no time! This is often referred to as PRE-FRAMING a student for class by instructors.

A child’s grades are falling. Challenge them that if they turn in every assignment for the next two weeks and absolutely do their best at it with no arguing, that you will have them a special candy bar (ask what their favorite is) here for them, and personally do 60 pushups (or however many) in celebration of their achievement! Maybe it can be an afternoon at the park playing with them.

Remember the best rewards are your time.

A child isn’t paying attention or following the 4 steps to focus their martial arts teacher taught them. Challenge them that if they focus on figuring out what to do and how to do it at their best by watching, listening, thinking, then acting, then you will give them a reward, one our instructors use is teaching them something new and cool they haven’t learned yet, or just playing a short game with them!

For parents, if the child is acting out and not paying attention, tell them first how to pay attention, exactly what you expect. Then offer them a reward if they can meet expectations, such as:

“if you do this for me, I will make sure we get an extra 10 minutes of playing together tonight with no phone or interruptions.”

Then congratulate them if they do it!

Sometimes what is going on isn’t satisfying to the senses of a child. If you can show them how satisfying it can feel when others are enthusiastic #teammates and celebrate their actual wins, then they will keep trying to win. While also being their for them if they don’t, and focusing on the positive and important things, not what went wrong.

Help students to understand that the more of these challenges they complete, the more successful they feel, the more confidence they have, the more in control they will be, and the more respect and prestige they can earn.

IF they mess up the challenge..

No need to get frustrated, be negative, tell them what they didn’t do. Just repeat what you asked them to do and ask them if they really think they tried their best at that. Let them know they aren’t in trouble, but there are consequences to not doing what they were told.

Those consequences are missing out on the reward.

Then let them try again until they get it.


Students who are told to do 20 laps will grudgingly jog around the mat, when challenged with a timer, and a positive consequence for beating the timer, students will constantly push themselves to beat their own times.