Each week, the TMAA teaching staff engages students on a new topic in a pre-class discussion we call “Mat Chats”. We follow up on those chats with posts to the blog that help parents understand not only what we are discussing with their kids (it can be hard to hear in a martial arts school!), but also from what perspective we are leading those discussions and how you can bring the conversation into your home.
Last week, we discussed confidence. As a general definition, we looked at confidence as “feeling like you are able to do something”. This is an excellent starting point for children that is easily understood. Kids also described confidence as believing in yourself and being determined; they often compared it to courage.
Before we start a new mat chat topic, the TMAA teaching staff meets to walk through what the new topic will be and how we will lead child-level discussions on the concepts we want to explore. Our process is to first clarify our teacher-level understanding of the topic for ourselves, and then work out strategies for simplifying these ideas to something more developmentally appropriate for children.
This is an important (and often challenging) task for parents as well, so we want to share with you our “higher-level” view of confidence. Hopefully, this will help you in guiding your child not just in defining the word, but in working on ways to build the attribute of confidence.
We started with the idea that confidence is the product of experience. If you never do something in an area, it is unlikely that you will ever feel confidence in that area. More specifically, confidence seems to be the result of learning experience.
As martial arts teachers, we see our students struggle with confidence. It happens to every student at some point. Some students come in to TMAA already dealing with confidence issues in other areas of their lives. For others, they have confidence, but then find themselves confronted with some learning task that is physically or technically intimidating and find their confidence faltering.
Either way, when a student successfully completes a learning experience that they previously found overwhelming, their confidence gets a boost. The more this happens, the more their confidence grows. They begin to not only approach challenges with more self-assurance, they start to embrace and even seek out those challenges.
Furthermore, we have also seen that this confidence can overflow into other areas of their lives. Over the years, we have seen children overcome social and academic anxieties with the momentum of confidence they earned in the martial arts school.
This kind of confidence is built by laddering small learning victories together. Small experiences of overcoming uncertainty lead to engaging larger and larger challenges.
In guiding your child through these experiences and discussing the concept of confidence with him/her, it is important to keep in mind one thing that–though it may resemble confidence–is not. In fact, it is a character trait that can be very destructive.
This trait we discussed with our students is arrogance. Arrogance is confidence without empathy. Think of meeting an arrogant person. The puffed out chest. The painful, crushing handshake. The lack of warmth.
This is a person that is more interested in impressing you (or even dominating you) than they are in making a connection with you.
Arrogance can easily be mistaken for confidence, especially for people who struggle to find confidence for themselves. Arrogance can be appealing because it lacks the complications and uncertainty that come from considering the feelings and needs of others. Arrogance is dangerous because it motivates people to shape the world around them to fit their own needs with little or no consideration of the impact their actions have on others.
When discussing the difference between confidence and arrogance during our mat chats last week, kids were quick to point to characters in movies as examples: Maui vs. Moana (Moana) and Gaston vs. Belle (Beauty and the Beast), for instance.
So, in working with your child on concepts of confidence, encourage them to explore empathy as part of their learning experience. Have them compare their feelings before and after a learning experience that gave them more confidence. Then, have them consider the feelings of someone who is still struggling with a similar challenge. Encourage them to find ways to reach out and help that other person succeed. In this way, their development of confidence will also be informed by empathy!