Have you ever come across a shy kid, that struggles to make conversations and interact with others? Maybe even appear to be too intimidated to speak up and share ideas? This can often be the case when young kids are interested in pursuing careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Several start out with enthusiasm and undaunted by STEM, but tend to lose that confidence starting around puberty.
How can we change this? First, exposing children to inspiring STEM role models is important. When they can see the “end result” with that role model, it helps them to envision what they can be and to stay the course. In STEM, there is a lot of designing, building, testing, failing and retesting. This can sometimes represent life experiences, teaching young STEM leaders that ‘failure’ is okay and is a necessary step towards the path of success.
So, how else can we inspire our young STEM leaders and boost their self-confidence? Here are a few more tips:
Positive Self Talk
What we say about ourselves determines our level of self-confidence. Statements like, “I can’t do math or science” decreases that confidence level. STEM mentors should teach young children to practice speaking confidently about themselves. Eliminating statements such as, “I should be better at math” is imperative, as well. Help them set attainable goals for where they’re at.
Don’t be afraid to fail
STEM involves building, testing and rebuilding, which means the project may not always work out. In life, this is the same. When we take risks, failure can strike. However, STEM leaders need to be reassured to not quit and to learn from their mistakes. No one succeeds the first time at everything.
Be the example
Some children don’t have role models at home and rely on their STEM teachers for guidance and encouragement. Whether it is a teacher, friend or a parent, being a powerful role-model for a STEM leader is imperative towards their development. It’s important to set an example on how to move through a problem. Show them what it means to make a mistake and recover, not obsessing about being perfect. Asking a young STEM student advice on how they would handle a challenge, includes them in the process and lets them know being afraid of a new task is normal.
When a project doesn’t work out, kids need to get away from the scene so they can think rational. Many times we can dwell on what went wrong, causing stress and anxiety. We can also help by not telling them it doesn’t matter. Have them take a 30 minute break or a few hours to do something they enjoy, so that their brain can switch gears and take a breather. Reading a book or watching their favorite show are a few suggestions. Even looking at pictures of nature or doing meditation helps reduce their stress and focus on something else.
Help them make a plan to prepare or study for the next project or exam or help them come up with language to use in a confrontation. This teaches them to move forward rather than retreat.
By encouraging STEM subjects, you can give young leaders something to be confident and passionate about. Work together to show them, both by example and through their own experiences, that they can do anything they set their mind to. Helping them realize the value of the responsibility they have in bringing their own talents to the world is the best confidence builder. The confidence they build shows them to stand up for what they believe in and prevents them from holding themselves back in STEM. Confidence is more than just standing up for yourself, it builds a strong and resilient personality. Learning in such an environment, they grow assured that they can do anything when they put their minds to it.
What about you? Do you have a STEM student that you want to encourage? Tell us about it and how you are helping them reach their potential.