The Power of Affirmation
Emotional support or encouragement, otherwise known as affirmation, speaks volumes to a child. A simple "Wow" from a learned elder can boost morale almost immediately. A whimsical "oooh" could be the push a child needs to overcome their setbacks and flourish. A non-verbal smile of appreciation could be the difference between confidently presenting and keeping mum.
This is why we teachers at LoveKids take affirmation very seriously. We have seen many children not only benefiting, but having positive changes in various aspects of their lives.
Affirmation takes a central role as it allows individuals to consolidate their self-worth. This can be in the form of affirmation from parents such as, "Good job, you tried your best!". It allows children to reflect on their effort put into any given activity. Furthermore, affirmation activates important regions within the brain such as the prefrontal cortex, cingulate cortex and ventral striatum. These regions are responsible for an individual’s self-processing and valuation. It has been shown that with affirmation, children are able to overcome adversity and make positive changes to behaviours.
We have bright John* as a perfect example. Looking at him now, you would be foolhardy to think that he once lacked confidence. John used to walk with a slump in his shoulders, with the weight of the world burdening every step. Even at rest, his body language showed everything about how he was feeling on the inside, unsure of himself.
For more than a year, he would tear up and even freeze with a blank expression, the moment he was put on the spot. Two years of Speech and Drama classes as well as Holiday Workshops helped him grasp the power within himself.
We saw him struggle even in informal settings. One particular activity during the Holiday Workshop resulted in John having to sit in a circle with his classmates. He was then tasked to share his opinion on a particular topic. He froze for one minute, then put his head back to prevent the tears from spilling, face contorted and eyes blinking away uncontrollably.
During the minute, the teacher kept silent, allowing John to regulate his emotions back to equilibrium. The affirmation then came from his classmates. Now, this part is very important. Whether peers of the same age believe in someone, or tease and laugh, it matters. Even a little mocking can override what plenty of affirmation has done. A sneer could derail what progress has been made. The beauty was that John’s classmates did not waver in support, encouraging him in their own magnificent ways. It was as if they had their own little in-group and did not want any comrade left behind. On that attempt however, John was unable to share his opinions.
After the activity, the teacher had a discussion with John, assuring and affirming him about himself. This was merely the beginning. It carried on for many months, with every teacher in LoveKids continuously encouraging him with whatever little progress John made. A step into Lovekids took John into a safe haven where external negativity had no power.
Little by little, John made progress. Little by little, we affirmed. As each month passed, we saw the power of affirmation having a positive effect on him. Soon, we saw John self-affirming as well, announcing out loud, "I can do it!".
You can imagine the pure joy experienced by all connected with John when he excelled at his very first Show and Tell in school. How the meek had become the powerful. As teachers and parents, we feel immensely proud when our child succeeds. No one can thus imagine how much more pride John had in himself on that day. We should never, ever underestimate the power of self-affirmation. Believing in yourself can do wonders. When others believe in us and give unfaltering support it can bring down barriers and give us the confidence to take on the world.
Today, John presents in front of his peers weekly, not only with confidence but with happiness. It is also paramount to note that John walks with much less slump in his shoulders and a lot more bounce in his step. All it takes is love, patience and of course the power of affirmation.
*Names have been changed for confidentiality
Educator at LoveKids / LK Academy
Bachelor of Arts Psychology and Neuroscience
Bachelor of Business Economic and Finance