Powerful Way to Help Students Gain Confidence​

As a writing instructor, I believe in the power of writing. And I'm really excited about the research coming out that rewriting the stories we tell ourselves can help us succeed and make lasting changes.


We all tell ourselves stories about who we are, and often these stories are not very accurate. For instance, I still have a tendency to think I'm shy, but I have a feeling you wouldn't categorize me that way. It's an old story based on social anxiety I had as a child.


Your child is telling stories about him or herself too, and while some of these stories might be awesome, others are probably not so great. There's reason to believe that actually rewriting these stories can create a new narrative in the mind…and lead to some impressive changes.


Take, for instance, a study conducted at Duke University. It tracked a group of first-year students who worried about their grades and whether or not they stacked up to their peers.


The students were separated into groups. One was given an intervention that involved watching videos of juniors and seniors talking about how their grades improved as they got used to college. This was to encourage them to see they needed more time to adjust in order to feel successful. The control group did not receive this intervention.


The results were significant. As this New York Times article states,


"Students who had been prompted to change their personal stories improved their grade-point averages and were less likely to drop out over the next year than the students who received no information. In the control group, which had received no advice about grades, 20 percent of the students had dropped out within a year. But in the intervention group, only 1 student — or just 5 percent — dropped out."


So how can you help your child change her story through writing? I advocate for actually writing out these stories by hand or on the computer, rather than trying to do it in your head.


If there's a story you often hear your child tell about himself, encourage him to change it. Mark out a time when the two of you can journal together: you can both rewrite a story you'd like to change. This self-reflective writing can help both of you pinpoint places where you can make changes and even write a new narrative about how you'll make that change and how your life will be different afterward.


It can be a lot of fun, and a nice bonding exercise as well if you choose to share your stories with one another.


Tags: writing confidence