Browse Products by Category Browse our library of articles Browse our library of free downloadable resources Visit our blog for discussions and handy tips Learn about ways
to connect with Alphabet Garten Follow us on Facebook! Follow us on Twitter! Follow us on Pinterest!

Why the confidence wave is so important to bilingual kids

Share and bookmark this article

Bookmark and Share


by Sarah Mueller

My middle son, Max, is a bit of a perfectionist. Some things come very easy to him and consequently, when he doesn't get something right the first time, he collapses into a puddle of frustration. It was like this when he was learning to ride his bike and like this when he is practicing math facts (his choice - Max loves math problems - weird for a 5 year old, isn't it?!)

Anyway, we're working to dispel his perfectionist tendencies and encourage a bit more perseverance. However, I've also realized he has a confidence problem.

Wave Photo by

CC by 2.0

You'd think a perfectionist would have all the confidence in the world.

But some young perfectionists don't get much practice working hard at things. They may subconsciously stick to their comfort zones. If everything is easy, they don't know what to do when something turns up that challenges them, as it inevitably will.

Confidence can also be a big issue with kids learning German.

Learning a second language can be a source of frustration for some kids. If they are new to the language or if they aren't exposed to a lot of German, they may feel insecure or hesitant to use what they do know. Perhaps they were criticized or embarrassed by a particular mistake they made. Even well-meaning criticism can be hurtful at times. Confidence can also wax and wane from day to day.

Once a child's confidence is damaged, he may find it harder and harder to keep learning.

When my son is having a low-confidence moment (aka meltdown), there's nothing I can do to help him continue learning the skill at hand. I just have to wait it out and see if he recovers and wants to keep going. Your child may not get all the way to a meltdown, but you may see other signs of low confidence - a hesitancy to speak German around others, or complaining that the German books you're reading are too hard, although they were fine the day before. The child may resist going to German class or talking on the phone with Oma. You may notice he's not increasing his vocabulary or improving his accent at the same rate as before.

The chicken or the egg?

Which comes first? The low confidence or the struggle to learn? Well, one will certainly trigger the other and it doesn't really matter which comes first. The important point is to recognize that it will be more difficult to learn when you're struggling with confidence. This is the important time not to give up on the study. Things will eventually get easier again and confidence will improve.<