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Expert Insights on Childhood Confidence

An interview with Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Viktoriya Magid!

 

This past week, I had the privilege of connecting with esteemed clinical psychologist and speaker, Dr. Viktoriya Magid, to gain expert insights into the critical topic of nurturing confidence in children. I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to delve into Dr. Magid's wealth of knowledge and experience, and I'm equally excited to share these invaluable insights with all of you! In this conversation, we'll explore the crucial stages of a child's development, the impact of praise and criticism, the role of parents, and much more. So, let's dive right in and learn from Dr. Magid's expertise in fostering confidence in the younger generation.


Q - To start off, let’s get to know you! Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background as a clinical psychologist?


A - I was born in Ukraine and have always been drawn to character analysis since I was very young. Perhaps all the Dostoevsky and Tolstoy I’ve read as a kid set me on the path! When I came to the US, I was 18, and I knew I wanted to be a psychologist. I didn’t know what it entailed or even how to apply to college, but I’ve learned to look for solutions to my goals, not focusing on the obstacles. Ten years later, I had a PhD in Clinical psychology- a story too long to tell here- but I’m beyond grateful to everyone who helped me along the way to achieve my dream. I started in academia, and over time turned more and more towards my passion, which is working directly with clients and doing therapy.

 

Q - Thank you for sharing. What an inspiring journey toward making your dream come true! Okay, so my first question is this. Are there critical stages in a child's development that are particularly important for nurturing confidence?


A - We know that the brain continues to grow well into our mid-20s. According to most child and developmental psychologists, however, the earlier years are most important to shaping our confidence and self-esteem, so typically before kids hit puberty. That isn’t to say the development of confidence isn’t important after this point, but the key building blocks tend to be set before the age of 12. And if set correctly, adolescence becomes an easier and less turbulent ride.

 

Q - Interesting! Are there potential long-term consequences for children who consistently lack confidence during their formative years?


A - Absolutely. Our so-called “core beliefs” - deep-seated beliefs about who we are- tend to be formed before the age of 12, and they tend to guide us and shape our interpretations of the world around us. So, if your core belief is “I am a capable person”, you’re life will turn out very differently from someone whose core belief is “I am a failure”.

 

Q - It is crazy to think that such critical values and beliefs can be set at such a young age, often without us even realizing it. It really drives home the importance of children receiving guidance in this area of their development to ensure that they are given the tools and opportunities to interpret the world, their own thoughts, and their surroundings in a healthy way. Can you give us a general sense of the role parents or caregivers play in shaping a child's self-confidence during their early years?


A - The younger the child is, the greater the impact of the primary caregiver on their psychological and emotional development. So, under the age of 3, it will be profound. This is when the child is looking for their attachment figure to (hopefully!) securely attach themselves to a caretaker (this later will determine much in their life, such as their dating profile and long-term success in relationships). As the child ages, the impact weakens over time, and by the time a child reaches puberty, they will be heavily influenced by their peers and the culture at large.


However, new studies support the idea that the primary caregiver’s impact never becomes unimportant, and it is key to maintaining a strong connection with our children, regardless of their age. So, to answer your question, a caregiver who is consistent, reliable, generally warm, and loving will likely raise a child with higher levels of self-esteem and self-confidence.

 

Q - Consistent, reliable, warm, and loving... that sounds doable! As a parent myself, it is comforting to know that those general qualities can be enough to raise our children to be happy and confident. With all the information and differing opinions out there, it's easy to get roped into this idea that there is a magic formula for parenting, fearing that we might inadvertently harm or "ruin" our kids. But it sounds like by providing consistent love and support, we've already mastered the basics!


With that said, how do childhood experiences of praise and criticism affect a child's self-esteem and confidence? How can parents strike a balance between encouraging their child's strengths and supporting them in areas of struggle?


A - We used to rely heavily on praise and behavior charts back in the day, even as psychologists. While those tactics of praise and criticism can have a desired immediate result (a child may stop doing what you don’t want them to do, for example), they don’t tend to work in the long run. “Conditional approval” feels to a child very similar to “conditional love”, so it’s important that we don’t accidentally communicate the message “I only love you when you’re being good”, or “I only love you when you listen/get good grades/stay quiet/etc.”.


This is why it’s so important to allow kids to be kids and correct them gently while giving a reason for it (e.g., “I see you are very excited, honey. When you yell, it makes me feel like there is an emergency and it makes me scared. Can you please talk more quietly so I can pay better attention to what you’re saying?


I love the phrase "connect before correct"- validation and empathy are key to getting kids to hear us and listen to us. Just like with adults - you’re more likely to listen to someone who you can tell understands you and wants to help you.

 

Q - That makes complete sense, and I love the "connection before correction" concept! So, another common concern for parents who have struggled with self-esteem issues, such as myself, is how to prevent passing these kinds of concerns onto our children. What advice do you have for parents who might project their own insecurities onto their children's confidence journey?


A - Get therapy! I’ve worked with numerous now-adults who recall where their anxieties and insecurities began- and much of the time it starts with the unresolved mental and emotional issues of their parents. One client recalls that his mother’s fear of extreme poverty (something she grew up in and was traumatized by) has shaped his core belief “I’m never good enough” when her unachievable high academic and sports standards in the name of success and motivated have resulted in him always feeling like he can’t quite get the “gold medal”… there is always more to strive for and to achieve.. he struggled his whole life with feeling not good enough and coped by overworking and drinking. Paying attention to our own childhoods and what unresolved wounds we might still be carrying can spare your kids years of heartbreak and unhealthy coping patterns!

 

Q - That is a great suggestion. I am a firm believer that everyone should consider engaging in therapy at least once in their lives because it truly can be such a cathartic, enlightening, and transformative experience no matter what age or stage of life you are in.


When would you suggest traditional therapy for a child who is struggling with self-worth and confidence issues? Can you give us an idea of what therapy might look like for a child versus an adult?


A - I’m not a big fan of therapy for young children unless the family can be involved. Of course, there are exceptions and some kids struggle with unique issues such as social interactions due to an underlying developmental disorder. But generally speaking, when the primary caregiver can learn the techniques for healthy interactions with his or her children, many of the issues we see in kids go away. Parent-child-interactive-therapy (PCIT) is one of my favorites for the younger ages. Of course, once kids reach the age of 10-12, they might benefit from individual therapy, learning coping skills, and decision-making tools.

 

Q - Can you share examples of therapeutic interventions that are effective in building or rebuilding childhood confidence?


A - I have named PCIT above - this type of therapy has a lot of evidence behind it, and it helps promote healthy parent-child interactions. For older kids, we recommend cognitive-behavioral therapy from a child specialist, so they can help reshape those negative core beliefs, teach kids more positive ways of thinking, and encourage healthy behaviors that lead to further confidence building.

 

Q - That is great to know! I'm sure many parents will be happy to have this insight, as I am.


Now, I'm sure you knew I would bring things back around to children's books because that is of course one of my passions and the guiding light behind The Confidence Loop. So, here goes! We’ve spoken before about my children’s book, Proud to Be Me, which is all about promoting confidence by helping children view physical differences in a positive light. I’m always on the lookout for other children’s books that share similar values because I believe that reading together is not only a fantastic way to educate our little ones, but it’s also a wonderful opportunity to bond and spark meaningful conversation. In your opinion, how can storytelling or narratives play a role in helping children develop a positive self-image and confidence?


A - We have always learned from storytelling. Storytelling was there before written language and our brain is uniquely shaped to absorb stories, remember them, and learn from them. This is why books and stories are one of the best ways to help deliver a message to your children that you’re hoping to deliver.

 

Q - Dr. Magid, you've given us so much to think about and learn from. I can't thank you enough for taking the time to speak with us! You are such an accomplished authority in the field of psychology and your clients rave about their positive experiences working with you. So, last but not least, can you please tell us about your services and how we can find or work with you in the future?


A - I am a psychologist in private practice in Charleston, SC. I work primarily with adults now (although have years of experience working with adolescents) who are struggling with self-esteem, relationships, and unhealthy coping mechanisms. I help them heal their own childhood wounds and I also provide parent support and teach parenting techniques.


You can find me on my website www.viktoriyamagid.com and follow me on Instagram for more information @magid.mindset. Thank you for what you do and for inviting me to share my thoughts. Hopefully, it will be beneficial to someone. Don’t hesitate to email me with further inquiries and questions at drvmagid@gmail.com.

 

Thank you again to Dr. Viktoriya Madig for sharing her expert insights with The Confidence Loop!

 

Hi there!


Are you a children's book author with a story to share? The Confidence Loop is always looking for new and exciting ways to promote confidence, acceptance, and overall kindness through children's books, so please get in touch to set up an interview or collaboration via the Contact Us page!


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