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Communicating with children

Guideline 3A

Build self-confidence as well as competence


A confident child might not only learn better, but will more likely want to learn more. In most development communication to date and specifically in communication for children, the focus has been almost solely on raising awareness and building skills. However, where children repeatedly see and hear that they are valued and important, they learn to build a foundation for critical thinking and a lifetime love of learning.

More important than what children need to learn is what they can be. Self-confidence promotes coping skills, solution-finding and the full potential of every child regardless of their situation. Self-confidence is displayed in resilient individuals who show resourcefulness, perseverance, optimism, determination and creativity.

Positive Example: Build self-confidence as well as competence

Fatma (Egyptian Television and Radio) is a TV drama about a 10-year-old girl who desperately wants to go to school. Her father is against this but Fatma stands up to him in a confident, forceful yet respectful and resourceful manner. She addresses all of his arguments through investigation and adept conflict resolution skills. After negotiation, her father finally agrees, and we watch how Fatma is determined to study despite the odds. With all of her chores she is tired and her schoolwork initially suffers. We watch how she achieves and develops confidence and pride with a little family and school support.

This low-budget film addresses basic education, gender equality, child protection and conflict resolution/life skills. It can be used as a model for finding and presenting a “positive deviant”, someone who has the courage to stand up for what they believe is right for themselves and others, do the right thing and work to achieve their goals. This video was produced as part of the European Broadcasting Union’s international co-production of the Eurovision Children Documentary series.

 Turning Theory into Practice

This guideline can be translated into communication in many ways, for example:

  • Using stories, words, visuals and models that build confidence as well as competence by including language that supports self-confidence (“I am so proud that you stayed away from those chickens,” “I was scared but I knew just what to do to help myself when someone offered drugs to me,” “Look how well I cleaned my hands,” “You are a role model to others for not being pressured to have unsafe sex.”)
  • Including ideas about “the big things that little children can do to make a difference,” particularly in communication for children in emergencies (e.g., knowing a safe place to go for help, knowing what to take when leaving home or school, remembering their name and address)
  • Presenting ways that everyday children and adults comfort and support one another through simple words, deeds, play and learning
  • Modelling adults and children thanking one another for “being the best grown-up” or “being the best child,” regardless of living circumstances


 Guideline 3A  Guideline 3B  Guideline 3C  Guideline 3D



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