1. Figure out what is doable. Is the task in front of the child too hard or within reach (with support)? This is called “Zone of Proximal Development”. For example, a child should not be expected to ride a bike if they cannot balance, run, hop, listen to simple directions, etc. Once those milestones are achieved, bike riding is doable with a knowledgeable rider’s support. An academic example: A third grader can (often) not be handed a laptop and be told to write a well-developed five paragraph essay on the importance of various forms of energy. They can, though, write a nonfiction story/book/essay about a topic they have access to with support such as texts at their reading level, planning documents, clear expectations, and modeling.
2. Know and explain to children the difference between the supportive voice in your head (coach) and the one who doesn’t believe in you (critic). When you hear the critic, ask your coach to speak up. While the critic may say, “You are supposed to be smart - why can’t you do this?!”. The coach will always say, “I can do it! Keep trying!”
3. Set reachable goals and focus on success (even if the milestones are small). Make a big deal when kids persevere and find success - any level of success.