How confidence trick can help children to fulfil their potential

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Confidence is key to everything we do – whether it’s talking to a stranger or going for a job interview, yet as many as one fifth of children say theirs is dwindling. Star reporter Rachael Clegg speaks to a Sheffield woman who’s found the answer

JODIE Marshall does a valuable job.

She helps young people to come out of their shells by developing their confidence.

Confidence is key to success and to happiness, yet almost one fifth of young people, when questioned in a survey, said that they were losing their confidence.

The consequences of a lack in confidence can have long-lasting effects, not least in a child’s academic success.

A survey of 1,000 10- to 16-year-olds found two-thirds preferred to struggle with their work instead of asking friends, family or teachers for help.

It can inhibit children from making friends or, later in life, trying new things or even applying for a job.

Jodie, who runs Sheffield theatre company A Mind Apart, which works in schools throughout the region, attributes this drop in confidence to a variety of factors, such as over-pushy parents, socially-deprived backgrounds or learning difficulties.

“It’s a problem in Sheffield,” she says. “A lot of parents approach me about their child’s lack of confidence as they are anxious it will hold them back.”

But Jodie can help. Her company works with children and young people from two to 25. “We work a lot with young people who are what’s known as NEETs – not in education, employment or training.

“With a lot of the young people who fall into the NEET category they have a real lack of confidence at 15-19 but they often shield it by appearing super-confident, such as using bad language and wearing hoodies – but while these may be threatening they often over compensate for a lack of confidence.”

A Mind Apart work on confidence from an early age. “It’s about encouraging children to feel more confident in a safe environment.

“Some kids come along and have always wanted to be involved with drama and performing arts but others haven’t, yet often they are the ones who end up getting really into it.”

Confidence is key to performing arts, but A Mind Apart, according to Jodie, tackles the issues in an holistic manner.

“We have a maximum of 12 students so that the teacher can know each student personally and we don’t push them too much – we encourage them.

“They all get supported and mentored and have the choice of what parts they want to play.

“Some may not want a main part, they may want to write instead, and that’s fine.”

A Mind Apart’s got plenty of success stories too. “We can turn them around. We can nurture them and cater for their individual needs.”

One of Jodie’s most dramatic turnarounds was that of a teenager who shall remain nameless.

“When he first came to us he was about 15 or 16 and wouldn’t even look anyone in the eye.

“He came along with his key-worker as his family were involved with gangs and he fled home to get away from it all.

“He was living in supported housing and had absolutely no self-esteem and would question everything we would ask him to do but eventually he became more comfortable and discovered that he really enjoyed rapping and singing and writing his own lyrics.”

Two other girls his age started working with him and before long his attitude had gone from being introspective and insular to confident.

“He completely flourished,” says Jodie. “He was a different guy completely and now he spends his spare time and spare money in a recording studio – he goes in of his own accord, which is brilliant.”

Jodie’s clearly passionate about what she does.

Her positivity is part of her success in boosting children’s and young people’s confidence.

She says: “We have one motto at A Mind Apart – there is no such word as ‘can’t.’