child drawing-drawing lessons for kids

Using Art Classes To Teach Confidence and Competence – Part I

This is a guest blog post from  ArtAchieve is participating in’s FREEBIE FEBRUARY event.  You can see their wonderful (and fun) freebies here.

Resilience. We all want our kids to be resilient. We want them to be able to bounce back when things go wrong. So how do we TEACH resilience, and secondly, can we use an art class to help build resilience?

Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, the director of an agency that serves Philadelphia’s homeless and marginalized youth, likes to talk about the “The 7 C’s of Resilience.” Here are the 7 C’s.






Coping, and


For now, I’d like to talk about just two of these skills: competence and confidence. Let’s start by talking in general about how to teach competence and confidence, and then let’s see how we can apply the principles to an art class.

How do we get Competence?

All it takes is experience. We help our children to gain competence every time we focus on their strengths and when we let them make “safe” mistakes.

Everyday household activities, like letting them do jobs around the house – even though you could have done it better – is one way to build competence. Giving kids plenty of time for free play alone and with others is a way to help them develop competence. Play is a child’s chance to solve problems and work out disagreements.

How do we get Confidence?

Confident people believe in their own abilities. We build confidence when we give honest, positive feedback about accomplishments. For example we can tell them,

“I liked how clean you wiped the table,” (comments about a task)

“I saw how kind you were when you. . .” (comments about virtues – generosity, helpfulness, etc.)

“I noticed how hard you tried.” (comments about effort)

Children learn confidence when the challenges they face are not too difficult but DO involve stretching.

If an art lesson is managed well, it can be a terrific opportunity to teach both competence and confidence. How do you structure an art lesson to build competence?

Remember that we teach competence when we focus on a child’s strengths, and when we let them make “safe” mistakes.

We teach confidence when we give positive feed back and when we offer appropriate challenges.

You can apply these principles by following a simple rule when teaching art. The rule?

Provide a structured lesson

We would never give a child a piano and say, “OK, now start playing.” Except for a few particularly gifted children, that would be ridiculously overwhelming.

The same thing is true in art. For some children, it IS possible to give them some paints, pastels, and pencils, a project to draw – and off they’ll go. But for many (most?) kids, that’s an overwhelming challenge.

They want their horse to LOOK like a horse, they want the beautiful building to look RIGHT, and a person to look LIKE A PERSON. But they don’t know how.

So how do you structure an art lesson so that it provides an appropriate challenge (enough support and enough opportunities to make safe mistakes)?

The best way to give the needed support is to show them how to “take the drawing apart.” Show them where to start, show how the parts of the drawing are related, and suggest a process of how to get from start to finish.

Once they have been supported in making sure they can actually draw the object they set out to draw, it’s time for a challenge. Teach them an art principle to follow and then ask them to figure out a way to apply it. For example, teach them about analogous colors and have them create a painting that uses 3-4 analogous colors.

In tomorrow’s blog, I’ll share more rules that will help you use art to teach competence and confidence.



Browse Categories