Tool #2 for Confidence

In today’s world of point cards, smiley-face stickers, and candy rewards, children are learning to feel confident only when someone else rewards them for their accomplishments. If a child feels confident only when she is rewarded or when she wins or when she does better than someone else, she is basing her entire self-worth on outward circumstances. This kind of confidence is conditional and temporary.

True and lasting confidence, however, comes from within—from your quality of effort and from being the best you can be. You can empower your child to develop his confidence from the inside out, rather than looking to others for how he should feel about himself, by teaching him a tool called River Effort.

River Effort gives children a tangible inner gauge to become aware of and identify their quality of effort and then to self-regulate, if necessary. The tool uses the analogies of Ice, Puddle, and River, three different qualities of effort that children can easily visualize and relate to. Here’s how you can explain it to your child:

Ice Effort

  • Trying too much
  • Feeling stuck, pressured, or stressed


If you are using Ice Effort, you may be trying really hard to get it right or be perfect. You may be feeling pressure to be better than someone else or even just as good as someone else. Or you may be feeling anxious about not messing up or letting someone down. Regardless you are giving away your power by looking to others for how you should feel about yourself.

Puddle Effort

  • Trying too little
  • Feeling dull, lazy, or bored


You may use Puddle Effort when you think that your best won’t be good enough and could end in failure, so what’s the point of trying. Or if you do your best and it is good enough, you may fear that others will always expect that from you. Not wanting that kind of pressure, it’s easier not to try at all. Or you may be focusing on the fact that you are really bored or disinterested in whatever you are doing.

River Effort

  • Putting your heart into what you are doing and giving it your all
  • Feeling happy, confident, and fulfilled


Rivers are always flowing and moving around obstacles, they don’t get stuck, and they are always moving toward something greater. There’s no guarantee that if you are using River Effort you will win or be the best in comparison to someone else, but it will be your personal best and will be the most enjoyable and fulfilling for you. This will build your confidence from the inside out. Always remember – happiness and confidence comes from being your best, rather than being the best.

Published on: August 08, 2012
About the Author
Photo of Jonathan Hewitt

Jonathan Hewitt is the founder of Life Ki-do Parenting, Martial Arts, and Life Education. Jonathan has taught martial arts and life skills to children for over twenty years and has a renowned martial arts academy in Austin, Texas. He is the author of Life Ki-do Parenting: Tools to Raise Happy, Confident Kids from the Inside Out.

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