Claire with the initials of her talents on her fingertips

How to help kids gain confidence

As parents, we have such a special opportunity to infuse kids with confidence. Sometimes it is tricky business, especially with all the “voices” they listen to out there. But I wanted to share one way my dad helped us understand our talents — a parenting hack to giving kids confidence.

Although it is true I have the worst memory known to man, I do remember vividly a few varied things from growing up. How my Dad had us lug big rocks up to our cabin at Bear Lake as the only way to make some money in the summers, and how my second grade teacher’s name was Mrs. Whaley and I thought that was the best name in the whole wide world. I remember little things like how sometimes when we lived in England my Mom would play the piano as we’d fall asleep at night (and I remember how wonderful it felt to hear it) and I remember vividly how amazing I thought I was at the “bars” at recess in third grade. I could do the “dead-mans-fall” over and over and over again like nobody’s business.

How my Dad would build confidence in us

One of those things I remember was the way my Dad would sometimes tuck us up onto his lap as kids and talk to us about what we were good at. He’d ask us what we thought our talents were and each time we suggested something he’d wholeheartedly agree, and write the first letter of each talent we named on one of our fingertips. For example, if I told him I thought I was pretty ok at taking care of babies, he’d write a big “B” on one finger for “babies,” then an “F” on the next finger for how I could do flips on the trampoline. He’d also add in what he thought we were good at when we got stumped.

It made me happy.

I suddenly felt more capable.

It made me feel secure.

Because really, if my Dad thought I was good at it, then it must be true.

A fascinating study about how what we’re told about ourselves matters

Fast forward to now. Grace and I are reading a book right now (The Report Card) that tells about this fascinating study. The study took a group of kids and tested them on their academic abilities. After the test, the administrators let some of the kids and their teachers know that they were “gifted.” The teachers were told to expect a lot from these particular kids and the kids felt like they were important.

Well, the administrators were right. Those kids excelled dramatically in school. But the interesting thing was that in the end, the people running the study let everyone know that these kids who they had labeled as “gifted” hadn’t tested that way after all. Their names were picked out of a hat of all things.

The difference was that those kids felt exceptional. Someone told them they could succeed. They believed it. Their teachers believed it. So it became true.

What a beautiful avenue for giving kids confidence: believing in them!

We have power when we believe in ourselves

I think that’s how life is. If we believe in ourselves, we can make things happen.

And in a way, I think that’s what my Dad was doing when we were young. Writing those talents on our fingertips let us know he believed in us. And we believed him.

Sure, I never became an Olympic gymnast because he wrote that “F” on my finger for my wonderful flips. But I believed I had talents. And I’m thankful for the confidence both my parents had in me even though I was the shyest kid in history.

The other day I got out my ballpoint pen and scooped Claire up on my lap to talk to her about her talents.

She beamed. She looked just like I remember feeling after getting my fingers all marked up years and years ago.

Delight poured out of her for the next hour.

And before long she had her sisters gathered around on the couch and was telling them about their talents. They were mesmerized. (And of course I had to grab the closest camera I could get my hands on, which happened to be my little blurry one, but you get the picture.)Claire helping write "talents" on her sister's fingertipsAnd so, dear children, don’t ever underestimate your potential. That’s why we “do hard things” around here. That’s how we grow.

And thank you, dear Dad, for always believing in us.

Similar Posts


  1. SHawni, How is it that I love ya so dang much?
    Thank you for this….Like Jeana said this is one of the neatest and simplest things we can do!!
    Thanks YOU!

  2. Amen to that sister! I'm so doing this with my kiddos now, but especially my 14 year old son who is going through a tough time in school. I don't think he's too old for this do you? Anyway, your parents sound like good people to me.
    I love when people share wonderful ideas like this. Thank you and thank you to your dad.

  3. Wow. Hope you don't mind if I do this today…what a great idea. The study concerns me though…what about those poor kids who were not told?

  4. Thank you so much for this post. I completely believe it. We give kids labels at a very young age and b/c they are so little and trusting, they believe what we tell them – for good or for bad. I love this idea and want to start tracing letters on my children's fingers right now!

  5. Sonja, I thought the same thing about those other poor kids, but I'm sure they did it in a way that they didn't know who was "picked." At least I hope so!

  6. Great post, Shawni. I also recently heard about a study where they split a group of students (college students I believe) and then gave each group the same test. One group was exposed to the letter "A" during the exam and in the other they were exposed to the letter "F." Guess which group did better overall? Yep – the "A" room. The power of positive thinking, and the power of the unconscious at work!

  7. What a brilliant idea!

    Your Dad has always been special to me as he had a lot to do with my conversion to the gospel. He has always been a great influence to me.

    Thank you for your blog, it's great!

    Best wishes from the UK

  8. My parents believed in me, too. I was ultra shy, too. You wouldn't know it now. I do something similar with my kids. On spontaneous occasions I write them a note about something I love about them & I leave it where they will find it. Also, when we go over grade cards we do it one on one in the study with the doors closed. We praise them for their attitude & effort & we celebrate with a dinner out. Simple & easy. Everyone looks forward to going over their grade cards! I am going to try the writing on their fingers~they will love that!

  9. i remember reading this in your book. you have the greatest parents. i always think people with more than 4 or 5 kids must subscribe to the bigger taking care of the littler and could never have time to really do in depth parenting with that many children. you and your parents are an inspiration. i have three and i have learned so much from this blog and your book. you are all so wise.

  10. Awesome post! I'm going to do this with my grandchildren. I remember growing up that my parents constantly validated and made me feel I could do anything that God wanted me to do.

    Although they have been gone for many years now (my dad died when I was 19), I still remember how special he made me feel. His encouragement has helped me when I've been asked to do some difficult things (bishop's wife, stake RS president), and when I did not feel capable. I knew that with God's help, I could do it–all because of the way my parents loved me and taught me.

    I believe our Heavenly Father wants to remind us how precious we are to Him and how talented we are. That is one of the blessings of scripture study to me 😉

    1. Such a lovely memory to share with us, and a great confidence booster for our kids, I’m absolutely done through this with my 12-year-old, we’re never too old to be told were talented🙏🌻

  11. You don't know me but I had to leave a comment. I love your blog and find it so inspiring on so many different levels.

    I have a son who is a bit of a "challenge" sometimes. He requires more love and attention than the average kid-o. As he was kicking and screaming as usual that he didn't want to go to school I took a moment to try this. IT WORKED! He went to school with his hands held high and only using his palms to open up doors, backpacks and books so that his "talents" would stay with him all day.

    Thank you so much for this great tip. I plan on trying this again with him. Very few things work with him and some times I feel like I have exhausted all my options. From one mother to another thanks from the bottom of my heart.

  12. Hi there,
    I found your blog from and I loved your joy in motherhood. Can I just tell you that I cry with thankfulness to have found your blog. I'm a mom of 4 (Very young) kiddos, and feel like thing are rushing ahead so much faster than I can keep up with – and you ideas about intentional mothering are so refreshing and sweet. Like I can use some of your ideas as a guide until I get my own 2 feet under me again (new baby kinda blows them out from under me every time). And you know what inspires me the most about your blog? Your oldest daughter and the looks of true happiness/enjoyment on her face as she does things with your kiddos. Like there is hope in teaching my oldest daughter about all of the things we see as important – and the thought that maybe she won't resent it in the future. Maybe our hard work won't be in vain after all. Thank Heaven for your gift of gab, and the seed of hope you planted in my heart this (late) night.

    1. Hey Becky, it’s over ten years since you wrote this and I’m so sorry I was so horrible at responding back then (actually I still am!) but I came across this post today and wanted to send some love back somehow to all these awesome people!

  13. I love this post. So important for little ones to have the support and acknowledgement of their parents so they can strive to be their best. It's my first time checking out your blog and I have really enjoyed perusing your posts.
    Shawni, you don't know me but I'm a friend of Annie's from graduate school. I have two kids of my own now and have recently started following some blogs, mostly about parenthood. Was excited to remember about yours and I look forward to following.

  14. I love this idea and would love to read the book, The Report Card, you refer to. I have searched online and can't find anything. Who is the author? Thanks!

  15. Thank you for sharing this. We have been struggling somewhat with some things around here and I think we have been focused so much on what is WRONG that we have forgotten what is RIGHT or GOOD or our "Talents". I think we need to talk about what is going right more often.

  16. I have been reading your blog for YEARS and had to come search for this tonight…
    when I read it all those years ago this idea of the fingertips was the springboard to some personal revelation that clearly told me to do what became known as “5 things” with my kids every night at bedtime – telling them five things they did good that day. we did it all growing up and they would ask for it even as kids in high school (and it really was a tradition that saved relationships over some rough patches). I was talking to our missionary son today who started doing “5 things” with his second companion and 19 months in has done it with every one since, and he said as a leader he found out this week how that has spread to so many more missionaries in their mission. Just thought I’d tell you thanks for all you’ve shared over the years that I’ve learned from and how the ripples continue! 💛

    1. Oh this is the sweetest comment ever. Thank you so much for sharing, I’m so grateful this has worked for your family and love hearing the ripple effects. I love thinking of your sweet missionary out there doing the “5 things” to buoy up the other missionaries. There’s nothing quite like positive reinforcement, we all need it once in a while, right? Again, thanks so much for sharing and I’m sending love your way!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *