Building confidence in children starts when they are babies and continues through childhood. Our job as parents is to help them grown strong and confident.
There are so many things we must worry about as we raise our children.
We must teach them to respect themselves and others, we must explain sex and puberty, and we have to cover at least the basics of personal responsibility! (An oft-repeated line at home is “Don’t let your irresponsibility become someone else’s responsibility!’)
Of course, we also need to teach them to walk, talk, read and write, play nicely with others, and share.
Then they get older and we are dealing with chores and school work.
But when do we teach them confidence?
A healthy, strong sense of self-confidence.
Generally, confidence and self-esteem is built first at home. Granted, it’s possible to build up a healthy sense of self as an adult, but it’s going to be harder. Therefore, as a parent, it’s your job to help your child feel good about themselves and grow to be a happy, well-adjusted adult.
You can hire someone to teach Drivers Ed, but you can’t hire out this part of parenting.
Why Self-Confidence is So Important
Before we talk about HOW, let’s take a moment to look at WHY. Why should you take the effort to focus on your child’s confidence throughout every age and stage?
A self-confident child is happier
Plain and simple, confident boys and girls are happier. They feel good about themselves and their accomplishments, which makes them well-adjusted, delightful, and happy children.
There’s my goal for all of my children – that they are happy.
A strong sense of confidence in themselves and the world allows your child to enjoy life.
Confidence creates a stronger, healthier self-worth
Now let’s take a moment and make it clear that I’m talking about a healthy self-esteem, not one that is bloated and over-inflated. No one likes to be around someone who thinks they are better than everyone else.
But a child who knows that they are AS GOOD AS anyone else, with confidence in their own strengths and abilities, will have a healthy and realistic self-worth. Everyone needs to feel as though their life has value.
It means less social anxiety
We have all seen children who are terrified to enter into social situations because they feel they aren’t good enough, or they feel they can’t compare to others. Perhaps you were that sort of child. Even though I had a lot going for me, social situations were scary for me.
A lot of social anxiety in children comes from that feeling that they aren’t good enough. Building your child’s self-confidence can greatly diminish social anxiety.
Confidence boosts motivation
We all want motivated children. Or, more specifically, we want self-motivated children. That means that they are more likely to try harder and work at learning new things. A confident child is not afraid to try and fail. They take chances, which means that they learn and grow – which in turn increases their confidence.
Start Young With Your Baby
Confidence in boys and girls starts when they’re babies.
The method of parenting is one you can choose on your own, but it has been shown that attachment parenting for babies makes them feel secure, which can then increase their sense of value as they get older. Attachment parenting includes wearing your baby often, paying attention to their cues and breastfeeding immediately, and spending a good portion of your baby’s life right there beside them.
Even if attachment parenting isn’t your personal method of parenting, you can get some good tips from this type of parenting. The more time, love, and attention you give to your baby during his first few months of life, the more valued and special he is going to feel. Continue with this type of parenting from the time your son is born until he starts paying attention to the time and attention you give him, and it will naturally increase his own personal self-confidence.
This early nurturing is important for babies and toddlers to feel love from their parents. So don’t be afraid that you cuddle too much or want to spend all your time with your son; this is a good thing and can actually help him be a better person in the future.
Be a Good Role Model For Healthy Self-Confidence
Monkey see, monkey do!
Have you ever told your child to “Do as I say, not as I do”? It sounds so foolish to SAY it, but unfortunately, too many of us speak volume with our actions.
As your child starts to get older, a lot of their self confidence comes from what they see, not always what they’re told.
They’re always watching us, even when – no, especially when – they don’t think we’re watching! They’ll take cues from parents, older siblings, and other people in their lives that they look up to.
As the parent, it’s your job to show that you’re confident about yourself and model that it’s okay to stand up for yourself and speak your mind.
Remain a Self-Confident Person
It can be hard to keep saying good things about yourself and showing your child that you are a confident person with a healthy self-esteem.
Unfortunately, too many people will treat you as though you’re being conceited. In some circles, it’s not socially acceptable to be proud of your accomplishments.
Don’t let that stop you from taking credit for what you’ve done, accepting praise and approval. That doesn’t mean you should be talking about yourself 24/7! But in those moments when you truly believe you’ve shined, make sure your children take a lesson from it that it’s perfectly fine to take pride in your accomplishments!
Keep Certain Misgivings to Yourself
Your self-confidence and self-esteem are probably not at the level where you want your child’s to be. Most of us grew up “beating ourselves up” for things, and heaping guilt on our own heads or accepting it from others. And a lot of us have a very unhealthy fixation on personal appearances – we’re all either too skinny, too fat, too tall, too short, too something. One of my best friends is 5’10” and says that her height made her an easy target, while I felt the same way at 5′. The lessons we learned are usually not ones that we want to pass on to our children.
So what do you do when you look in the mirror and absolutely hate that spare tire or the saggy skin under your neck? What about when you straight up made a HUGE mistake and you want to jump off a bridge?
It’s important to let your children know that you have flaws and that you make mistakes. But remember how they mimic everything they see?
“I’m so FAT! I’m going to go on a diet so that I can look good again!” That isn’t something you want to hear from your beautiful child, and so it’s not something they should ever hear from you. At our house, we talk about how children are growing and need plenty of carbohydrates, fat, and protein, while grownups who still eat like hungry children pack on excess weight. It helps them realize that there is nothing wrong with being a hungry little hippo when you’re a child, but that food intake needs to fit your age and activity level.
By the same token, you don’t want to hear your child say “I can’t believe that I did that! My life is OVER!” Take care to model to them that mistakes happen, stupid decisions happen, and while you may well regret the actions and decisions, life does go on. You don’t want them to think that failure is a catastrophe.
Find a Good Balance of Praise
There’s a delicate balance that parents need to find. On one hand, you need to compliment and praise your children for things they do well. But on the other hand, you don’t want to be so generous with your praise that failure hits them like a brick wall.
Part of the way to deal with this is to praise their efforts and progress, as well as recognizing their best work.
Focus On Encouragement
Don’t set the bar too low!
This is a very real problem when you’re lavishing your child with praise. If every single attempt is ‘amazing!’ and ‘perfect!’ then there is little reason for your child to push forward and do better.
If it’s already perfect, why not stop there?
Be sure to include a strong dose of encouragement in your praise. “That is a REALLY good effort. I’m so impressed. I can see how amazing it’s going to be when you’ve mastered this!”
Teach the Importance of Trying Again
It was good – but it can be better!
That’s an important lesson that our children all need to learn. Focus on their effort, the work that they’ve done, so that they know you appreciate how hard they’ve worked. This makes children more likely to work at improving what they’ve done.
When to Offer Your Son Praise
And sometimes it’s okay to just praise the stuffing out of your kids!
When they try something new, especially something difficult, and they succeed, go ahead and hoot and holler for them.
But just as importantly – when they try … and try … and try … and try … and finally succeed, break out the balloons and celebrate.
Let Your Child Take Some Risks
It’s okay to let your child try new things. In fact, it’s not just okay, it’s a GOOD thing.
It’s also scary! You don’t know how things will turn out, and maybe it will end in disappointment and tears. But raising a confident child means letting them try new things.
Last week my five year old daughter decided to try some stunts on the ‘spider web’ (that dome-shaped climbing apparatus in most playgrounds). Instead of succeeding at her stunt, she took a face-plant right into sharp rocks and cut up her face and lip badly.
How badly? Badly enough that it got her a week off school, with salt water and antibiotic ointment treatments several times a day and soft foods so that her teeth would firm back up in their sockets.
When we talked to her about it, we praised her attempt and acknowledged that sometimes you do get hurt when trying something new. Someone said to her that she should perhaps not do stunts like that and she said “No, that’s not right. I shouldn’t fall on my face like that.”
Leave Room For Your Child to Diversify
Just because your child excels in one area, doesn’t mean they can’t also try and succeed at other things. Part of allowing your child to be more confident is showing that they can do a lot of different things well. Give them the chance to really try a lot of different things until they finds what makes them feel good about themselves.
Give them encouragement to try new things and see what else they’re good at.
Let Them Solve Problems On Their Own
This is often difficult for parents to do because you want your child to learn the right way to do things. “Here, let me get that!”
However, there are times when it is better for their growth and development to take a step back and let them figure out things on their own.
My children are very strong-willed, and I’m pretty relaxed, so we often have situations where my children are studying a mess or a problem carefully and trying to figure out just exactly how to deal with it.
I let them do it! Often the solutions aren’t what I’d have chosen, but I’ll usually accept any solution that works. Each problem solved gives them more confirmation that they are capable of dealing with difficulties without immediately calling for help.
Encourage Them to Do Their Own Thing
Everyone needs hobbies and passions – and it doesn’t always have to be something you’re good at it.
Encourage your children to try new things and explore what interests them. When your child finds something they truly love, they’ll feel good about themselves every time they participate in that activity.
And it doesn’t have to be something you like or enjoy!
For example, my youngest son adores Minecraft. I bet my tongue when it’s being discussed, because I dislike the game immensely. But as much as I dislike it, I know that there are valuable lessons to be learned in the game. Players start from scratch and must create or hunt down everything. They learn to choose and finish goals, build on their creativity, and learn some basics of building.
Letting our children try new things, be creative, and explore their many talents and abilities will help them grow into happy, motivated, strong, and self confident men and women.