Raising a Confident Child
Posted on September 27, 2017 by CHS
Every parent wants their child to have strong self-esteem and believe that they are capable of success. Parents want their children to feel successful because they know that when a child feels good about himself, and believes that he can achieve anything with hard work, he will have a happier and more satisfying life. The belief that you can overcome obstacles, be independent, and achieve your goals is called confidence.
Confidence is developed from a combination of experiences, skills, and knowledge. Children begin building their confidence from infancy. As children grow, their knowledge, skills, and experiences also grow and expand. Parents can take steps to support their child’s confidence through conversations, daily tasks, and simple projects. For example, parents can use the following models to help them raise a confident child:
1. Help your child learn about emotions and how to express them.
Children start learning about emotions the moment they are born. Immediately after birth, babies can experience pleasure, distress, and surprise. By the time they are a year old they have felt joy, anger, sadness, and fear. Responding to an infant’s needs promptly builds trust and a feeling of safety. As they continue to grow, they will experience shame, pride, guilt, envy, and insecurity. With the proper support, they can also begin to feel confidence around the age of five. When children feel safe, loved, and cared for, they can acquire the skills necessary to learn how to express themselves.
Remember that emotions are fluid. One emotion can quickly change to another, and the intensity of emotions can move from high to low rapidly too. This is easy to see in a toddler who is having a temper tantrum. She can go from smiling, to dropping on the floor and screaming, to smiling again in a matter of minutes. Intense emotions are overwhelming and difficult to control.
The first step to managing those emotions is to identify them. The ability to identify emotions can lead a child to possible solutions. For example, if your child says, “I’m sad.” You can respond with, “What will help you?” Your child might hold up his arms and say, “hug,” or “blankie.” Once you see he is feeling better you can point out his success by saying, “You were right! That hug did help you feel better. You’re smiling now.” That simple conversation can show him he has the power to manage his feelings.
2. Be mindful of setting an example.
Do you show your child what confidence looks like? When things are going wrong or they get chaotic, how do you respond to the situation? If you remain calm and patiently work towards a solution, then you are showing your child that you are confident in your ability to keep everyone safe and figure things out. If you think you might be more likely to sit down and dissolve into tears, or throw up your hands and say that you are done, then you have some work to do.
We all have days when things do not go as we planned, and you cannot expect to respond perfectly to every situation, but you can learn how to respond reasonably. Practice coping techniques such as deep breathing, or listening to music. It is also fine to simply say, “I need to step away from this problem for a minute while I figure out a solution.” Modeling these coping strategies helps your child learn the difference between “I can’t” and “I can, but I need some time to work on it.” This shows your child that even when things are tough, you have faith in your abilities; that you are resilient.
You can also model resilience with positive self-talk. Think about how you respond when you realize you have made a mistake. Do you call yourself names or say things like, “that was stupid.” Instead of negative self-talk you can say, “I see I made a mistake. I’ll fix it now.” Help your child develop self-talk by providing him with appropriate language when you see he is struggling. For example, “It’s disappointing when things don’t work out the way you planned. What can we do about it?”
3. Plan for success.
Invite your child to complete simple tasks and make decisions for herself (as long as it is safe). Be sure to model how to do the task first, and do not expect that she will do it perfectly the first time. The goal is not to do something perfectly, the goal is to get through the task once, and then continue practicing it. Praise your child’s effort and positive attitude more than the end result. When the task is done, acknowledge her success by saying, “I knew you could do it!”
Build up from small, easy tasks like matching socks, to more challenging tasks like helping to prepare a meal. Expecting your child to help around the house and participate in chores will help her feel like she is connected to her family and a valuable member of her family team. It gives her a sense of purpose. Knowing that you are able to do something is what builds confidence, so keep your expectations reasonable.
Avoid rescuing your child if she gets frustrated and wants to give up.. Instead of controlling what she is doing, focus on being her coach. Encourage her, offer her ideas for organizing herself or solving a problem, but stay on the sidelines and let her be the one to do the work. If you do it for her, it is like saying, “I don’t believe you can do this so I am going to take over.” Remember that the goal is for her to feel proud of what she can do by herself. Here are some ideas for simple tasks children can do to practice independence and develop confidence:
Infants and Toddlers
Preschool Aged Children
School Age Children
Hold a comfort item when they cry (stuffed animal, blanket, etc.)
Help with laundry by folding, matching socks, and gathering laundry
Help make a grocery list and plan meals for the week
Roll a ball back and forth with someone
Put on their own socks and shoes (may still need help tying laces)
Help vacuum and mop floors
Pull scarves out of an empty tissue box and push them back in
Feed and care for pets such as fish, dogs, or cats
Take care of watering and weeding a garden
Hold a large crayon or paintbrush in their fist
Learn when and how to wash their hands
Dress himself, brush his teeth, and brush his hair
Feed himself with a spoon and hold a cup
Putting away toys and personal items like sweaters and hats
Be responsible for packing her backpack for school
Moving from cruising (walking while holding on to furniture) to walking independently
Prepare simple snacks such as a bowl of cereal, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or egg salad (if adult boils eggs)
Prepare simple meals for the family such as a salad and sandwich for lunch, or assist with cooking dinner
4. Encourage your child’s unique gifts and talents.
Show your child that you are interested in whatever he is interested in. Learn about his favorite toys, play games with him, and encourage him to follow his interests. When you see that he has developed a passion about a particular subject, help him learn all he can about it. Visit the library to check out books, prepare simple projects, or visit places where he can investigate what he is interested in such as museums, zoos, or parks. Help your child organize his ideas about what he wants to learn by making lists to set goals.
If he shows an interest in watching birds, you can ask him “What do you want to know about birds?” Then the two of you can work together to make a list. The list might look something like this: I want to know how birds fly, what they eat, how they make their nest, and I want to see them up close. You can then help him organize his list and set goals. Encourage him to think of solutions as you make a plan. For example, “Where can we find books about birds, and where can we see them up close?” Setting goals and achieving them will help your child feel confident.
Children often use their interests to develop their identity. For example, “Grandpa says I make yummy tortillas. I’m a good cook, and when I grow up I can be a chef.” Feeling like an expert on a subject not only builds confidence, but also encourages curiosity. Learning to appreciate their own talents, abilities, and value to society will help children learn to appreciate the uniqueness they find in others.
When you support your child’s development as she acquires the skills and knowledge she needs to experience success, you also support her ability to be independent, resilient, and confident. Below are resources for further reading on this subject.
References and Resources in English
- Raising Confident Kids by KidsHealth® for Parents: http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/confidence.html?WT.ac=ctg#catfeelings
- Self Esteem: Building a Child’s Confidence and Success by CHS: https://www.chs-ca.org/_docs/FEP_SelfEsteem_2017_English_web.pdf
- Developing Your Child’s Self Esteem by KidsHealth® for Parents: http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/self-esteem.html?WT.ac=ctg#catfeelings
- Twelve Tips for Raising Confident Kids by PBS Parents: http://www.pbs.org/parents/expert-tips-advice/2016/02/12-tips-raising-confident-kids/
- Twelve Ways to Raise a Competent, Confident, Child with Grit by Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/peaceful-parents-happy-kids/201506/12-ways-raise-competent-confident-child-grit
- Helping Your Child Develop a Healthy Sense of Self-Esteem by the American Academy of Pediatrics: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/gradeschool/Pages/Helping-Your-Child-Develop-A-Healthy-Sense-of-Self-Esteem.aspx