As children grow, they witness and experience changes all around and even within them.
Children need to learn basic skills to deal with various situations that may arise when they step out in the world. The one tool that can help them considerably along the way is ‘self-confidence’. A skill set alone can’t go far unless the child believes in themselves.
We have consulted with experts to share their best pieces of advice on how to raise self-confident children who feel capable.
“My tip on building a child's confidence is by letting them learn on their own and figure things out alone. Kids have their own minds, too. And even though they need obvious supervision from adults, they have to be left alone so that they can build trust and confidence in themselves that they are capable. So, I suggest parents start telling kids what to do, but not how to do it. They have their own intellect and free will so let them exercise it on their own terms, with your guidance and reassurance that they can do it.”
Sherry Morgan, Founder Petsolino
Rowena Murakami suggests positive reinforcement, “Praise your child where it is due. Children learn by reinforcement, and in their developmental years, you must be verbal in praising them when they do something right. If they do fail in some tasks, be sure to recognize the effort as well. They have to understand that doing their best effort is still a job well done.”
“It never feels good to be scolded in public, right? Do not embarrass your child when they do something wrong. Pull them aside and speak to them in a firm voice.” says Rowena Murakami.
Murakami advises teaching your child a skill, “Whether it’s swimming or the piano your child is trying to learn, there is an effort to try it again and again until you get it right.”
“Resilience may be the best thing you teach your kids. The earlier they understand that failure is character-building, the easier it is for them to recover from disappointments.”
Rowena Murakami is the Co-Founder and Master Chef of Tiny Kitchen Divas Blog
“The best way that I have found to build confidence in children is to avoid telling them that they are overly smart or talented - something many parents do whether it is true or not. Instead, I take every opportunity to tell children that they are hard workers. I am proud of them for putting in so much effort and most importantly - refusing to quit. I think it's critical to create that internal messaging for kids that will encourage them and give them confidence when they come across obstacles in life. There will always be somebody bigger, smarter, or more talented, but kids can develop the confidence and drive to outwork anyone.”
Lauren Schmitz, Mother of 3 and Owner of The Simple Homeschooler.
“I've had direct experience of increasing children's confidence via photography. Many parents have affirmed the results as well. The experience of being involved in a photoshoot that is about them, and that they have some control over, makes a child feel special. Then when they see the gorgeous photos, and their parents proudly display them, large, on the walls of their home, they realize that a lot of time, effort and money has gone into something that is just about them. It's a tangible, physical measure of their parents’ love for them. That knowledge builds confidence. Good photos will also show off their beauty and good looks, which can be a huge source of uncertainty and anxiety. One teenage girl said to me after seeing her photos, ‘You’ve made me feel confident and happy again about the way I look. Thank you so much.’”
Laurence Jones is a professional photographer specializing in children's photography and the owner of Kids Naturally Photography.
“Building confidence starts young, but is usually not difficult. Real tools. Real Jobs. Real compliments. For around the house or school, I do make sure children have the right size tools. Using brooms, rakes, and shovels that are sized for young children make jobs easy and fun. We also have a take-apart table. Real tools, used to take apart appliances and gadgets from sewing machines and vacuum cleaners to clocks. It’s all about building skills kids can be proud of. For children of all ages, I recommend finding a physical activity they can feel confident in. Swimming is a great skill for all children, as well as being an important one for safety.” says Pamela Evans, at IvyArtz.com.
“Lastly, I want to mention the importance of the language you use with your child, and for this age does not matter. Even young children can tell if you are complimenting them for something that is undeserving. For example, if a child did not complete a simple task and you gush about how great the part they did is, that child knows you’re not telling the truth. Now your child doesn’t know when a compliment is genuine. That’s a huge problem and will undermine the confidence of even the most capable children.
“Those are the basics. Build competence in skills and activities. Instilling the idea that it takes repetition to master anything worthwhile. And be thoughtful in your use of language regarding praise.”
Pamela Evans is an award-winning educator and early childhood specialist. She works as a consultant for preschools and educational programs for young children and the author of The Preschool Parent Blog and The Preschool Parent Book Review at IvyArtz.com.
Dr. Laurie Hollman advises explaining to children exactly what they did that was admirable, “If you want children to feel self-confident, they need to have their strengths or abilities described very specifically (not ‘good job’, but ‘you really know how to put a table together’- great use of instructions and tools).”
“Furthermore, they need to feel likable and loveable. Adults have to sense the amount of affection and physical closeness different kids like and then when the adult genuinely feels affectionate to show it. But feeling likable and loveable is more than affection; it's about respect for a child or teen's opinions, viewpoints, feelings, attitudes, and taking the time to really hear the child out without interruptions or pre-emptive solution giving. Pause and wait while you ask a question- children need time to think. If you wait, you are being respectful. Kids feel good then that you like them enough to spend the time waiting for their response.” advises psychoanalyst Dr. Laurie Hollman.
“Building confidence isn't a one-shot deal. As children enter different developmental stages, the way they may have felt about themselves can shift a great deal. A light-hearted second-grader may become a very serious teen who feels she no longer fits in. Be mindful as a parent of your expectations because kids of all ages are looking for approval. It's hard not to be judgmental of a child progressing through a new stage, but that's what's definitely needed. Be open to mood shifts, frenzied feelings, confusions about identity.
“Don't try and solve your kids' perceptions from your point of view. Find out their point of view and be pleased when they share it. You may not like some of their feelings, such as anger and even hate, but don't feel rejected even if you're the target; just ask them to expand on what they've said and be delighted they are sharing such difficult feelings even if they astound and upset you.
“Discuss your feelings in response with another understanding adult. Don't ever blame kids for what they feel or give them the impression they are bad for having strong reactions and feelings. Instead, join the conversation openly and praise them for having the guts to share their feelings and pride yourself as a parent that you are trusted enough to hear them. So when you hear them, bear them, tolerate them, so your child remains feeling loveable and likable regardless of their range of feelings.”
Dr. Laurie Hollman (Ph.D.) is a psychoanalyst with specialized clinical training in child adolescent, infant-parent, and adult psychotherapy and an expert on Narcissistic Personality Disorder.