Four ways you can build confidence in your child

Love to boost your child’s self-esteem? Here are four ways you can build their confidence and help them embrace the world.

We know confidence when we see it: a patient but persistent strength that suggests a person’s sense of values, strength in response to adversity, and a willingness to meet new challenges with courage. As essential in a boardroom as in a classroom, confidence is an important ingredient in a happy, balanced life.

But we also know that confidence isn’t cultivated overnight. Some research suggests that those first five years of a child’s life are crucial when it comes to building self-esteem – and that this characteristic can help children navigate peer pressure, foster healthy relationships, and find success both interpersonally and academically.

With some insight from child psychologists on your side, you can help a child you love foster confidence and greet the world with tenacity and excitement.

1) Expose your child to a range of activities

Human beings are creatures of comfort, and that includes children. It’s not always easy for us to expand beyond our status quo and develop new social skills without continually “trying on” new activities.

For this reason, true confidence is best gained by broadening the range of one’s experiences and witnessing their own competence in undergoing them. 

For children, growing this new “muscle” of confidence could look like:

  • Introducing them to a new activity – Yes, even if it scares them. Many kids will say, “I can’t do that!” the first time you take them to a soccer field or music class. But try explaining that every new strength or experience starts brand new. Even professional athletes and artists started exactly where they are now—at the beginning!
  • Encouraging them to try a new food – Weaving new foods into your child’s diet can open them up to new flavors, textures, and possibly even cultures. This may help them facilitate self-awareness, whether they find they adore or simply don’t like certain tastes or dishes. Consciousness is an equally foundational feature of fostering confidence.

2) Promote reading to build up lifelong confidence

Building confidence is an important facet of growing resilience in children – showing them that they have the inner resources to navigate life’s trials as well as its joys.

Developing early literacy skills helps children not only expand their vocabulary but to broaden their understanding of critical thinking skills and development of positive habits. Which is crucial in becoming more confident in their own opinions and decisions. Providing children’s self-esteem books to your kids can inspire this willingness to try new things, promote returns to cherished relationships, and practice self-love!

3) Swap praise for positive self-talk

Confidence doesn’t arrive from the approval of others. Rather, it comes from a deep internal conviction that one is capable.

In fact, abundant praise may undermine efforts at supporting confidence. At times, excessive compliments inadvertently point to unhealthy expectations about performance or perfectionism.

The truth is that all of us experience times when our confidence falters—for children, adolescents, and adults. Rather than dousing your child with compliments to kindle confidence, encourage them to speak kindly to themselves by:

  • Pointing them to evidence – This may sound like, “Remember how afraid you were the first time you went down the slide, but now it’s your favorite playground activity? Maybe you can remind yourself of how brave you were that day.”
  • Promoting I Am affirmations – For instance, you might say, “I know this is hard, but maybe you could remind yourself how strong you have been in the past. What if you told yourself, ‘I feel scared – but I am also powerful.’” I Am affirmations may redirect your child’s focus to the present, lessen the “overwhelm” of a tough experience and instill a sense of inner strength.

4) Model a can-do attitude

Children soak up their caregiver’s language and behavior. If you’re hesitant or even averse to trying experiences outside of your personal comfort zone, your child may adopt the same mindset. 

If you can, try communicating about feelings of reservation or discomfort to your child—and letting them know that you’re blazing ahead anyway. This could sound like saying, “I’m a little nervous about trying this new dance class, but I have a feeling I’ll have a ton of fun after I get the hang of it!”

Photo by Joice Kelly