Children who believe in themselves have the confidence to learn and try new things. A confident child does not fear failure but sees mistakes as a chance to grow. This quality allows children to trust in their abilities. That's because they know they can handle the inevitable setbacks that come their way.
7 WAYS PARENTS CAN IMPROVE THEIR CHILD'S CONFIDENCE
It is common for parents to believe that praise can help build their child's confidence and self-esteem. But research shows that inflated praise does not improve confidence levels. In fact, it has the opposite effect.
Good thing, there are simple and effective strategies to improve your child's confidence. Here are seven ways to establish your kids' foundation of lasting self-worth:
1. ACKNOWLEDGE THEIR EFFORTS
It's common to try and build children up with vague or overgeneralized praise (“You're the best” or “You're so smart!”). Unfortunately, these kinds of statements often backfire. Instead, acknowledge the effort and persistence behind your child's achievements.
Be specific with your praise and positive feedback (“You worked so hard to master that dance move” versus “You're the best dancer”).
Praising your child's efforts and actions is more meaningful. It also establishes the confidence they need to persevere through difficult tasks.
As Elizabeth Gunder, Ph.D. puts it:
“You don't want to overpraise because kids are savvy. If you say ‘good try' and they didn't really try, then that's not good. Or if you say ‘good try' but they failed, then it's like that's a consolation prize and they know that.”
By valuing your child's efforts, their focus shifts to something, they can control. And that is their diligence and perseverance.
2. GIVE THEM RESPONSIBILITIES
Children gain confidence from contributing to the home and family. Allowing children to assume some responsibilities helps them feel both capable and trustworthy.
According to Cara Sue Achterberg:
“When their rooms get beyond messy, we barge in and clean-up for them, sending the message that they can't do it themselves. When we do all the laundry, housework, and cooking, we continue to assert that they're incapable of doing their part.”
Be sure to assign age-appropriate chores and tasks. As your child's age increases, so can their household responsibilities.
You can adapt the following list to your specific child and family circumstances.
- Match socks
- Put napkins on the table
- Clean up toys
- Pick out clothes to wear
- Help groom the dog
School-aged children can:
- Load the dishwasher
- Pack lunch
- Help make dinner
- Wash windows or mirrors
- Clear their place from the table
- Plant a garden
- Make dinner
- Get themselves up for school
- Do the laundry
- Vacuum, sweep, dust
Talk with your child about why they are taking on new responsibilities at home.
You can say that they are an essential family member, and their skills can come in handy when they have your own home someday. But remember to keep the house chores fun.
3. PRACTICE MINDFULNESS
With the best of intentions, we often encourage children to focus on themselves to build confidence.
Practicing mindfulness offers a unique way of quieting your child's self-critical thoughts. It also teaches them to focus on something more significant. As psychologist Eileen Kennedy-Moore puts it:
“Turning off self-focus gives kids some breathing room to grow. It doesn't involve putting oneself down, which is a form of self-focus. Rather, it's a kind of forgetting of the self by recognizing that we are just a tiny piece of the larger universe, and definitely not the center of it!”
Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the present moment. Children can learn that their thoughts and feelings (even negative or self-defeating ones) will come and then pass. Mindfulness practice shows children they are more than their critical thoughts.
Start by modeling mindfulness for your child. Notice and identify body sensations, thoughts, or emotions that arise in you. Talk about how you are feeling and what you are doing to address that feeling. Show your child how you're taking deep breaths in awkward moments.
Many engaging books exist to explain mindfulness to children, including “I Am Peace” by Susan Verde and “My Magic Breath” by Nick Ortner. Or check out a relaxing podcast like Peace Out to engage them in guided practice and to experience mindfulness firsthand.
4. TEACH POSITIVE SELF-TALK
Like adults, children may not have control over what happens to them. But they can learn to talk to themselves in a way that helps them bounce back.
When children face setbacks and challenges, it's normal to react negatively. Although it's natural to respond with frustration, there are healthier ways to guide your child.
If you hear your child engaging in negative self-talk, simply point it out. You might say, “I hear that you're angry. There are thoughts in your mind making you feel like this. We call this negative thinking.”
Discuss the two ways your child can think about themselves–negative or positive. Ask which one is likely to make them feel better? Which one will make them want to give up? While everyone engages in negative self-talk from time to time, we can shift to more empowering thoughts.
Brainstorm a list of positive phrases your child can use when discouraged or frustrated. This can include statements like:
- I'm doing my best
- It's okay to make mistakes
- Challenges make my brain grow stronger
- I get better every single day
- I'm proud of myself
You might also have your child choose a positive thought or affirmation each morning to start the day. Studies have shown that saying positive phrases out loud makes them more powerful.
5. SPEND QUALITY TIME TOGETHER
A simple way to promote your child's confidence is by giving them your regular, undivided attention. When you spend time together, your child recognizes their importance.
According to Jessica Alvarado:
“Meaningful connections are about the quality of time, not the quantity of time. Keep it simple and connect with your child in ways that make sense for your lifestyle and relationship.”
Here are some ways to connect:
- Create family rituals (volunteer together, do a project, share one kind thing you did each day)
- Hold weekly family meetings
- Spend individual time with each child (take a walk, play a game, run an errand, go hiking or choose a favorite activity)
- Tell your child you love her every day
Strengthening the parent-child bond takes effort, but has a tremendous impact on your child's feelings of self-worth. Even 10 minutes a day spent engaging in an activity together is powerful. Be sure to get rid of distractions–turn off the TV and phone–to maximize the quality of your time.
6. PROMOTE THEIR INTERESTS
Consider the types of activities where your child gets lost in the experience. This state is called flow.
As Eileen Kennedy-Moore puts it:
“By encouraging children to engage in these activities that absorb their attention completely, you can help expand their wonderful feeling of flow, where time stands still.”
You might notice flow happening when your child plays Legos, draws, goes swimming, or writes a short story. Whatever the activity, it's a clear sign of interest and enjoyment.
To help your child identify and strengthen their interests, expose them to many opportunities. This allows children to learn what they like and what they don't like too.
Ask questions like, “What's important to you?” and “What do you really care about?” to identify and spark your child's interests. Depending on their answer, you might visit a museum or library to research more about this topic, or look for local classes to learn more.
7. CELEBRATE FAILURE
The idea of accepting, much less celebrating, failure is a tricky one. Most of us work hard to avoid making mistakes and teach our children to do the same.
Unfortunately, struggle and failure are inevitable in life. If we try to shelter our children from experiencing it, we also rob them of the many opportunities that arise from doing hard things.
Start by talking about your mistakes–big and small. Share the time you got lost on the way to an important meeting or didn't get the grade you hoped on a big test. Talk about the minor errors you make in daily life (“Oops I added too much sugar to the recipe!”) and how you are working to overcome it.
When your child struggles, frame it as a learning experience. Explain that failure is a natural part of learning and growing. Not something to be afraid of and avoided. Questions like, “What would you do differently next time?” or “What did you learn from this?”
Finally, consider using a journal to help them embrace mistakes and face challenges with confidence. How do you enhance your child's confidence levels?