If there’s anything parents want for their children, it’s for them to enjoy a healthy level of self-esteem and confidence. And yeeeeet, if there’s anything most children are struggling with today, it’s their self-esteem and confidence. Thanks to increased social pressures brought on by the internet, many kids feel less than if they’re not living the charmed life of a Disney star.
Most parents are left wondering how to build confidence in kids. Luckily, this article offers 28 different ways to build a child’s confidence. And believe it or not, it all starts with learning how to fail well!
How to Build Confidence in Kids Through Mindset
Your child needs to experience an age-appropriate level of independence. After all, if mom and dad always do everything for them, they’ll learn that they need mom and dad to do everything for them.
But confidence comes from trying new things and experiencing success! So allow your child to try things on their own when appropriate.
Allow your child to make mistakes without losing your cool.
If your reaction to honest mistakes is to yell and degrade your child (“What were you thinking? Were you even thinking?!”), they’ll learn to avoid trying at all.
Instead, treat them the way you’d like to be treated if you made a mistake. Ensure them that accidents happen and it’s not the end of the world.
Encourage them to try new things.
Are they interested in playing an instrument? Trying a new sport? Taking a stab at that new hobby everyone’s talking about?
Encourage them to give it a try! I always tell my daughter that something might be her new favorite thing…but she’ll never know unless she tries it for herself. This offers another opportunity for them to learn that they can try new things…and do hard things!
Let your child take healthy risks.
A huge component of having confidence is having the courage to take risks. These risks could include trying out for a sports team, getting that new haircut they’ve been pining over, or heck, enrolling in a class in which you’re not positive they’ll excel.
Taking on risks and succeeding will give them the confidence to put themselves out there again in the future. But even taking risks and failing will allow them to experience failure and realize it’s not the end of the world.
That leads us to our next point…
Allow your kids to fail.
If kids never fail when they’re kids, they’ll never learn how to deal with failure later in life without it destroying their self-esteem. So talk your kids through their failures and help them to focus on what they learned or how they grew from it. When appropriate, help them make a plan to try again, this time utilizing everything they learned from past attempts.
And don’t be afraid to share about your own failures, both as a kid and as an adult! Openly sharing your not-so-pretty moments will help them understand that failure is unavoidable but doesn’t define who you are as a person.
Challenge negative self-talk.
Swat down negative self-talk the minute your child, or anyone else in your home, starts it. Challenge their all-or-nothing thinking with logic (i.e. “Missing one shot in your basketball game doesn’t define your skills as a player or cancel out the amazing shots you did make!”) and encouragement.
How to Build Confidence in Kids Through Skill-Building
Assign your child age-appropriate chores and tasks.
Chores take a two-fold approach to building a child’s confidence. First, they add another tool to their confidence tool belt with tasks they can independently perform.
Secondly, they learn that they have something important to contribute to others. They are helpful and needed.
Help them find out what they’re really good at or passionate about.
The pros at knowing how to build confidence in kids know that being exceptionally good at or knowledgeable about something provides a huge confidence boost! My daughter feels confident in the fact that she’s a talented artist. She draws really fantastic comics and books and I make a big deal of telling her how amazing they are.
She’s also incredibly knowledgeable about Pokemon. Whether I’m a fan of Pokemon or not (I’m not!), I can see how being able to contribute to and even lead conversations about Pokemon with her friends gives her a huge confidence boost. Allow them to be an authority at something, even if you don’t understand why they love it so much.
Let them make age-appropriate decisions.
Decision-making is another huge confidence builder! This is why I allow my daughter to choose what she wears to school and what she’d like packed in her lunchbox. It gives her a sense of not only confidence but also individuality.
I also offer her activity choices when I can! Do you want to come to the store with me or stay home with your dad? Do you want to take your shower before dinner or after?
She understands that she doesn’t call all the shots. But letting her call a few small shots provides her with some valuable practice.
Help them set achievable goals.
Setting and achieving goals allows for a huge confidence boost. However, kids may not always understand what qualifies as a reasonable and achievable goal. This is where you can come in for the assist.
Show them how to set a big goal (within their abilities), then break it down into smaller goals that can each be achieved within a week or two. Achieving those smaller goals will give them the confidence they need to keep pressing toward the big goal.
Celebrate every win, no matter how small.
If they only celebrate reaching their biggest goals, kids will learn that there’s no value to the journey outside of reaching the end. You can celebrate by making a big deal with your family, taking them out for a treat, or even surprising them with a small gift. (I bought a huge pack of dog stickers – my daughter’s favorite animal – and use them periodically to celebrate a job well done.)
How to Build Confidence in Kids Through Your Relationship With Them
Ensure they know your love is unconditional.
Nothing builds confidence faster than knowing someone loves you whether you win or lose, or are on your best behavior or worst. Be careful that you don’t shower your child with love and attention when they do well, then distance yourself when they mess up. Let them know that just like a marriage, you’re in it “for better or for worse” and that nothing they could say or do could make you love them less.
Separate the child from the behavior.
Along the same lines, don’t negatively label your child based on their actions. Using labels like brat or jerk attacks their character instead of their actions. And if a child believes their character is poor or unlikeable, their confidence takes a dive.
Instead, try saying something like, “I’m really disappointed that you chose to do that. I know you’re a kind person and it’s very unlike you.” This establishes that you believe in the best of your child as a person and that their character isn’t ruined by one poor decision.
The words you say about them today will become their inner dialogue for what they say about themselves in the future. So choose your words wisely!
Allow them to express their feelings.
I always ensure my daughter that I won’t be upset with her for having negative emotions, that they’re normal and I can help her with them. This doesn’t mean it’s okay for her to throw a tantrum but that I understand there are times she’ll feel angry, frustrated, and hurt.
By insisting that children bottle up every emotion that isn’t happy and positive, we’re sending the message that experiencing those (very normal!) emotions is unacceptable and lessens their worth.
Resist comparing them to others.
In a world where they’re likely already struggling not to compare themselves to others and feel less-than, resist the urge to add fuel to the comparison fire. Discuss their strengths and achievements without bringing others into the discussion.
Spend regular quality time together.
It’s easy as a parent to feel rushed and overwhelmed throughout the day, leading many of us to give our kids only half of our attention as we multitask. While that’s understandable at times, we must also be sure to schedule regular distraction-free, one-on-one time with them.
This signals to our children that they’re interesting, likable, and worthy of our undivided attention. That knowledge will boost both their confidence in their other relationships as well as their confidence to try new and different things knowing they have a loving support system behind them.
(Want to kickstart a conversation? Check out these fun “would you rather” questions and scroll to the kids or family section!)
Allow them to weigh in and share their ideas.
It’s easy to dismiss our children’s input as inconsequential. But similar to the above point, just hearing them out (even if you ultimately have to shoot their idea down) sends the message that their point of view and ideas are important enough to be heard.
Ask for their advice.
I love asking my seven-year-old for her advice whenever possible. From asking her to weigh in on my illustrator’s latest drawing for our children’s book, to asking her what I should wear to an event, her eyes sparkle at the opportunity every single time. In fact, she helped me to perfectly accessorize for a recent book launch party, fishing out an older necklace from my jewelry stand I forgot I had!
Be a role model.
Oof, this one is tough! How’s the saying go, do as I say, not as I do?
But our kids are learning more by our example than the inspirational speeches we deliver. So work hard to master and demonstrate confidence yourself!
(Need help accomplishing this? Be sure to check out How to Have More Confidence | 15 Brilliant Tricks to Feel Like a Boss.
How to Build Confidence in Kids Through Your Words
Praise your child (but not too much).
Be sure to notice and call out their successes. It lets them know that you notice and are proud of them.
However, be careful not to overpraise! If everything your child does is the “best ever!”, your praise will start to lose its effect and come across as insincere.
Praise effort and perseverance over accomplishments.
Make sure your child understands it’s not about the trophy or the report card but about all of the hard work and persistence it took to get there. Then when (not if) they miss a goal as an adult, they won’t attack their own character over it but rather recognize and appreciate the journey and growth along the way.
Let them overhear you bragging about them to someone else.
Sure, they know you compliment their efforts to their face. But they likely assume all parents do that with their children.
Complimenting them in public though? And to someone else? That feels even more impactful!
In an online world filled with filters and blemish-blurring apps, be sure to point out heavy editing to your kids. Frequently voice that failures and imperfections are a fact of life to which no one is immune and that even that influencer with one million followers has pimples, wild hair days, and bad camera angles.
For extra impact, make an effort to avoid any attempts to convey yourself as perfect to your kids. They’ll recognize your own comfort in embracing your imperfections and focusing instead on your strengths and will learn to do the same for themselves.
Encourage practice to build competence.
I’m constantly reminding my daughter that mastery of anything comes with time and practice. Those she admires for being the best in their fields? They’re not a better person per se (which is her assumption); they’ve simply invested lots and lots of hours into that specialty.
When your child starts to improve on a skill thanks to practice, point it out! I just recently told my daughter that I noticed the more she’s been reading, the more easily and quickly it’s coming to her. She had an “oh, yeah!” moment as she realized it was her practice that had made the difference.
How to Build Confidence in Kids Through Creating a Positive Environment
Allow your child to personalize their own space or leave their mark on your home.
While a pristine, magazine-ready home, free from any signs of children living there, looks fantastic, it can also leave your child without a sense of belonging. Allow them to hang artwork or photos from the fridge or another dedicated area to cultivate a sense of inclusion.
If you prefer to keep a kid-free appearance in your main living areas, consider allowing them to help decorate their room or a portion of it.
Consider enrolling them in a theater, drama, or speech class.
These classes are designed to bring out students’ confidence and will also surround your child with other children conveying their creativity and unique personalities.
Surround your child with confident and positive people.
Surround your child with positive self-talk at home. Invite family and friends into your home who will help to maintain that positive and confident vibe.
If family members won’t kill their negative self-talk for their own sake, explain how you’re trying to help your child. Ask if they’ll temporarily curb their negative self-talk for your child’s sake. They might even find themselves encouraged when they flip the script!
Curate positive media for your child.
Be aware of the TV shows, YouTube channels, and books your child watches and reads. These sources can help to either make or break your efforts to build your child’s confidence.
Offer positive and uplifting reads that will bolster their self-esteem and encourage them to branch out and try new things. An example of this is award-winning picture book Girls Can.
And there you have it – how to build confidence in kids through mindset, skill-building, relationship, words, and environment. Have any tips for building confidence in kids? Be sure to share in the comments below!
What causes lack of confidence in a child?
Lack of confidence is often caused by children feeling unloved or unvalued, then doubting themselves, their abilities, and their self-worth. It can also be caused by social media and increased pressure to measure up to peers physically, academically, and socially, leading to lower self-esteem.
Can parents cause low self-esteem?
Parents certainly never mean to cause low self-esteem in their children. But they can help to contribute to it by doing everything for them, silencing their child’s voice and opinions, or valuing and celebrating trophies over effort.
What are the signs of low self-esteem in a child?
Developmental psychologist Richard Rende, Ph.D. notes the following signs may indicate low self-worth:
- Increasing and persistent physical complaints—especially headaches and stomachaches—along with more general expressions of not feeling good
- Changes in basic daily routines, including sleep (too much or too little) and eating (too much or too little), especially on school days
- Acting out (being irritable, having outbursts, being non-compliant) or withdrawing (being non-responsive, not talking as much)
- Expressions of frustration and boredom
- Increasing negativity about themselves or anxiety about their capabilities
How can a shy child gain confidence?
A shy child can gain confidence using all of the tips above. However, it’s important to remember that shyness is not necessarily a character flaw that needs correcting! Some children tend to be more naturally outgoing while others are more reserved, just like adults.
The good news is that being shy doesn’t necessarily equate to a lack of confidence. (Disagree? This article on LinkedIn may change your mind!)
How to Build Confidence in a Sensitive Child
Dr. Elaine Aron defines the highly sensitive child as a child who is sensitive to their emotional and physical environment due to being born with a nervous system that is highly aware and quick to react to everything. She notes, “This makes them quick to grasp subtle changes, prefer to reflect deeply before acting, and generally behave conscientiously. They are also easily overwhelmed by high levels of stimulation, sudden changes, and the emotional distress of others.”
Dr. Aron suggests honoring their sensitivity in your quest to build their confidence. Understand that simply shoving them out into the world will feel more jarring and overwhelming for them than for another child. For highly sensitive children, a slow and steady approach will be more effective. (If you’d like to learn more about the highly sensitive child (or adult!), check out Dr. Aron’s books.)
How to Build a Child’s Confidence in Sports
This is one of the areas where practice not only makes perfect but also makes confident. A one-off killer game will offer an amazing confidence boost. But consistent performance and a repository of regularly-repeated actions (hitting a baseball, swimming a lap, etc.) with predictable outcomes will provide a longer-lasting boost.
How to Build Confidence in a Child at School
The steps suggested above are sure-fire ways to build confidence but school offers a bit of a challenge, since you’re (usually) not there with your child to watch them work or even witness classroom lessons to understand them for yourself.
In these cases, it’s important to communicate with your child’s teacher, gain an understanding of the curriculum and the flow of the school day, and prepare to bolster those lessons at home. Again, practice is a fantastic way to build both competence and confidence.
P.S. Have a young daughter who could use a confidence-boosting bedtime story? Be sure to check out Girls Can!
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