Many children are not born with confidence, but they can learn it – and helping them do just that is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give their child. This is why we have compiled this list of ten ways to boost a child’s confidence.
Confidence can help children meet challenges and fulfil their potential, and parenting plays a huge role in developing self-confidence. However, some parenting behaviours can dent the confidence a child does have.
Positive parenting, including children in activities and treating them with respect helps them feel good about themselves. But criticising a child’s weight, school performance, sporting ability, appearance or anything else can have a very damaging effect on a child’s self-confidence.
It is possible to reverse this negativity, though, so read on to find out some strategies to help.
Strategies to boost a child’s confidence
1. Don’t just assume they need help
A child isn’t necessarily unhappy just because they seem underconfident. Don’t force them to do things – they could be quite traumatised and resentful about that. As long as they’re happy and seem to be joining in, going to school and doing the things they’re meant to be doing, don’t assume they’re missing out in some way.
In a very kind, non-judgemental way, try to get in a discussion with your child about what might be making them reluctant to do something, and if they’re happy, then leave them be.
2. Praise the good things they do
It’s important for parents to notice the good things children do. Praise them when they do something that was an effort for them, or if they were kind to a friend, etc. Try to be kind and pleasant and positive with them to reinforce that feeling.
3. Don’t take your own stress out on your kids
If a parent feels stressed or anxious, they should really try not to let that affect the way they treat their kids. This can damage a child’s self-confidence. If you feel stress, try to sort that out elsewhere. Doing so in front of and directed at your kids will affect their confidence and can even make them fearful in the place in which they should feel safe.
4. Reframe success
How children perceive success can have a big impact on whether they have the confidence to pursue their goals.
Success isn’t ready-made and children should understand that. Almost every story of true achievement is one of dedication and challenge over a long period. Children who can see that success is a journey that takes time are more likely to start that challenge with a positive attitude, ready for the difficulties that will inevitably lie ahead of them in reaching their goals.
Understanding the challenges helps build resilience and confidence, so praise the effort as well as the results to boost a child’s confidence.
5. Look for role models
Parents can point out inspirational people who’ve achieved great things (they don’t have to be famous) to their children, and discuss their effort and the hurdles they overcame along their journey.
6. Help them find what they’re good at
Nurturing children’s skills will help them build confidence. If they’re showing an inclination towards music, for example, try to see if there’s any music at school they can get involved with, because we like what we’re good at. If they’re getting involved with things they’re shining at, then they’ll continue to grow and feel good about themselves.
Don’t be rigid about what they do and don’t do, and what you value or don’t value. Keep an open mind and let them take the lead.
7. Embrace failures
Children often worry about trying something new because they’re frightened of failing. We should help children to embrace those failures, to think of them as small nuggets of information helping them to understand what they still have to learn. Encouraging children to feel positive about their mistakes and not to worry about making them is crucial when you want to boost a child’s confidence.
You could discuss the times you’ve made a mistake or failed at something. Let them see what you learned from it and that there was another chance to build on this and be better next time.
8. Encourage kindness
Research has shown small acts of kindness can reduce anxiety and boost a child’s confidence. Kindness has a cascade effect. It builds trust and helps foster a good network of people around us, so in times of change or difficulty we have people to talk to and to help us out. Encourage children to think of a small act of kindness or help they can give each day.
9. Don’t try to change them
Extrovert parents will often think there’s something wrong with an introvert child, that they ought to be going out more and so on. But trying to get them to be more like you is unlikely to work, especially in a way that makes them feel good about themselves. Get into a discussion and see what each child feels comfortable with at each age. Make sure you really listen and respond to their individual needs and wishes and don’t try to impose your own agenda on them.
10. Understand confidence can ebb and flow
Different children have confidence crises about different things, and parents need to understand their children’s confidence will ebb and flow over time. Some children will feel perfectly at ease speaking up in class but feel nervous on the sports field. Others love to be at the centre of their friendship group but worry if they’re asked to present in public.
Whatever it is they’re fearful of, encourage them to believe there are no limits to what they might achieve if they get out there and give it a go. At points we all feel more confident and resilient than at others. The key is understanding this can change and working to help build our resilience back up if we need to.