How can I Build Self-confidence in my Child?

A confident child is a happy child and, along with health, what more could we want for our children? Confidence and self-esteem give us so much and, by communication, responsibility and setting goals, you can give them to your child

Confident and happy teenage boy at schoolA confident child is a happy child, and what more could we want for our children than happiness and health? Confidence and self-esteem give children so much more than just happiness. In fact, one report states: ‘As the level of self-esteem increases, so do achievement scores; as self-esteem decreases, achievement scores decline’. (Covington in Self-esteem and failure in school). This article will give you some useful tips on building self-confidence and self-esteem in your child.

What is self-confidence?

Confidence has a couple of meanings. Self-confidence is feeling assured of our own abilities whereas confidence in general is having faith in people, plans or the future. Confidence is also about you having confidence in your child, and them having faith in life.

As parents, we may want to wrap our little ones in cotton wool to protect them. But this is not the way to bring up a confident, self-sufficient child. True confidence comes from inner strength, independent of others. However, it is not just something people are born with. It can be nurtured, and it can be taught and learned.

How can I be a positive role model?

Children learn how to behave from their parents, so it’s important that we lead by example. So, how can we be positive role models for our children? Do not project your own insecurities and fears onto your child. Don’t expect them to lack confidence, just because you would in their shoes. Your child is not you. They have their own personalities, qualities and resources – and they will be perfectly confident, if they are supported to flourish.

If you know that you lack confidence, ‘fake it to make it’. Acting confident can make you feel, and be, confident. Your child looks up to you – and often wants to be just like you. Prevent them from picking up your bad habits. If you are crippled with self-doubt, seek help from professionals yourself.

What are the signs that my child has low self-confidence?

Children are not always able to communicate their emotions effectively. In younger children, the signs of low self-confidence can be subtle. But confidence or self-esteem might be an issue for your child if they show any of these signs:

  • the prospect of meeting new people or trying new things fills them with uncertainty or even dread
  • they demonstrate shyness or cry in new situations
  • they can’t accept praise, or criticism, or are reluctant to talk about themselves
  • your child has a negative outlook on life or a tendency to focus on what might go wrong

These are not just signs of low confidence. Some of them might also suggest depression or introversion.

How can I help my child to be self-confident?

There are a few things which can help children to be self-confident – starting early, communication, responsibility, goals and engagement. Let’s look at each of these in turn:

When should I start to build my child’s self-confidence?

If you want your child to be self-confident then start early – and keep it up. Although a good start with a supportive family is great, life outside the home also has a huge effect. Apparently, girls’ self-esteem peaks when they are 9 years old but then declines due to peer pressure and puberty. We need to strengthen our children’s confidence against the pressures they face.

Does communication affect a child’s self-confidence?

So many things can affect a child’s self-confidence. If they seem concerned about something, then communication is vital. Identify the problem with them. It may not even be a problem, if you talk it through.

Make time to listen to your child. Reassure them that they can talk to you about anything. If they have self-doubts – about how they look, their abilities, how clever they are, or their fears about speaking in front of people – you can help. Be positive. Praise them for who they are, as well as what they do.

Whatever they have to deal with, they are not alone. Together, you can come up with a solution.

Will responsibilities help build self-confidence in my child?

Having responsibilities enables children to manage their own lives and builds their self-confidence. Give your child responsibilities to build their confidence and become independent. Encourage them to set their own alarm clocks, tidy their room, or feed their pets.

Can setting goals help build my child’s self-confidence?

Having goals and aspirations will focus your child on what they want to achieve and help to build self-confidence. The key is to guide your child to set realistic goals that are challenging yet achievable. Set modest, short term goals together, and identify smaller steps to achieve them. Here are some examples of setting goals for children:

  • Getting into a team – the first step is ‘go to sports practice’. Every step achieved will build their confidence
  • Making friends - gently pushing the boundaries of their comfort zone in a controlled manner when socialising, will help your child

How can I help my child cope with failure?

Trying their hardest and not quite achieving a goal is still commendable. ‘Failing to do’ something is not the same as ‘being a failure.’ If your child does not succeed, it doesn’t mean that they have failed. They just have things to learn. How could they do things differently next time? There’s no such thing as failure. Only feedback. It’s all a learning process. Encourage them to try again – doing things differently.

Does meeting new people help with self-confidence?

A child’s self-confidence will strengthen if they are encouraged to meet new people, make new friends or engage with adults, in a safe or supervised environment. They will also develop their social skills and abilities to interact.

Can new challenges help build self-confidence?

Girl climbing rock wall with confidence

Trying out new things challenges children, but also helps build self-confidence. The more opportunities they get to step out of their ‘comfort zone’, the more they learn and boost their confidence.

Confidence is a vital quality in the individual, but it also impacts on society. The Centre for Confidence quotes:

'Confidence consists of positive expectations for favourable outcomes. Confidence influences the willingness to invest - to commit money, time, reputation, emotional energy, or other resources... This investment, or its absence, shapes the ability to perform. In that sense, confidence lies at the heart of civilisation. Everything about an economy, a society, an organisation, or a team depends on it. Every step we take, every investment we make, is based on whether we feel we can count on ourselves and others to accomplish what has been promised. Confidence determines whether our steps - individually or collectively - are tiny and tentative or big and bold.' (Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Confidence: Leadership and the Psychology of Turnarounds.)

So, how can you build self-confidence in your child? Start early and be a positive role model. Talk to them and help them to learn from their failures. Set them goals, give them responsibilities and get them to push themselves. All of these should help and you’ll find some more useful tips for boosting self-confidence on the ChildLine website.

The Education Quizzes Knowledge Bank is a resource that endeavours to answer your parenting questions. As well as advice on bringing up happy and safe children, we also have tons of info on all things educational, from the value of homework to teaching about fractions. If you have any questions about education or parenting, it’s the place to go!

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