A confident child is one who has a positive self-image, speaks positively about themselves, knows that they are loved unconditionally, can do things for themselves, and, have all the tools they need to believe they can do hard things (UPMC, 2022). With that definition in mind, building confidence in young children may seem like a daunting task. Where do you, as a parent, begin? Parents often wish for a parenting manual that tells them what to do. However, you can help your child build confidence by understanding some basic principles and applying some helpful practices.
Focus on Identifying and Building Strengths
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), children build confidence through watching, experiencing, and reacting to the environment around them. Play, interaction with peers, failure, success, and parent involvement are all instrumental factors that influence how a child learns to be confident as they begin to explore their place in the world (Alvord, et al., 2020).
What does it look like to have a confident child? Children who are confident are not necessarily loud, extroverted, or even voluntary public speakers. Confidence in children can grow when parents help identify and build children’s strengths, nurture them with compassion, and support them in activities they enjoy. Dr. Carol Dweck, in her book, “Mindset”, encourages praising the process, not the person. That is, praise the effort and work of the child instead of telling them they are a good girl or good boy. Avoid placing labels but acknowledge their efforts. Praising the process reinforces children’s efforts, dedication, and perseverance, which is directly linked to confidence.
Teaching your child to become resilient will increase their confidence. Resilient children learn to push through adversity and keep moving forward. Researchers have learned that “the ability of parents to support and promote resilience positively influences children’s individual resources and positive adjustment. Children that live with parents who can be models of resilience promoting behavioral, emotional, and cognitive processes can also positively adapt in the face of stressful situations” (Wigley, et al 2021). Children learn to respond to their environment by watching how their parents respond. If a parent reacts to challenges with frustration, anger, or fear, a child may learn that this is the response they should also have when they come across challenges. Instead, parents can show their child that challenges might be hard, but by moving forward and doing the best they can challenges can be overcome.
Foster a Growth Mindset
Confident children often develop a growth mindset. This means that they purposely challenge themselves to do new things and develop new skills. Helping them to understand that when they make mistakes, they can learn from them. This takes the focus off failure and provides opportunities for growth. Children can learn to view challenges as opportunities. They will understand that through hard work and effort they can gain new skills and abilities. Children with a growth mindset feel pride in their accomplishments even if they have not won. They take responsibility for mistakes and successes, and most importantly feel respected by the adults in their life (Cunningham, 2022).
Alvord, Mary K, et al. “Resilience Guide for Parents and Teachers.” American Psychological
Association, American Psychological Association, 26 Aug. 2020, https://www.apa.org/topics/resilience/guide-parents-teachers
Cunningham , B. (2022). The Importance of Positive Self-Esteem for Kids. Understood.
Retrieved June 16, 2022, from https://www.understood.org/en/articles/the-importance-of-positive-self-esteem-for-kids
Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random House.
Gordon, S. (2022, January 26). How to teach kids to engage in positive self-talk (L. A. Kirby,
Ed.).Verywell Family. Retrieved June 21, 2022, from
Self-esteem in children: 1-8 years. Raising Children Network. (2021, May 7). Retrieved June 16,
2022, from https://raisingchildren.net.au/toddlers/behaviour/understanding-behaviour/about-self-esteem
UPMC. “Building Your Child’s Self-Esteem: Children’s Hospital.” Children’s Hospital of
Pittsburgh, 2022, www.chp.edu/for-parents/health-tools/parent-resources/parenting-tips/building-your-childs-self-esteem
By Tiffany Sanderson, Intern, & Christina Pay, Extension Assistant Professor
Categories: Home & Family
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