The fundamental parenting skills you can’t live without.
When children feel confident, they are more likely to have academic and personal success. As they mature and develop, they are more inclined to act independently, learn to effectively problem solve, resist peer pressure, and act directly from their fundamental core values.
In addition, they feel worthy, capable, and maintain more meaningful relationships. They are more likely to be resilient, have a growth mindset, motivate themselves to take on new challenges, and cope with and learn from mistakes. They also have more of a tendency to take responsibility for their actions, assert themselves, and ask for help when they need it.
Confidence Boosting Strategies for You & Your Children
1. Continually role model. If you want yourself and your child to be confident, independent, and courageous, model those behaviors and actions. For example, if you are always reluctant to start new things and put yourself out there and take risk, your child will observe this and mimic these cautious and hesitant behaviors. Express to them that inherent in starting something new is taking on risk and discomfort because of the unfamiliarity and it is a wonderful way to build confidence and be open to new experiences.
2. Note that improving our confidence is a continual work in progress. Conveying that confidence does not just appear, it needs to be worked on, built upon, and maintained throughout. This entails acknowledging and communicating to yourself and to your child what you and they are capable of, noting all progress along the way, and expressing that when effort is made you and they can overcome obstacles successfully.
3. Know and learn about your and your child’s temperament and challenges. What may be courageous and exerting independence to one child, may not be so for another. Acknowledging, understanding, accepting, and working within the parameters of your and their challenges. Tune into achievements for everyone on yours and their respective levels.
For example, if your child is generally socially reserved, when they approach another child to befriend them, make it a point to acknowledge and reinforce their behavior. Whatever personal challenge you are confronting and working on, give yourself accolades for leaning into the challenge and acknowledge your willingness to act, despite how challenging it is. This will reinforce self-confidence, self-love, and self-compassion, and the desire to move forward and thrive.
4. Be open to giving and receiving support. Be open to letting your children and others know how proud you are of them for having the insight, awareness, and being proactive about reaching out and asking for and accepting support. Personally be accepting of help when someone is graciously offering it to you whether you may need it now or sometime in the future.
Convey to children that being aware that support is needed, asking for it, and receiving it is a sign of personal strength. I often hear that people perceive asking for and accepting help as a personal weakness as opposed to a strength; I always attempt to dispel that perception.
5. Give direct feedback on what you are proud of. Rather than saying, “you did good” try “when you opened the door for the woman who was holding her baby, you were thoughtful and kind; your actions were really helpful, and you made it possible for her to enter the building more easily.”
By being direct and offering details, you are connecting specific actions that facilitate empowerment and confidence building characteristics that they can independently strive for. When applying this to yourself, be specific on what you value about your personal actions and what you strive to be more like and do more of.
6. Consider how you communicate. When your child is not “living up to their potential”, is hypersensitive or anxious, and/or is avoidant, be sure not to communicate negative belittling messages that convey your disapproval, frustration, or disappointment in who they are. Avoid statements like “you are a baby,” “what is wrong with you” or “you’re lazy.” These statements and ones like these have long-lasting negative effects to a child’s confidence and sense of self-worth. These messages perpetuate shame and their ability to observe themselves lovingly and compassionately.
7. Be aware of the subliminal messages that you are sending to yourself and to your child. If you are always cautioning them to take risk — you may also be communicating that they are unable to handle things, cannot make decisions on their own, and they are generally not capable or trustworthy to do so. These messages, whether implicit (i.e., through non-verbal cues such as with sighs, grimaces, etc.) or explicit (expressed verbally, etc.) can negatively impact on a child’s confidence level and their ability to successfully take risk and assert their independence.
8. Strive to facilitate an internal sense of pride as opposed to external acceptance. Many of us take action based on what other people may expect of us or how we perceive that they may think or feel about us. When you engage in self-talk or communicate to your child, make it a point to direct it back to how your child can take personal pride and accomplishment for what they achieved. For example, instead of focusing solely on “The team must have really felt proud of you for that hit” try “What was that hit like for you and how did you feel about yourself for that incredible accomplishment?”
9. Amend tasks so that they are achievable. For children, give tasks that are manageable and age appropriate. For example, if two of your children are at the park and your older child climbs the monkey bars and your younger one attempts to but cannot. Avoid saying, “no you can’t because you are too little, please get off.” Try communicating something like, “Good for you for trying to climb that! Let’s go over here to the slide which is a little smaller and more doable for a three-year-old. Let me watch. I know you could do it!”
10. Focus on effort rather than results. The more you and your child do, the greater the chance that you and they will feel personally proud and strengthen the idea that the positive effort eventually leads to positive results, despite how many iterations, or how long it takes to get there.
Realistically in life, things do not often work out on the first try. We often must put in concerted effort into what we want and have to stick with it until we achieve effective results. Teaching children to note and take personal pride in their efforts, helps them to acknowledge the feelings that go along with it, and then continue to forge on, because of their self-belief and desire to improve and achieve. When opportunities arise, model this for them as well with your own personal experiences.
11. Acknowledge that we cannot control our thoughts and feelings only the actions we take. We have impulsive, aggressive, and irrational thoughts and feelings that automatically get evoked. It could lead to negative feelings, judgments, and guilt and shame thoughts and feelings if there is a sense that we can control them. Understanding this empowers children to understand their core values and behave in ways that they are personally proud of, who they want to be, and is in line with being their best selves.
12. Gain an understanding about your and your child’s fears. To encourage more risk taking and follow through, address self-sabotaging feelings such as “I won’t be able to do it”, “I won’t be good at it”, “They won’t like me”, etc. Talking through and directly working on fears enforces your and your child’s capability and capacity. Sticking it through and sustaining momentum typically becomes a major obstacle that can be paid attention to, attended to, and continually worked on.
13. Convey that our humanness dictates that we are all flawed and make mistakes. It is a natural part of our human condition which is universal. We are naturally defended because of wanting to see ourselves in a positive light. We feel threatened and disappointed when we perceive or experience ourselves or others unfavorably. This allows for more balanced thinking so that they see these “flaws” as natural, where they could learn to accept and appreciate all of their parts, and work with who they are, rather than who they think they “should”, “ought to”, or “need” to be.
14. Reinforce that no one has the ability to make us feel anyway about anything. Feelings typically get induced if we are carrying those similar feelings ourselves, not necessarily because of something someone said or did. It stems directly from our self-confidence and the way in which we view ourselves from the inside out. Your children can learn to build confidence by identifying what insecurity is surfacing, why and how it is being highlighted for them, and what part of them they can look to work on and improve.
Confidence is made. It is not something we are born with. You can have a positive impact in facilitating your children’s self-confidence. All we ever want for our children is their ability to see their self-worth and strive to be the best that they can be. While using these skills you can make fundamental personal changes and help the children you love so dearly.
Blog as posted on Psychology Today.