Social Development: Raising a Self-Confident Child
“You’ve really put in a lot of effort.”
“I appreciate that you put your toys away after play.”
“You made your little brother happy when you shared your treats.”
The messages kids hear about themselves easily translate into how they feel about themselves. Negative messages undermine their confidence whereas positive messages reinforce behaviors that are desirable.
So, does that mean we should only tell our children that they are wonderful, special and great so that they become self-confident?
Children develop confidence through experiences that make them feel capable, effective and accepted.
When children learn to do things for themselves, when they feel proud of their efforts not just the outcome, when they know they’ve earned their rewards, when they feel understood, accepted and encouraged by their parents and significant adults – that’s when they feel really good about themselves.
Why is self-confidence so important?
When children feel good about themselves, it sets them up for success in everything – from making friends to excelling in school. Self-confidence spurs them on to try new challenges and to bounce back after failures. Children with low self-confidence may feel unsure about themselves, give up easily, avoid challenges and struggle with failure.
So how can we nurture and instill confidence in our children?
1. Give your child the opportunity to do things:
Whether its age-appropriate chores or a new sport or even art, children gain from learning to do new things. It instills in them a sense of responsibility and pride, which boost their confidence.
2. Allow them to make mistakes
Give them opportunities to learn, try and feel proud of their efforts. Don’t rush in to help or offer solutions when things don’t work out. Encourage and support them. Convey your faith in their ability to find solutions for themselves.
3. Don’t overpraise
Telling your child, he’s the best player when he’s just lost a match not only rings false but also generates resentment in an already disappointed child. It’s better to say, “I’m proud of you for not giving up.”
4. Avoid harsh criticism and labels
There’s a difference between saying, “You’re lazy”, and “I know you are capable of much more when you put in the effort.” The former labels the child, which the child then internalizes. The latter focuses on the behavior while preserving the child’s sense of self.
5. Focus on strengths
If there are areas that your child excels in and enjoys, give them more opportunities to develop in these areas. Encouraging their strengths is better than focusing on weaknesses, in their journey towards developing self-confidence.