People often say the phrase "confidence is key" when encouraging others to try new or difficult tasks. As a parent, you may have found yourself saying this exact phrase to your own child when they show a sense of hesitancy. Parents want to see their kids make friends, pursue their interests, and navigate school and life with confidence. But just how does a person achieve confidence? If you're wondering how to raise a confident child, you're not alone. Confidence is tied to several positive outcomes for a child's overall well-being; and there are ways for parents to incorporate confidence-building practices into their family's day-to-day life.
What Is Confidence?
Sure, confidence sounds great, but what is it really? According to the American Psychological Association (APA) confidence is described as "trust in one's abilities, capacities, and judgment." In other words, it means that your kiddo feels like they're able to take on whatever task they are given or accomplish whatever goal they are striving toward. Confidence can help your child walk with their head held high.
What Do We Know About Confidence?
People admire confidence, they really do. Think about your favorite singer or actor. Does confidence come to mind? It draws people in and makes them feel more trusting, and that's not just in our minds, it's backed by research. People have been studying confidence and its effects on others throughout history, and it has led to some interesting discoveries that solidify the importance of confidence, such as:
How Does Confidence Benefit Kids?
Confidence can impact your child in many ways. Having increased rates of confidence or self-esteem has benefits for a child's overall health and well-being. Some of these positive benefits include:
Ways to Help Your Child Develop Confidence
Knowing confidence is important isn't enough; parents need to know how to raise a confident child. Although there is no magic key to unlock the confidence that your child has inside them, there are some confidence-boosting practices you can incorporate into your family's routine.
Practice Authoritative Parenting
It's no secret that parenting styles can have a strong impact on a child's development. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an authoritative parenting style leads to the most positive outcomes in children. Giving your child lots of love and warmth, and balancing that with boundaries for their safety may not just feel good to yourself as a parent, but it's also good for your child. Some examples of authoritative parenting are:
- Explaining to your child why certain rules have been put in place
- Allowing your child to share their own thoughts about the rules, and potentially being flexible afterward
- Trusting your child's decision-making abilities and centering rules around ensuring their safety
Be a Role Model
Do you feel confident? Research has found that a parent's own confidence in their skills and in themselves is an important part of their parenting practice. Your kiddo looks up to you for guidance, and they can pick up on all kinds of behaviors. By seeing you be confident, your child will have an influential model to use to develop their own confidence. Some ways to practice this around your child (and in general) are:
Provide Constant Support
Big hugs, high-fives, and cuddles when they're feeling low: all of these gestures are ways of supporting your child. Providing constant support to children has been shown to have positive impacts on their well-being and increase their self-esteem. Whether you're comforting them after they struggle, or are congratulating them for a job well done, it's important to make them feel supported. This can strengthen your parent-child bond and it lets a child know they can fall back on you if they stumble. Some ways to do this are:
- Attending their extracurricular activities
- Reassuring them of their skills when they struggle
- Celebrating their achievements and helping them use mistakes as a learning opportunity
Promote Body Positivity
Do you know how your child feels about their body? Studies have found that promoting a positive body image in your child is linked to increased rates of confidence. This means that by talking to your child about their body image and encouraging them to practice positive self-talk, you can help them build their confidence. In addition to increasing a child's self-esteem, it has also been linked to promoting healthy eating patterns. Ways to practice this are:
- Talking to your child about showing gratitude for their body by making a list of all the things their body enables them to do
- Explaining how social media/society promotes unrealistic body image ideals, and how they are damaging
- Practicing mindful eating exercises, such as thinking about all the effort that went into creating the snack they are eating
Help Them Learn
Helping your child understand more about themselves, others, and the world builds confidence. Research has found that a person's confidence is impacted by their level of knowledge, which means that the more a person knows, the more confident they become. People often say that knowledge is power, and in this case, it's also confidence. Some ways to get involved are:
- Helping your child with their homework
- Taking extra time to work through subjects they may be struggling with
- Engaging with them by using learning games, watching educational movies, etc.
Allow Kids to Engage in Play
Not only is play fun, but for kids, it serves a very important purpose. Engaging in play helps kids develop cooperation skills, increases brain function, and builds confidence. Your kiddo will learn how to solve problems, manage conflict with others, and better manage their own emotions. Kids can engage in play by themselves, with parents, or with peers. Some ways to engage in play are:
- Hanging out with their friends/peers at playdates, parties, or after-school functions
- Having some alone time to engage in imaginative play with their toys, stuffed animals, or drawings
- Joining a sports team
Teach Kids Social Skills
Your child wants to connect with people around them and most importantly, make friends. One way of helping them do that is by teaching them social skills. Social skills help kids develop confidence by boosting their conversation skills and allowing them to have fun by engaging with others. Social skills can look like many different things, including:
- Learning how to stand up for themselves
- Practicing empathy for others
- Leaving room for others to talk during conversations
Use Action-Focused Language
Studies have found that using action-focused language has positive benefits in encouraging children. But what is action-focused language? It means putting more emphasis on doing the action rather than the end result. For example, asking your kiddo to 'be a scientist' can seem like too much of a challenge. Instead, encourage your kid to 'do science.' Although the end result of learning something new (and finishing their homework) is the same, one feels much more manageable. Some ways to practice this are:
- Modifying the way you set up challenges/goals for your child
- Helping your child try new activities that they previously thought were too difficult
- Encouraging your child to strive for purpose in the process and not just the result
Promote Child Autonomy
Kids (and anyone, for that matter) want to feel like they are in charge of their life and the choices they make. So it should come as no surprise that there is a strong link between autonomy and self-esteem, especially in children. Kids that feel independent report higher rates of well-being and increased purpose in life. This means that by giving your child a bit more control, you can help them build their confidence. Ways to practice this are:
- Allowing your child to pick out their own clothes
- Setting up small weekly chores for them to accomplish and grow their independence
- Working with your child to help them create their own schedule for schoolwork/activities
Practice Communication Skills
Being able to say how you feel and explain what you need feels amazing, which is why communication skills are important. When kids struggle with communication skills they may start to fear talking to others and not speak up for themselves, which can lead to missed opportunities for fun and friendships. Practicing communication skills can help build a child's confidence by taking away some of the nervousness they may feel when speaking in front of a class or being asked a question by a peer. Some ways to hone your child's communication skills are:
- Practicing talking out loud/in front of others by engaging in shared reading
- Teaching your child about boundaries and autonomy
Activities to Build Confidence in Kids
Fear not, parents. Not only are there strategies to use to gradually build your child's confidence over time, but there are also some activities you can do with them in the now. Some fun ways to build a child's confidence are:
- Make a List - Have your child make a list of what they like about themselves, their accomplishments, what they're good at, etc.
- Hold a Compliment Showdown - Have a battle to see who can give the most genuine compliments to the other person, and crown a winner.
- Write a Letter - Help your kiddo write a letter to their future self about their goals, and keep it for them until they turn of age.
- Try Superhero Poses - It may seem silly at first, but stand in front of a mirror with your child and strike your best superhero pose. That's right - hands on your hips, head held high - all you need is a cape blowing in the wind.
- Create Goals - Talk to your child about what goals they want to accomplish in the near future and discuss how you can help them get there. Make an action plan where they can follow the steps to success.
- Schedule a Playdate - Ask your child if there's a friend that they enjoy hanging out with and offer to have that person over to help your kiddo engage in play and practice social skills.
- Draw Yourself - Get some paper and markers and sit with your child while each of you draws pictures of yourselves. Talk about how they view themselves based on their drawing. Then, have them talk about what they are good at/enjoy, and have each of you draw yourselves again. Compare the drawings and note the changes.
- Lean Into Their Talents - Find something that your child is good at and likes to do. This can be anything from playing baseball to talking about their knowledge of dolphins. Then, engage in these activities. Applaud them for their knowledge/skills and maybe even let them help you along the way.
- Make a Resume of Struggles - Have you and your child create a resume of struggles/mistakes you have made in your lifetime. Include as many as you can, and don't worry if your child doesn't come up with very many. Share the resume with each other and talk about resilience, what you learned from those mistakes, and how making a mistake isn't the end of the world.
- Practice Self-Care - The term self-care might not yet be in your child's vocabulary, but it definitely should be. Talk about the importance of caring for yourself and different ways in which to do it. Try and do one self-care activity a week with your child, whether it's taking a nap after a long day, or hanging out in the garden. Find something you both enjoy and do it together.
- Have Them Play Teacher - Set aside some time for your child to take the reigns for the day. Encourage them to teach you about something they like or whatever they are learning about in school. Actively engage with them and show them they are capable of sharing their knowledge with others.
How to Raise a Confident Child
Parents want their children to be able to flourish, accomplish goals and strive for their dreams, but they also want them to feel confident in themselves and their actions along the way. There are ways to help your child build confidence; such as by practicing authoritative parenting, working on communication skills, and encouraging them to learn and grow from their interactions with peers and the world around them.