Confidence can be an important part of a child’s ability to handle challenges, peer pressure, responsibility and their emotions. It's intrinsically linked to self esteem and develops as a child feels safe, loved and accepted. When we talk about confidence, we’re talking about a child’s ability to trust in themselves and believe in their own abilities. It is not arrogance or an over-inflated view of self, nor is it the absence of fear or difficulty. Instead, confidence is the experience of relying on oneself, trusting and believing in oneself even in the face of fear and uncertainty. Unfortunately it is something that many children and young people struggle with and we see the impact that can have on their life.
So how can we help our children to be confident? Here's our top tips on how parents can help:
1. Give them space
One of the ways confidence can develop is through resilience and the process of making mistakes or dealing with failure. As parents, our natural instinct is to want to protect our children from failure or the consequences of their own behaviour, but sometimes this can stifle their development. By letting them take risks and make decisions within safe boundaries you are helping them to see that it’s okay to make mistakes. By learning how to problem solve and overcome obstacles they will grow in confidence and feel better equipped to handle similar situations in the future. Children need to be able to explore and take risks without feeling judged or corrected on any wrong move.
2. Set an example
Children are very perceptive and often take their cues for how to respond from the adults around them. How you talk about mistakes and what you model in your own life will indicate to them how to handle setbacks. If the adults around them are trying new things and seeking to overcome obstacles in their own life this will help them to feel this is something they can do too. One way you can also do this is by being honest about your fears. We all have things we are afraid of and which can destabilise our confidence. Being transparent about your own fears will help them to know it is okay to feel afraid. This doesn’t need to stop them from trying new things or pursuing their passions.
3. Help them to find their passions
Children often work hardest at things they are passionate about. Helping your child to find what these things are will help them to begin to have confidence in themselves. If they never have the opportunity to do things they love, they'll struggle to grow in confidence in their own abilities. Another way you can help them is by taking an interest in the things they enjoy too. Try to spend time with them as they do these activities or ask questions to learn more about their new interests. This again, will encourage their confidence as they see you valuing them and their passions.
4. Set realistic goals
While we know that learning to fail can be an important part of developing confidence, persistent failure can have the opposite effect. This is why it’s really important to help your child know how to set achievable goals for themselves. Sometimes the final goal for them can feel completely overwhelming and lead them to give up or doubt themselves. If you can break down their goal into smaller more achievable steps their confidence will grow as they complete each step. Alongside that you can celebrate their hard work and character as they try new things, encouraging them in their effort rather than just the outcome.
5. Avoid over-praising
Unfortunately there can be a fine line between confidence and arrogance and one of the distinguishing factors can be over-praising. Children need lots of encouragement as they grow up, to try new things and know when they have done a good job. However, if you continually praise a child in everything it becomes hard for them to develop their own competence in that area. This can make them question reality as their experience doesn’t seem to match your praise. It can also lead to an over-inflated view of themselves which impacts their relationships with others.
6. Give them responsibilities
Another way that confidence can grow in a child is as they are given new responsibilities. As they get older, try to find different things at home they can be responsible for. Having some, age-appropriate things to do at home will help them have confidence in themselves, knowing that you trust them with something.
7. Ask for their opinion and input
Children develop trust in themselves as others show that they trust and value them. Another way you can help your child to grow in confidence is to seek their opinions and input on things. As you ask for their opinion, you're showing them that their ideas are important and you want to hear them. Understandably as parents there are often decisions that you make that your children may not like or understand. However, there are many situations where you can involve them in the decision making and encourage them to make choices for themselves.
8. Avoid unhelpful comparison
A lack of confidence can develop in children when they feel insecure or inadequate compared to others. As you speak about other children or their peers, try to find ways to be encouraging without it being at the expense of your own child. Examples of this might be avoiding sentences such as “why can’t you be more like…” or “...she doesn’t seem to get scared like you”. It’s hard to avoid comparison as children grow up and compete in many ways with their peers, however there is a way to encourage the strengths of other children that doesn’t belittle your own child.
9. Love them unconditionally
Confidence is strongly linked to self esteem and self worth. A child’s confidence in themselves will grow as they feel valued by others. One way you can do this is telling and showing them you love them unconditionally. When they make mistakes, choose poor decisions or even hurt us as parents, showing them you still love them helps them to have security and confidence. This means not only valuing them when they do something you are pleased with, but in the moments when they don’t.
10. Embrace their individuality
Children are so unique and individual it’s important to remember this as you seek to support them. Our goal as parents is not to force our children into a mould or stereotype we would like for them, but to encourage them to be the best versions of themselves. Confidence can look different depending on the character and temperament of your child, so try to keep this in mind as you support them.
If your child is still struggling with their confidence, and you're wondering if counselling could be the answer, please get in touch with us and we'd be happy to talk it through.