Raising confident kids is probably a goal for most parents out there. It sounds so easy, right? Give them encouragement, pat them on the back, and help them be successful in life. Well, easier said than done. Many psychological and environmental elements come into play when we look at the emotional development of children and raising confident kids. While every child is different, there are some fundamental values and behaviors we can foster to help our children find confidence without be arrogant or narcissistic in a world driven by success.
Failure is a great learning tool. It’s so hard to watch your child fail, but it’s also extremely important. Failure is one of the best ways we all learn from mistakes and rediscover new and better ways to do things. Allowing failure can start in infancy as you watch your baby struggle to push up, roll over, crawl or walk. While you never want to put your child in harm’s way, by not “doing it for him” you are teaching resiliency and determination. Most babies have the drive to reach these milestones inherently and will eventually get there on their own. As your children grow, this same theme will reappear many times. Do your best to be there for them without fixing all their problems. Sometimes they will cry and you can wipe tears, but don’t let them miss the important lesson of failure.
Let them follow their passions. People succeed most in areas where they are passionate. Your children will certainly have many passions throughout their lives. Let them discover what they are good at and what they enjoy through play-based learning. Get involved in their passions and let them be involved in yours as well. Use their interests as ways to communicate with your kids. For example, if your child loves superheroes, teach good behavior, problem-solving and courage through his beloved super friends. If your child likes cooking, use the kitchen as a classroom for decision-making, math skills, health and hygiene, and trial-and-error.
Give them chores to learn responsibility. Chores are essential for children to learn to be a productive member of their community without feeling entitled. And their first community is your family. Starting around age 3, give your child small assignments such as cleaning up their toys, throwing away trash or helping you feed pets. As they grow, continue giving them age-appropriate chores to teach responsibility in your household and beyond.
Teach accountability by discovering consequences. Without consequences, children do not have boundaries and may not learn accountability. Much like failure, discovering a negative consequence to an action can be a great learning tool. In order to teach this valuable lesson, you must allow your children freedom to make some of their own choices, such as what to wear on a cold day or how to react to a negative situation. If they choose shorts and a t-shirt on a blistering winter day, they may be quite cold, but they have learned to pay attention to the weather. If they choose to be in a bad mood about something out of their control, they may miss out on a fun activity or simply have a lousy day. Consequences don’t have to be punishments, but rather a result of a choice your children get to make on their own. When they have control, the lesson is much more easily absorbed.
Help them express themselves. Listening to your kids is very important for boosting confidence, even if your kids have an endless amount of things to say. When you find your child having trouble expressing himself, help him come up with the words to define his feelings. Sometimes frustration and anger can cause kids to lash out, misbehave or give up, all behaviors you certainly want to avoid. Although these feelings are a normal part of childhood (and sometimes adulthood too!), encourage your child to express feelings of frustration or inadequacy and then redirect the feelings productively. For example, if your child is upset he cannot do a puzzle, explain that these feelings are normal and you’re proud of him for trying hard to achieve a goal. Then help him break down the problem and find solutions, perhaps starting with edge pieces first or looking for matching color patterns.
For better or for worse, don’t make comparisons. As human beings and parents, it is so hard not to compare our kids to others. After all, so much of our success is measured by how we stack up against others like us. However, pointing out your children’s shortcomings based on the abilities of their peers or even showing them how they are better than their peers can be quite damaging. Rather, encouraging self-improvement, measuring your child on his own scale and acknowledging major accomplishments are all appropriate for building confidence. Being the best your child can be is what you should strive to convey.