Kids develop confidence and a sense of independence when they see how others react to their abilities. Babies and toddlers are driven by natural curiosity, and learn to see themselves as capable from the way adults respond to them – for example, hugs and claps when they take their first steps. Primary school-aged children, on the other hand, gain confidence from the way they compare to their peers, like getting top of the class in a test.
Because no one can be the very best all of the time, kids need to learn ways to deal with disappointment positively, and to feel good about their efforts - win or lose. This is especially true for children who are naturally shy or hesitant to try new things.
Here are some ways parents and carers can help build children’s confidence.
Encourage them to have a go
Participation is less about winning and losing, and more about valuing individual effort, persistence and improvement. It’s also about celebrating the experience for the enjoyment it creates. Make sure goals are within your child’s ability, and cheer them on.
Situation: Your child wants to try out for the soccer team but isn’t sure whether she is good enough.
You could say: “It’s great you want to try out for the team just because you love soccer. Why don’t you give it a go anyway and try your best? We can always practise together beforehand.”
Support their self-esteem
Confidence and self-esteem go hand in hand. Help children feel positive about and accept themselves the way they are, and see that they don’t have to be as good as everyone else. Be optimistic and celebrate small successes and improvements.
Situation: Your child is upset because he is not as good at drawing as his best friend.
You could say: “You know everyone has special talents. You’re really good at reading and writing stories. Wouldn’t it be boring if we were all good at everything?”
Help them deal positively with disappointment
Coping with failure is a fact of life. When children are disappointed, it’s easy for them to get into an “I can’t” or “I’m no good” mindset, which can chip away at confidence. Help them see the situation from a different viewpoint and make suggestions for next time.
Situation: Your child wasn’t invited to join in a game with her friend at morning break.
You could say: “Maybe Bella was just really excited to start playing and didn’t remember to ask you in time. Why don’t you invite her over to play after school tomorrow?”
You may like to read more about motivation and praise.