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Building Confidence in Children

Are you helping or hindering your child’s self-esteem and feeling of confidence? Say your child tries to carry their bowl of food and a beaker of juice across the room, then trips and spills everything. Do you say ‘I told you not to do that! Now see what you have done!’ It is tempting but it would be much more helpful to say something like ‘Oh dear, you tried, but it didn’t work. Don’t worry. Next time you can try carrying things one by one’. This way your child is not made to feel worse than he already does for failing at trying to do something. Also, it is important to bear in mind that it is not only what your child directly hears you saying but what he also overhears you telling other people like, ‘he’s so clumsy!’ or ‘he never learns’. This can leave the child feeling that this is the absolute unchangeable truth.

Building confidence in children, for it is difficult in a stressful moment when something has just been broken or spilt to take a breath, be calm and resist the urge to blurt out, ‘You’re so stupid!’ or ‘I am sick of repeating myself! You never listen!’ Do try though, to remember that too many negative words and reactions can damage children by instilling in them a sense of being stupid, useless or unvalued.

Talking negatively about yourself can also damage your child’s confidence. Children emulate their parents and adults close to them. If these adults overreact to situations or have a negative/extreme reaction to stressful circumstances, then it can lead the child to feeling that the adult cannot handle the pressures of everyday life. In turn, they too will not feel confident dealing with problems in life and will feel unequipped to tackle everyday challenges.

The following can hinder a child’s confidence:

  • Aggression, using shouting and swearing
  • Cruel teasing and being sarcastic to them
  • Purposely making fun of your child and how he feels
  • Constant nagging and criticism
  • Unkind statements and insults
  • Saying you wish they had never been born
  • Saying you don’t love them

It makes sense to do all you can to build your child’s confidence and attitude which is positive and optimistic. Here are some ideas to do this, along with instilling in them a strong feeling of self-esteem.

  • Laugh with your child but not at him
  • Show your child that you believe in him to be a worthwhile and loveable human being
  • Be generous with your praise and admiration.
  • Reassure your child that it is ok to make mistakes, it is normal and how we all learn
  • Really listen to your child so he feels he is being heard and can communicate with you
  • Acknowledge his feelings so again, he feels he is being heard
  • Respect your child’s interests even if they are not that interesting to you. Show a genuine interest in what is going on in their lives
  • Criticise behaviour, not your child. Make it clear to him that it is the action of type of behaviour that is wrong or unacceptable not him
  • Rather than disregard an anxiety by brushing it aside or not feeling it is that important, listen to your child and offer to help with any struggle he is experiencing
  • Encourage your child’s independence! Let him try new things, even if he makes mistakes. The feeling of accomplishment learning to do something new can accelerate the child’s confidence
  • Focus on your child’s achievements and successes in their lives not the things they are less successful at
  • A damaged, unconfident child could possibly benefit from CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy)

These tips can help your child grow into a resilient, confident individual who feels equipped to cope with the challenges and pressures of life. A strong and confident adult has a better chance of happiness, as he has the foundations to grab life courageously and live it to the full without being hampered by unhelpful feelings of negativity and self-doubt.

By Eirian Hallinan

One Response to “Building Confidence in Children”

  • Marin:

    I know it’s a bit too late to comment now, but I’m still going to say this. I’m not on this page because I have an unconfident child. I’m only in 6th grade, but I’m not here because of me either. Im here because of my friend, who is extremely unconfident, and it’s making me sad, and I can’t seem to help her, she just shoots everything I say down. I’ve read other people’s opinions, and some people say that unconfident children are the result of overprotective parents. But I agree much more with this article. Lena (my friend) is Chinese, and her parents are very strict with her. She has a brother, but he’s 11 years old than her, and is somewhere down in the U.S. I think university or something. And right now, her mother is about halfway through a 7 month trip to China because her grandmother is sick. I know that Lena’s father put too much pressure on her, especially with her Chinese homework. This year, she hasn’t gotten anything less than 100% on any of her Chinese tests, and I have a feeling that she would be in big trouble if she did. This pressure seems to be present in normal school as well though. She is ALWAYS pessimistic, never looks on the bright side. She always assumes that the worst thing possible is going to happen to her, that the world is bent on making her fail. For example, I offered to do an ‘experiment’ with her, just a small one that I found in one of those kids science books. She immediately jumped to the conclusion that we would get horribly electrocuted and that we would die. Or just she would die. She is also a perfectionist, and she will do anything anyone wants as long as it makes them happy. She seems to think that everyone is telling the truth, and only if she has been told that someone is bad will she assume they are lying. Which unfortunately happened to me, influenced by the other girls in our class, but that’s not what I’m talking about right now. She also thinks that she is stupid, although both of us are in a… hard to explain but amazingly bright class. The people in our class are smart, but most (just about all (all)) suffer from ADHD and stubbornness, including me. Even Lena is stubborn. But she’s not stupid. Personally, I’m very competitive, and I find it hard to say that people are better than me. But I knwo Lena is in quite a few areas. All this and I’ve only known her for 4 1/2 months. She also seems to get offended easily, although she just ‘bottles up’ her anger. She is taken advantage of, and I think one day the pressure will become to hard to bear and she will become morbidly depressed, more than she is already. I don’t know how to help her, we seem to be polar opposites. As for me, I’m an only child, living with just my mom. She is a military doctor, approaching 22 years but medically retiring because of her bad knee. My mother is older than most other parent of kids my age, and it seems to affect me a lot. I’ve realized that she has quite a few more experiences, having gone to Bosnia and Kosovo with the military, and being the oldest of three sisters. This resulted in me understanding people more than others. But my mother is like me too much, and just as independent as me. So she wants to do things jsut as much as I do. She hates being late, and I, as an 11 year old, am not a morning person. This does not go over well. It often (pretty much every school day) results in stressed atmospheres, and fights between the two of us. Both of us seem to have problems dealing with unjust things. I have gotten suspended from school a few times for hitting people, but I did it knowing the punishment (and I’m a black belt), because they deserved it, and needed to learn a lesson. It worked. Lena would never hit anyone, which can be bad. I’m very concerned for Lena, and I don’t want anything to happen to her. I think this is a very serious problem, and I want to do anything I can to help Lena.

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