How to raise confident children

Find out what confidence is, why it matters and how to build up your child's confidence.

How to raise confident children

What's confidence? First, let's see what it's NOT.

Confidence is not:

  • Knowing everything
  • Having all the skills
  • Not being afraid

Confidence is:

The belief that you can achieve something—with enough knowledge and practice—even if you are afraid of it now.

Is confidence the same as self-esteem?

Confident people usually have high self-esteem. But confidence and self-esteem are not the same.

People with high self-esteem appreciate and value themselves as persons. But they might have low confidence.

Self-esteem is your perception of your worth. Confidence is the demonstration of that worth to the world.

Self-esteem is on the inside. It might not be visible to others. Confidence is on the outside. It shows in your actions.

Let's see a few examples:

  • Sue has HIGH self-esteem and LOW confidence. Although she knows the topic well, she doesn't volunteer for the presentation at work, because she is not confident about her presentation skills.
  • Mia has HIGH self-esteem and HIGH confidence. She has equal knowledge of the topic. Just like Sue, she is not sure about her current presentation skills. But Mia volunteers for the presentation. She knows she can improve her presentation skills if she practices a few times at home.
  • Lea has LOW self-esteem and LOW confidence. She thinks she's not valuable enough to even consider herself as a candidate.

One can use their high self-esteem to improve their confidence in an area. For example, using positive affirmations from their self-esteem (i.e. "I'm valuable,") they can work on their confidence in a given subject.

Why confidence matters

Having low confidence is like giving up without even trying. Low confidence can lead to low assertiveness, miscommunication, and social anxiety.

Our actions influence our results. If we think that our efforts won't make any difference in the result, we simply don't try our best. That's why, having confidence means having the internal self-talk that says: "If I try, I can have a chance at achieving this."

How to implement this kind of self-talk in our kids? Parents play a huge part. Let's see the 3 ways we can start working on our child's confidence now.

How to build up children's confidence?

1) Acknowledge "their process"

When you show someone your hard work, which of the below is a more satisfying response?

A. "Great job, well done."

or,

B. (Pointing out something specific in your work) "I like that, I wonder how you came up with it."

Having people interested in our process is much more rewarding than being applauded for the end result. When we know that our internal process is interesting to others, next time we will be more fueled to engage in the process, no matter the outcome. This increases our confidence because we learn that trying something is valuable.

Try this: Next time your child shows you their work, be it a tower or a painting, find something specific that you like and while pointing that out, say,

"I wonder how you came up with that,"

and let them open up.

2) Build up their frustration tolerance

Trying something new is always hard. The first few trials will likely end with failure.

Confidence comes from enduring those few failures. If you endure and go through a hard experience, you will be willing to try it again next time. You have gone through it once, why not try again?

Frustration is a natural byproduct of trying something you're not great at. Tolerating your frustration is what helps you achieve it.

Toleration is something that can expand and shrink. If we endure and go through hardship, our tolerance for that hardship expands. Even if we fail, we see that the end result is not as dramatic as we feared. We make peace with our frustration. We become willing to try again. This means our frustration tolerance has expanded.

Helping your kid expand their tolerance for frustration is a great way to increase their confidence.

Try this: Help them move from self-doubt to self-pride. Next time your child struggles with a difficult task, limit your urge to jump in to help. Instead, stop, watch, and witness. If their frustration takes over and they become likely to give up, try saying something like,

"Trying may feel hard. I too feel bad when I can't do something at the first trial. You know what, it feels great when you keep trying and say, 'I finally did it.' Let's find that feeling."

3) Make intentional mistakes and model confidence

If kids seek to be perfect at something, they might not try it at all because they don't want to look "imperfect," incapable, or silly. Since willingness to try is the essence of confidence, perfectionism is easily its enemy. That's why parents should normalize imperfection.

To a child, parents are "perfect." We hold, place, align objects perfectly. We read, write, spell, pronounce perfectly. We walk, talk, sit, run, stand up perfectly. They, on the other hand, do all of these imperfectly. Observing our "perfection" might make them aim for the same.

Thy this: Make intentional mistakes in front of your kids. Some ideas:

  • Misspelling words and scratching over them
  • Wearing mismatching socks and keeping them on
  • Mispronouncing a word and lightly correcting yourself
  • Struggling with a yoga/gym pose and trying it multiple times

The more we model imperfection, the more our children will see they don't have to be perfect. Trying things is what matters, not "getting it right" every time.

Sources:

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