By Cindy Jett, LICSW
As parents, we want our children to like themselves and to exhibit confidence in their pursuits. It makes for a happier child, and a more successful adult. The good news is that self-confidence is markedly influenced by a child’s life experiences, and therefore, can be shaped and improved. The following strategies will help children adapt to new circumstances and build self-confidence.
Teach your child to be persistent.
Nothing increases one’s odds of success as much as persistence. A child who is persistent will achieve more of his goals and feel more in control, and this will boost his self-confidence. Some children have a pronounced fear of failure and this causes them to give up on their goals and themselves. Teach the anxious child that failure is part of the journey.
Work on social skills.
Very often, kids who lack confidence have social skills deficits. They internalize their low social status and this affects their feelings about themselves and their confidence in pursuing goals. Although a comprehensive examination of how to improve social skills is beyond the scope of this article, here are a few places to start:
- Teach children to be interested in and to ask questions of others.
- Teach children to listen and to imagine how others feel in a given situation (develop empathy).
- Observe your child in social situations and give him pointers.
Offer appropriate praise and encouragement.
This does not mean to praise everything your child does. Undeserved praise dilutes the meaning of deserved praise and can become meaningless. Valid praise supports a child’s efforts and gives him an accurate feedback about himself and the world.
Focus on the effort rather than the achievement.
Children have control over how much effort they put into things, but they cannot always control the outcome. If a child’s self worth becomes tied to achievement, it’s very vulnerable. It soars when the child experiences success, and plummets when he experiences failure. True self-esteem, on the other hand, comes from a sense that one is valuable and loved for simply who they are.
Take joy in your child.
Nothing communicates a child’s value more than the mirror of a parent. A child of a parent who is distant and uninterested will learn to think that he is inconsequential and unimportant. A child who is continuously berated and criticized will learn to think that he is bad and defective. On the other hand, the child of a parent who truly enjoys her children will internalize that he is worthy, good and engaging. Ask yourself how often you experience joy with your children? Are there things in your life that block that experience of joy? How can you free yourself to be more present and joyful in their presence?
Encourage your child to pursue their passion.
A child’s confidence will grow if he connects with things he truly is passionate about. Help your child to explore various hobbies and interests, and find what he loves doing. Once your child is passionate about something, he will become self motivated and derive positive feelings about himself through connecting with something he loves to do.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, show your child what confidence looks like. Never belittle yourself in front of your child. Exhibit a positive attitude towards yourself and the pursuit of your goals. Teach your child how to focus on effort rather than results, and model for him following your passion.
Cindy Jett, LICSW is a psychotherapist and author of Harry the Happy Caterpillar Grows, an acclaimed picture book that helps children adapt to change. See Cindy’s website for information on helping kids adapt to change and build resilience: Harry the Happy Caterpillar. Article source: Article City