Building self-esteem and confidence in children is an important part of providing loving support and care for children. Children who are confident perform better in school and are better equipped to deal with adversity and challenging situations.
Adults often deal with low confidence or self-esteem, making it more challenging to instill these traits in children. These are our top tips for how to build confidence and self-esteem at every stage of development.
The first year
It’s never too early to help your child build self-esteem and confidence, and babies don’t need specialized help.
The best way to help your baby grow to be confident is simply to provide safety and security. Show love and affection to your baby, and show them that you are attentive to their needs.
Babies feel more confident to explore — whether by crawling or their first steps — when they feel there is a safe “home base” to go to, like your lap.
Another way to start to build confidence in babies is to let them continue trying to do something. For example, when your baby first starts to stand up, let them fall on their tush repeatedly, instead of immediately rushing to hold them up. This helps them build the confidence to try new things when they are in their safe “home base”.
Toddlers & preschoolers
As babies grow into toddlers, they are capable of doing a lot and learning more skills every day. They start to dress themselves, sing, speak, and play more complex games, and their imagination starts to flourish.
The key to developing confidence and self-esteem in toddlers is to encourage their exploration of new things and help them navigate emotions and situations.
You can encourage your toddler to do more by praising their accomplishments. Praise should always be specific — “You did a great job solving that puzzle” instead of only “I’m proud of you!” This shows your child that their specific actions are worthy of praise.
Help your toddler make sense of a confusing world by “translating” the world around them. You can help them tease apart their emotions by breaking down exactly why they may be feeling what they’re feeling, and what a possible solution might be.
Elementary school kids
Elementary school children are learning how to navigate developing their sense of self-esteem in a school environment. As your child grows, they start to develop their own interests and try new things.
While praising seems like an easy way to encourage confidence in your child, over-praising can have the opposite effect. If you shower your child with vague praises all the time, they may feel pressure to always be perfect. They may also stop trying to work harder.
Instead, make sure that your praise is specific, and that you encourage them to try and improve even if they are experiencing difficulties.
Let your child take appropriate risks, and pursue new interests. Children in this age might need a little help developing social confidence, so you can help them by facilitating more opportunities for them to make new friends.
Being a teenager is difficult for the child, and the parents.
Teenagers can be cruel and are often under a lot of social and academic pressure.
Help your teenager develop healthy self-esteem and confidence by teaching them positive self-talk. Point out how negative self-talk isn’t true, and how it can be helpful. Instead of negative talk, encourage your teen to identify an action they can take to feel better about themselves or a situation they are in.
Another way you can help teens be more confident is by encouraging them to seek out new opportunities and interests. Teens are under a lot of academic pressure to succeed in high school and be involved in many extracurricular activities in order to get into a good college. Instead of adding to the pressure, ask your teen what they’d like to explore. Perhaps they’d like to attend a ceramics class, or get a part-time job? New experiences teach your teen how to navigate the world at large, which can help them develop more confidence when they leave the home.
Helping your child to develop confidence and self-esteem sets them up for future success.
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