Children need to feel good about themselves. They need to be accepted and valued by the adults in their lives and their peers. Children with high self-confidence feel that the important adults in their lives care about them and would go out of their way to make them safe and well. They feel that these adults would be upset and miss them terribly if anything were to happen to them. Here are some tips in encouraging self-confidence in children.
Make Them Feel Valued
All children need to feel their parents love and appreciate them. They need to know they are cherished and respected. One of the most important things you can do is to make sure you listen to your children attentively when they speak. Don’t pay attention to your cell phone or watch television when they’re trying to have a conversation with you. Show interest in what they’re saying.
Just like adults, children feel important when you look them in the eye and give them your full attention when they’re communicating with you. If they interrupt you when you’re on the phone with an important call or busy doing a task that takes all your focus, stop for a moment and tell them that you can’t give them your undivided attention at that moment, but that as soon as you’re done, you’ll be happy to talk with them.
Spend special time with each child separately. Even if it’s an hour a week, that child will know that you want to be just with him or her alone. You can play games together, go to the park, go roller skating, go to a movie, have a picnic, or just go for a walk. Leave some time to talk about how your child is doing (and how you’re doing too). This special time is something your children will look forward to, especially if you start this practice when they’re young.
A great way to make your children feel valued is to ask for their views and opinions and treat them seriously. Give them meaningful and practical feedback. Try to find out why they feel the way they do. Once you know why they look at things this way, you’ll be able to suggest ways for them to behave that will have positive outcomes rather than negative ones.
Be Interested in What They’re Interested In
You can raise your children’s sense of self-worth by appreciating and praising their interests and efforts. If they show interest in an activity you’re doing, include them in doing it or finding out more information about that activity. But don’t flatter your children all the time. They may develop the habit of showing interest in an activity just to get your praise.
Encourage your children to engage in activities that challenge them, such as sports, caring for a garden or animal, or preparing meals for the family. This will stretch their abilities and help them have a sense of accomplishment. If it’s appropriate, support them in entering their work in contests, submitting their writing for publication, or having a gallery showing.
Support them extending their interests into school activities, such as being on the debate team, trying out for a sports team, or writing for the school newspaper. Participating in extracurricular activities such as these will give them pride that they went the extra step. When your children have developed their abilities and specialized knowledge, support them in sharing them with others, either by helping others or entertaining them.
Teach your children to set goals, follow through and complete projects. The projects can be small at first, then get more complex as your children grow older. This helps them experience that they have control over their lives. To make sure your children feel successful, make sure the project is appropriate to their age and development. Praise your children both during the project and when it’s completed. Have a family celebration to make your children feel exceptional.
Praise Them and Teach Them How to Accept Praise from Others
Look for things they do right and point them out. Find something to praise them about every day. If they’re having trouble learning something, compliment them for trying and let them know that learning and mastery take time. Share with them how long it took you to learn something.
It’s important to give more compliments than negative feedback. If your children get mostly negative comments about what they’ve done wrong, they’ll keep doing things wrong because they’ve learned that’s how they get your attention. By giving them more compliments, they’ll learn that they get your attention by doing things correctly. Try for a 4:1 ratio or more.
Teach your children how to accept compliments graciously, so that they reinforce the giver of the compliments. When another person sincerely wishes to give them a positive compliment, teach them to accept it without rejection or qualification. Say, “Thank you. I appreciate that.” “That feels good.” “I like to hear that.”
Dealing with Mistakes
If your children make mistakes, acknowledge that they were mistakes, and also explain to them that they can be successful only if they make some mistakes. You can also correct the mistake, but do so in a positive and encouraging manner.
The best use of mistakes is to learn from them, so encourage your children to get up and try again. If you share some of your mistakes you’ve made in your past, your children will more readily see their mistakes as opportunities instead of failures.
Hold Family Meetings
Have regular family meetings to discuss what’s going on in the home and any changes you would like to see. If you’re making new rules, explain what the rules are, the reasons for them, and the penalties for breaking them. You may also choose to work with your children to form the rules. This should be a win-win situation where everyone is happy with what is decided.
After the rules are made, be consistent with your children. If you give in or yell at them, they know they can manipulate you. If they create a struggle, react to whatever they do in a calm manner and without anger. But remain firm about the new rules and penalties. Continue being loving but firm, and the struggle will diminish over time.
Encourage your children to be responsible for themselves and others. For example, they can assist their siblings with their homework, help classmates who need assistance, or help you unload the groceries when you come home. Giving them chores to do around the house helps them learn responsibility for the family and the home
Dealing with the Outside World
As they grow, children become increasingly sensitive to the evaluations and judgments of their peers. Many begin to evaluate themselves differently than what they learned at home. Some children feel accepted at home but not with the neighborhood or school children. To make it even more complex, children will feel accepted and liked one moment with a group and rejected in the next moment.
Every child experiences disappointment or defeats. Whether it’s a slight from a peer, a bad grade in a subject, or being called names, your children will most likely go through something negative. Their self-confidence can be reinforced by letting them know that your love and support are always there. When the crisis has passed, you can help them reflect on what went wrong and what the best way to deal with the crisis is. The next time a crisis happens, your children will have gained some knowledge from overcoming problems from the past to help them cope with the new crisis.
As a parent or important adult in children’s lives, you can help them be clear about your own values and keep the lines of communication open about what they experience outside your home. If your children feel rejected by peers, you can reassure them that you support and accept them even when others do not.
Many of the same principles apply for encouraging self-confidence in children as in adults. Helping people see they are unique and that they have talents and skills they can put to good use goes a long way in promoting their self-confidence. Speaking to them with respect and giving honest compliments are also keys for both. As adults, we’re just grown up children.
Vivian Harte is the co-author of Self-Esteem for Dummies in the Dummies series. She has helped over 12,000 people learn and use assertiveness skills during the last 14 years. She teaches online classes on assertiveness, self-confidence, and teamwork. She has a Bachelors degree in Sociology and a Masters degree in Public Administration. She taught college classes for many years in Tucson, Arizona. She has two grown children who are both successful. She lives in Tucson with her husband, three dogs and two cats.
She offers kits with articles, guided visualizations, and songs as well as online courses, group coaching and 1-on-1 coaching, and you can find out more about these at her website, self-esteem-for-me.com. Discover how to improve your relationships by downloading her free kit Create Self-Confidence in Relationships.