Anyone who has ever tried to teach a child to tie their shoes knows how long it can take for them to get it right — and how frustrated they may feel in the meantime. But eventually, there comes that moment when it clicks. And it’s in that moment, when their failures turn to successes and their perseverance pays off, that a little confidence in their own ability is built.
Some kids are born naturally confident in themselves, but for others, confidence is a muscle that needs to be strengthened over time. Here are some ways parents can help instill more confidence in their kids — and maybe even in themselves.
Be an example when you learn something new
The saying goes, “Fake it ‘till you make it.” And that expression can actually apply to setting an example for your kids when you are learning something new. Child Mind Institute suggests that it’s ok to acknowledge your own anxiety when mastering a new skill — but project enthusiasm as you grasp it. Similarly, Psychology Today adds that parents should keep any negative comments to yourself and treat yourself with grace and kindness. You wouldn’t say anything mean to your kids when they struggle or make a mistake, so don’t speak that way about yourself either.
Celebrate their resilience
You didn’t beat your favourite video game on your first attempt; it took numerous tries over several weeks to finally defeat the big bad guy and save the princess, but you reached the end because you didn’t give up.
Perseverance is an essential skill to instill in a child at a young age, whether they’re trying to get to the finish line during a round of Mario Kart, learning how to use a pencil correctly, or throwing a football. Be specific with your praise rather than using blanket statements like, “Good job” or, “You’re so smart.” Praising the effort rather than the result goes a long way in encouraging resilience.
Help children find what interests them
It can be tough to instill independence in a child if you only show them what interests you. If your son or daughter wants to try a new sport, learn to play the flute, or acquire another skill that catches their eye, it’s an opportunity for them to develop their own identity and help build confidence doing things they enjoy.
According to Child Mind Institute, when a child’s talent grows in a field they’re passionate about, it’s a natural boost to their self-esteem.
Any dream can seem big in the eyes of a child, and chances are they’re unsure how to turn it into a reality, which can be discouraging. Child Mind Institute recommends that parents help break down tasks into easily accomplishable goals. This method, which Psychology Today refers to as “scaffolding,” gives your child a taste of success, as well as a structure they can use throughout their life to help strengthen their confidence and reach their dreams.
Also, don’t do things for your child — coach and encourage them instead. Not only will that help them taste what success is like on their own (and show them that you have confidence in their ability), but it also helps parents manage their own anxieties and need to be in control. By constantly intervening, children never learn things for themselves. Start by sitting with your child and making a list of what they’d like to achieve; then build from there.
Let your kids fail
Billy Joel isn’t a psychologist, but the Piano Man crooned in his hit “You’re Only Human” that you “learn more from your accidents than anything that you could ever learn at school.” We’re not recommending that your child skip school, but it’s from failure that we grow and evolve. If your child falls short of their goals, Child Mind Institute says it may help them discover a different solution to reaching their goal — and it might even encourage them to redouble their efforts in the future, which will also help them become resilient adults.
We’re human. We all make mistakes. Help your child realise that failure is a part of life. It’s not something to dwell on but rather something to learn from and move on. Continue to set them up for success, teach them to embrace their imperfections, and let them know you’ll love them no matter what.