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Promoting Confidence in Children

A confident child is a happy child, and what more could we want for our children than happiness and health? Confidence and self-esteem give children so much more than just happiness. In fact, one report states:

As the level of self-esteem increases, so do achievement scores; as self-esteem decreases, achievement scores decline’. (Covington in Self-esteem and failure in school).

This article will give you some useful tips on building confidence and self-esteem in your child.

What is confidence?

Confidence can be defined as either:

  • feeling assured of our own abilities or
  • having faith in people, plans or the future

Confidence is also about you having confidence in your child, and them having faith in life.

As parents, we may want to wrap our little ones in cotton wool to protect them. But this is not the way to bring up a confident, self-sufficient child. True confidence comes from inner strength, independent of others.

However, it is not just something people are born with. It can be nurtured, and it can be taught and learned.

Check yourself

Be a positive role model.

Do not project your own insecurities and fears onto your child. Don’t expect them to lack confidence, just because you would in their shoes. Your child is not you. They have their own personalities, qualities and resources – and they will be perfectly confident, if they are supported to flourish.

If you know that you lack confidence, ‘fake it to make it’. Acting confident can make you feel, and be, confident.

Your child looks up to you – and often wants to be just like you. Prevent them from picking up your bad habits. If you are crippled with self-doubt, seek help from professionals yourself.

Identifying children with low confidence or self-esteem

Children are not always able to communicate their emotions effectively. In younger children, the signs can be subtle. But confidence or self-esteem might be an issue if, for example:

  • the prospect of meeting new people or trying new things fills them with uncertainty or even dread
  • they demonstrate shyness or cry in new situations
  • they can’t accept praise, or criticism, or are reluctant to talk about themselves
  • your child has a negative outlook on life or a tendency to focus on what might go wrong

These are not just signs of low confidence. Some of them might also suggest depression or introversion.

How can I help my child to be confident?

Here are some pointers which should help:

Start early – and maintain

There are some tips for toddlers and pre-schoolers that are still beneficial for parents, regardless of your child’s age.

Although a good start with a supportive family is great, life outside the home also has a huge effect.

Apparently, girls’ self-esteem peaks when they are 9 years old (McGraw: Media, hormones, peer pressure do a number on girls’ confidence, The News-Sentinel, Mon, Jul. 31, 2006).

We need to strengthen our children’s confidence against the pressures they face.

Talk & listen

Be positive. Praise them for who they are, as well as what they do.

So many things can affect a child’s confidence. If they seem concerned about something, identify the problem with them. It may not even be a problem, if you talk it through.

Make time to listen to your child. Reassure them that they can talk to you about anything. If they have self-doubts – about how they look, their abilities, how clever they are, or their fears about speaking in front of people – you can help.

Whatever they have to deal with, they are not alone. Together, you can come up with a solution.

Responsibilities

Give your child responsibilities to build their confidence and become independent. Encourage them to set their own alarm clocks, tidy their room, or feed their pets.

These skills enable them to manage their own lives… as well as bolstering their self-confidence.

Set goals and support progress

Having goals and aspirations will focus your child on what they want to achieve.

The key is to guide your child to set realistic goals that are challenging yet achievable. Set modest, short term goals together, and identify smaller steps to achieve them.

For example: with a view to getting into a team – the first step is ‘go to sports practice’. Every step achieved will build their confidence.

Making friends, socialising, gently pushing the boundaries of their comfort zone in a controlled manner, will all help your child.

Trying their hardest and not quite achieving a goal is still commendable. ‘Failing to do’ something is not the same as ‘being a failure.’

If they do not succeed, it doesn’t mean that they have failed. They just have things to learn. How could they do things differently next time?

There’s no such thing as failure. Only feedback. It’s all a learning process. Encourage them to try again – doing things differently.

Meeting people, doing things

A child’s confidence will strengthen if they are encouraged to make new friends or engage with adults, in a safe or supervised environment. They will develop their social skills and abilities to interact.

Trying out new things challenges them, but helps build confidence. The more opportunities they get to step out of their ‘comfort zone’, the more they learn and boost their confidence.

And finally

Look at some general tips for boosting self-esteem from Young Minds. And, with your child, visit the ChildLine website for useful tips.

Confidence is a vital quality in the individual, but it also impacts on society. The Centre for Confidence quotes:

'Confidence consists of positive expectations for favourable outcomes. Confidence influences the willingness to invest - to commit money, time, reputation, emotional energy, or other resources... This investment, or its absence, shapes the ability to perform. In that sense, confidence lies at the heart of civilization. Everything about an economy, a society, an organization, or a team depends on it. Every step we take, every investment we make, is based on whether we feel we can count on ourselves and others to accomplish what has been promised. Confidence determines whether our steps - individually or collectively - are tiny and tentative or big and bold.' - Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Confidence: Leadership and the Psychology of Turnarounds.

  1. Having confidence brings many benefits. Which of the following does confidence NOT bring?
    Confidence improves all areas of our lives, from mental health to ability in sport. Whilst it is true that having confidence will help your career, it cannot guarantee success - only improve your chance of getting it
  2. A severe lack of confidence can cause health problems. Which of the following conditions have been linked to low self-esteem?
    Low self-esteem is bad for our mental health and can lead to 'comfort behaviour' such as overeating, alcoholism and drug use - all of which can damage our physical health. A severe lack of confidence can shorten your life, so make sure you seek help if it is becoming a problem
  3. Shyness can be a symptom of social anxiety disorder, but not always. Which of the following is a sign that shyness has gone too far?
    Social anxiety is an extreme form of shyness. We all have slight concerns in the above situations, but if they cause severe stress, anxiety or panic, then you have a phobia which can affect your life. Social anxiety affects about 5% of us so you are not alone, but please seek help if you are one of the many sufferers
  4. An optimistic attitude can boost a child's confidence. What would be a good response to a child disappointed at not being picked for the school team?
    The second and fourth options do nothing to address the issue, and the third dismisses the child's feelings. If they believe they are good enough then encourage them to work hard to improve their chances of bring picked next time. Self-belief and optimism are half the battle
  5. Body image can have a negative effect on our confidence. In a recent study (DSEP 2013), how many girls aged 11-14 said they lacked confidence in their appearance?
    Almost half said they would not take part in activities such as swimming or a school play because of their body image. 23% lacked the confidence to even raise their hand in class. Confidence and self-esteem clearly affect children's academic careers
  6. Pressure from parents can cause confidence problems in children. According to parenting expert, Liat Hughes Joshi, how should you respond if your 14-year-old refuses to go to an after school activity?
    To quote Joshi: 'Parents are right to be concerned if their son or daughter is doing nothing at that age other than play computer games, but you also have to be led by them. Gentle encouragement is always a good thing. But if they do choose to do nothing with their spare time, you have to accept that you can’t force a 14 year old to go to karate class if they don’t want to'
  7. There are a number of ways to boost confidence and self-esteem. Which of the following is NOT recommended by the charity, Young Minds?
    Although not mentioned specifically, watercolour painting could well boost your self esteem. Having a hobby which you enjoy - anything from rock climbing to drawing - can boost your self-confidence as you see your skills grow over time
  8. The words we use can have an effect on how others see us and so our own confidence. How should you react if asked your thoughts on a topic you don't know?
    Pretending to know something we don't is never a good idea and can make us look stupid. It's much better to be honest, but use clear and concise words. 'Not really' or 'sort of' make us sound unsure and lacking in confidence
  9. According to the Centre for Confidence and Wellbeing, confidence is made up of two aspects. What are they?
    Rather than being an aspect of confidence, self-esteem rises along with it. A confident attitude brings high self-esteem. Ability is not a factor, however, a knowledge of our ability in a given field will bring us a confidence in doing our best
  10. The word 'confidence' is actually derived from Latin. What is its literal meaning?
    The word explains exactly the root of confidence - if you believe in yourself and your ability, you have confidence. Without self-belief life can be much harder, so do everything you can to instil confidence in your child

 

Author: Linda Innes

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