How to build confidence in kids is a crucial question for parents, caregivers, and teachers. Confidence is the cornerstone upon which children learn to become resilient and, more importantly, ensure their happiness, health, and success.
While building confidence in kids may seem daunting, it need not be intimidating or complicated. Learn the best ways to improve self-esteem in your child and set them up to feel truly capable.
The Importance of Confidence in a Child's Development
Babies are born curious. As they learn to see, hear, taste, and touch everything in their reach, they begin to see themselves as capable of discovery. However, comparing their experiences with others often alters how they perceive their abilities.
Children may find they are good at some things and not-so-good at others, causing them to feel unsure and less willing to explore. Thus, building confidence in kids is imperative to their desire to learn [*].
When confident, kids develop a healthy growth mindset and appropriate self-esteem coping skills. In addition, they learn quickly from their mistakes and are unafraid to ask for help whenever necessary.
How to Build Confidence in Kids
Kids develop positive self-esteem by facing new challenges and overcoming hurdles with repeated success. However, children won’t always perform well in school or have positive social interactions, making them feel helpless or alone.
Thus, it’s essential to learn how to raise a confident child. Here are 12 of our best tips.
1. Avoid Criticizing Their Mistakes
Children must learn that mistakes are natural. Being upset over an error may cause them to fear failure and become risk-averse. Assure your child it’s okay to make mistakes and discuss how they can use the experience to improve future outcomes.
2. Work on Your Self-Confidence
As with most aspects of a child’s developmental stages, a good role model can set the bar for healthy standards. Modeling confidence by tackling obstacles with optimism may encourage your child to do the same.
If you aren’t sure where to start, practice this self-esteem alphabet with your child. You’ll be more mindful of the opportunities to improve your skills and confidence.
3. Encourage Healthy Risks
As the parent or caretaker of a young child, it can be tempting to always come to their rescue. However, preventing mistakes can lead to complacency and dependency.
Instead of correcting behavior, encourage your child to determine what works best for them. A child learning to pour their own cup of water, for instance, may overshoot, spilling water on the floor. Let it happen, encouraging them to clean up their mess and aim better next time.
4. Don’t Overpraise
Contrary to popular belief, overpraising children lowers the bar over time. Not only will an overpraised child become complacent, but they may resort to perfectionism.
Confidence occurs as a result of pushing oneself to a healthy limit. Children should know that they aren’t expected to succeed at something every time. Instead, they can build confidence by trying, failing, trying again, and improving.
5. Give Them Age-Appropriate Chores
Kids aren’t always fans of doing chores, but succeeding at age-appropriate tasks can make them more confident in their ability to perform well. Some age-appropriate tasks include:
- 2 - 3 years: putting toys away after playtime
- 4 - 5 years: making their beds or clearing the table
- 6 - 7 years: cleaning counters and sweeping the floor
- 7 - 9 years: washing the dishes, packing their school lunches, or helping prepare a meal
- 10 - 12 years: cleaning the kitchen or bathroom, washing the car, or helping out with younger siblings
- Teenagers: running errands
6. Set Realistic Goals
Suppose your child develops an interest in baseball or basketball. It’ll be natural for them to want to try out for their school teams, with the goal of being picked. However, if your child is below the appropriate skill level, failing to make a school sports team can be particularly devastating.
Disappointment is often inevitable, but you can celebrate little victories by setting realistic goals. For instance, instead of making it a goal to make the team, make it a goal to try out.
7. Practice Positive Self-Talk
When a child experiences failure, it isn’t uncommon for them to perceive themselves negatively, saying things like “I’m so bad at reading,” or “I’m terrible at math.” Change their perspective by practicing positive, constructive self-talk and self-esteem coping statements.
For example, if your child fails a test at school, encourage them to say, “I’ll do better next time,” or “With some more practice, I’ll get this right.”
8. Ask for Their Opinion
Providing your child with opportunities to express themselves or practice autonomy demonstrates that you value their input. For example, when taking your child grocery shopping, ask them, “Do you think these tomatoes look better than these ones?”, “Should we get flavored or plain yogurt this week?” or “Would you like to try a different flavor of juice this time?”
9. Resist Comparison
Avoid comparing your child to their friends or siblings, as doing so can foster unhealthy competition and instill self-doubt. Telling them, “Why can’t you get better grades like your sister?” encourages them to hinge their self-worth on how well they meet your expectations.
10. Encourage Journaling
If your child is of reading and writing age, encourage them to keep a self-esteem journal, answering questions like:
- What are three things I accomplished today?
- When do I feel most confident?
- What are three things that make me unique?
- What is something I am grateful for today?
Pairing these prompts with positive affirmation cards encourages your child to develop healthy, self-loving habits.
11. Remind Them Your Love is Unconditional
Make it clear to your child that you value them regardless of their achievements. Avoid obsessing over their achievements or associating your appreciation of them with their successes.
12. Focus on Perseverance
Reinforce to your child that persevering and trying again are just as important as achieving the goals they’ve set. Communicate that being resilient matters.
If your child is discouraged, perform a self-esteem review to gauge how they feel about their progress.
The Bottom Line
As children grow older, developing healthy confidence matters just as much as mastering foundational skills. However, it can be difficult for a child to feel confident when they make a mistake, which is where parents and caregivers can step in.
When you know how to build your child’s confidence, you can become equally assured as a parent and provide a safe, productive space to grow. Using our self-esteem worksheets as supplementary tools, you can help your child realize their personal worth and value.
- Kleitman S, Moscrop T. “Self-Confidence and Academic Achievements in Primary-School Children: Their Relationships and Links to Parental Bonds, Intelligence, Age, and Gender.” Springer eBooks, 2010.