Confidence is mandatory for children's social and emotional development. When children feel good about themselves and who they are, they can try new things, master new skills and build strong relationships. If parents are seeing their little ones struggle with mood swings, tantrums, difficulty learning new skills or managing relationships it may be indicative of issues around their self esteem.
It's important to consider what is developmentally appropriate for children, and when to introduce new concepts so you can track along with your kiddo’s development.
Early self esteem often predicts levels of self-esteem later in life. It's best to start with children at a very early age.
- Allow your infant to get into positions (ie. sitting, standing, walking) on their own instead of putting them in positions they cannot yet get into or out of on their own.
- Provide structure and routine that allows your baby to feel confident that they know what comes next in their day.
- Trust that your baby will meet developmental milestones at their own pace. If major concerns about your child’s development arise, seek professional support and guidance, but remember that developmental stages vary considerably for each individual child.
We often think of confidence as being something we see in teens or adults, but research also shows that confidence can be measured in young children and even infants. Studies show that by age 5 self-esteem levels can be measured.
- Set healthy and consistent boundaries so your child feels safe enough to explore their own feelings.
- Allow space and welcome your child’s feelings. Show them that you can remain calm while they express their big feelings. This will help them feel confident that you can handle them!
- Offer opportunities for them to do things on their own and make their own choices.
- Avoid general praise like “you’re so smart” and instead reflect your child’s emotions to them in phrases like, “you look so proud that you built that yourself.” These statements encourage the child to look inside themselves for confidence and pride as opposed to looking outside for external validation. This will help them feel more confident in the long term.
- Continue to notice the areas that your child is able to take on more responsibility. Studies show that it is helpful for children’s confidence to have chores and household responsibilities to do.
- Support Growth Mindset instead of Fixed mindset, by encouraging effort and the process of learning, over praising outcomes and end results. See our Growth Mindset resources for more information about how to help children with this subject.
- Send messages to your child that they will be loved no matter what behaviors they show or what successes they have (unconditional love).
- Welcome your child’s emotions, while setting limits around behaviors. Your child is not a “bad kid” they are just having a “hard time”.
- Allow them to express themselves in unique ways. Maybe through art, song, dance, clothing etc. Welcome all sides of them!
- If your child feels sad about something or get their feelings hurt at school-don’t try to change their mind about it. Allow them space to feel their feelings-sending the message that all of their feelings are welcome. Show your child that you have confidence that they can handle hard things. It’s not about feeling better, it’s about learning to tolerate distress. This is a big part of feeling confident and strong.
If your child is struggling with self-confidence, remember that there are always things you can do to support your child with this challenge. There are things that can impact children’s self confidence and there are ways to support children with those things. Something common like a life transition (ie. a move or a new sibling born) can temporarily impact a child’s self-confidence, while other factors like learning difficulties or a traumatic event can impact self-confidence as well, sometimes on a greater level. Depending on what may be impacting your child’s self esteem, continue to offer them opportunities to build confidence and express their feelings, and seek additional support when needed.
Cvenceka D, Greenwald A, Meltzoffab A. (2016) Implicit measures for preschool children confirm self-esteem’s role in maintaining a balanced identity. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 62: 50-57. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2015.09.015
Orth U., Robins R (2014) The Development of Self-Esteem. Current Directions in Psychological Science. 23(5): 381-387. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/264200525_The_Development_of_Self-Esteem
High self esteem is linked to later success in relationships, work and health (Orth, 2014). (Cvenceka, 2016). Self-esteem is relatively stable and the levels of (Orth, 2014). So how do we help our young ones build confidence? Well here are ways to raise confident kids from day one.