Raising a child from an infant to young adulthood is a journey filled with many milestones, but the ultimate goal is to prepare your child to thrive on his own in the world.
To do this successfully, he requires a healthy amount of self-confidence. How can parents build and nurture this confidence throughout childhood?
From the very beginning of your child’s life, stay close and connected. When you respond to your baby’s cries and cues, you are letting him know that he is loved and protected. As your baby becomes mobile, childproof your home so it is a place where he is comfortable to explore and learn.
Play often with your child, letting him take the lead. When you can give him your full attention, you are showing him that he is special and worthy of your time.
Stay involved in your older child’s life. Be supportive as he makes decisions and help him work through problems to come up with his own solutions. Trust that he can handle himself, and do not be too quick to rescue him. Remain close enough to him to be aware of what is going on in his life, but give him the freedom to make some of his own choices.
Replace words of praise with cheers of encouragement. Phrases like “good job!” or “you’re such a great kid” do not give your child feedback on her efforts, and can start to sound insincere if repeated often enough. Acknowledge your child’s effort by saying, “You have worked really hard on that.” Instead of telling her the picture she painted is amazing, comment on how much you like the colours and ask her to tell you more about it.
Encouragement allows your child to assess his own accomplishments, while praise makes him dependent on the opinion of others. He can only become self-confident when he learns to value himself without the need to seek approval.
Try not to label your child. Whether you define her as smart or forgetful, athletic or clumsy, organized or messy, your child can begin to see herself as a particular characteristic rather than as a capable, well-rounded person with unlimited potential.
Give him some responsibility. By the age of two, children can help around the house in a variety of ways. By the time he is 11 or 12, he should be able to complete any household chore. This not only teaches important life skills, but also helps him view himself as a contributing member of the family and of society. This is a key point in developing confidence.
Emphasize the importance of gratitude and looking on the bright side. Help her learn to be appreciative of what she has, and to seek the positive in any situation.
Self-confidence is strengthened when you remain your child’s biggest supporter, while gradually allowing him to take control of his own choices. When he knows that you trust him and you will be there to guide him when he needs help, he is able to feel confident in his instincts and abilities.