Every parent has their own idea about what it means to have a child who turns out “well.” In this article we present ideas about how you can use this relationship to help your child develop skills and personal qualities that are linked to learning to be self-confident.
Self-confidence and self-belief
A child whose self-belief is positive values the person he sees when he looks inside and carries this sense of well-being with him in every situation.
Self-confidence and self-belief are effective ways to protect your child from other children who belittle them, helps them stand up to peers who are tempting them with drugs or alcohol, helps them say no to verbal abuse from others, and helps them form healthy and rewarding friendships and relationships.
It is our role as parents to help our child find inner feelings of confidence and believe in themselves. Anita Landau Hurtig, a pediatric psychologist remarks “no one can build a child’s self-esteem the way a parent can.”
Making your child feel special is one of your most important tasks. You can help foster self-confidence and self-belief in little doses at any given moment of the day. The opportunities are endless.
1. Build self-confidence during play with your child
- When you take the time to play with your child you are saying “you are worth my time” and “I like being with you.”
- How can you take a step out of your busy world to spend more time with your child?
2. Show and tell them that they are important
When was the last time you told your child “there’s nothing I’d rather do today than spend time with you” or “I’m so proud you’re my daughter”.
Record some of the positive statements that you can convey to your child. Allow the voice of your feelings to be heard.
- Example: “I’m so proud you’re my daughter”
- Example: “I’m glad you came with me today. It’s a lot of fun being with you.”
What messages do you reflect to your child?
Are they predominantly positive or negative?
Do you give them the idea that they are fun to be with, valued, that their opinion matters, that their behaviour pleases you?
3. Respect your child’s opinions and offer them choices
Consider your child opinion carefully, ask about their reasons for that opinion, and let them know that you respect their judgement.
- When your child has an opinion that differs from yours, how do you respond?
- What choices can you offer your child? Children feel good about deciding things themselves (e.g. which shirt to put on). They feel grown-up and important if they have a say in things.
Note: Offer choices that you have approved beforehand and/or can deal with what the child decides on.
4. Make your home free of put-downs
You can’t protect your children from all of the possible confidence-breakers that they may encounter outside of the home but you can make your home a safe haven where they are encouraged to believe positive things about themselves.
How can you make your home a safe zone, free of put-downs?
- ban put-downs, especially that older siblings direct toward younger siblings
- teach your children that you expect to pull each other up rather than put each other down
- as your child matures, encourage them to become involved with people and activities outside of the home which influence what they believe about themselves (e.g. sports)
5. Help children discover their special something
Every child has a special something, a talent that if encouraged and nurtured blossoms into skills that bring them pleasure and contribute to self-esteem.
For example, athletics benefit a child’s self-confidence for a host of reasons: playing on a team fulfills their need to belong to something bigger than themselves, they all work together toward common goals, they learn and master skills. Research shows that the longer kids stay in sports, the more likely they are to stay in school, get better grades, have higher self-esteem and have fewer behavioural problems.
Register your child in different activities (e.g. sports, music, arts) and allow them to discover what they like and don’t like.
Dr. Robert Currie, a psychologist and expert in this area, suggests that parents make a point of acknowledging such traits as honesty, courage, insight, and creativity, heaping on praise where praise is due, noting that “it only takes twenty seconds to make someone’s day.”
6. Teach your child that value doesn’t depend on performance
It’s important that children perceive that their value is not tied to their performance or to fulfilling your expectations. Trying to live up to unrealistic parental expectations sets up a child for failure and those feelings of failure will become part of their beliefs about themselves.
Be sure your words and actions let your child know you love her because of who she is not because of what she can do. Let them know you expect them to do their best no less and no more and you love them no matter what. Your child’s self-image should not rest on how well or how poorly she succeeds in gaining approval by means of achievements or compliant behaviors. The foundation of true self-esteem is the sense of being accepted, loved, and enjoyed by the parents exactly as he, the child, is.
What words or actions can you incorporate into your daily interactions that let your child know you love them and enjoy being with them? What words or actions convey that you think they are great no matter what their accomplishments are?
Suggestion: Encouraging words
- You can do it!
- Great job!
- Way to go!
- Yes, you can!
- Great idea!
- I knew you could!
- You can handle that!
- Keep it up!
Note: When you are praising your child, be specific and sincere. For example, Dr. Linda Dunlop suggests “when looking at a drawing that your child made, tell him or her exactly what it is about the drawing that appeals to you. Say ‘I love the colours you used’ or ‘You have a special way of looking at things.’ ”
For more information the following resources may be helpful.
- Intimacy: The Art of Relationships. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/196912/intimacy-the-art-relationships
- Parenting Resources and Support. Government of Canada. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/health-promotion/childhood-adolescence/parent/parenting-resources-support.html
- Healthy Families BC. https://www.healthyfamiliesbc.ca/parenting
- Growing Healthy Canadians: A Guide For Positive Development.
- What do I need to know about getting a divorce? https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/life-events/divorce/family-justice/family-law/separation-divorce/what-do-i-need-to-know-about-getting-a-divorce
- Families Change: A Guide to Separation and Divorce. https://www.familieschange.ca/
- Relationships – Tips For Success. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/Relationships-tips-for-success