Building Confidence in Children
By Eirian Hallinan
Are you helping or hindering your child’s self-esteem and feeling of confidence? Say your child tries to carry their bowl of food and a beaker of juice across the room, then trips and spills everything. Do you say ‘I told you not to do that! Now see what you have done!’ It is tempting but it would be much more helpful to say something like ‘Oh dear, you tried, but it didn’t work. Don’t worry. Next time you can try carrying things one by one’. This way your child is not made to feel worse than he already does for failing at trying to do something. Also, it is important to bear in mind that it is not only what your child directly hears you saying but what he also overhears you telling other people like, ‘he’s so clumsy!’ or ‘he never learns’. This can leave the child feeling that this is the absolute unchangeable truth.
It is difficult in a stressful moment when something has just been broken or spilt to take a breath, be calm and resist the urge to blurt out, ‘You’re so stupid!’ or ‘I am sick of repeating myself! You never listen!’ Do try though, to remember that too many negative words and reactions can damage children by instilling in them a sense of being stupid, useless or unvalued.
Talking negatively about yourself can also damage your child’s confidence. Children emulate their parents and adults close to them. If these adults overreact to situations or have a negative/extreme reaction to stressful circumstances, then it can lead the child to feeling that the adult cannot handle the pressures of everyday life. In turn, they too will not feel confident dealing with problems in life and will feel unequipped to tackle everyday challenges.
The following can hinder a child’s confidence:
- Aggression, using shouting and swearing
- Cruel teasing and being sarcastic to them
- Purposely making fun of your child and how he feels
- Constant nagging and criticism
- Unkind statements and insults
- Saying you wish they had never been born
- Saying you don’t love them
It makes sense to do all you can to build your child’s confidence and attitude which is positive and optimistic. Here are some ideas to do this, along with instilling in them a strong feeling of self-esteem.
- Laugh with your child but not at him
- Show your child that you believe in him to be a worthwhile and loveable human being
- Be generous with your praise and admiration.
- Reassure your child that it is ok to make mistakes, it is normal and how we all learn
- Really listen to your child so he feels he is being heard and can communicate with you
- Acknowledge his feelings so again, he feels he is being heard
- Respect your child’s interests even if they are not that interesting to you. Show a genuine interest in what is going on in their lives
- Criticise behaviour, not your child. Make it clear to him that it is the action of type of behaviour that is wrong or unacceptable not him
- Rather than disregard an anxiety by brushing it aside or not feeling it is that important, listen to your child and offer to help with any struggle he is experiencing
- Encourage your child’s independence! Let him try new things, even if he makes mistakes. The feeling of accomplishment learning to do something new can accelerate the child’s confidence
- Focus on your child’s achievements and successes in their lives not the things they are less successful at
- A damaged, unconfident child could possibly benefit from CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy)
These tips can help your child grow into a resilient, confident individual who feels equipped to cope with the challenges and pressures of life. A strong and confident adult has a better chance of happiness, as he has the foundations to grab life courageously and live it to the full without being hampered by unhelpful feelings of negativity and self-doubt.