It’s fair to say that every healthy parent wants their child to be confident. Self-confidence is not taught in school (if anything, it’s eroded there). So it’s our job as parents to build our children up so they can face the cruel world out there.
Here’s a list of 5 simple things you can do to boost your child’s self-confidence.
1) Look them in the eye.
Far too often, when we’re really upset with our children, we tell them “Look me in the eye,” and begin to tear into them about how disappointed we are in their behavior. This creates a lasting visual in our child’s memory. So every once in a while, switch it up. If you catch your child doing something good, use the same technique. Call her into the room, using all three names. When she gets close (probably wondering what she did wrong), get down on her level, tell her to look you in the eye, smile, and say something like, “I am so proud of you. I saw what you just did. You made a good choice and I just wanted to let you know I appreciate that and I love you very much.”
2) Tell them who they are.
Affirm the natural talents you see in your child. It does something special for your child to hear positive statements about their abilities directly from you. No one’s opinion—no coach, teacher, friend, classmate, or neighbor—matters more than yours. If you notice that your daughter is excellent at throwing a football, tell her. If you walk in as your son is nailing an arabesque, say, “Wow, you’re an amazing dancer.” And calling him by the title “dancer” allows him to picture being in that actual role. Now, rather than just thinking, “I like to dance,” he can see farther down the road, and think, “Hey, I could be a dancer.”
3) Be honest.
We all know the phrase “kids can be cruel.” Children don’t really have an edit button. They are blunt, they point out the obvious, and sometimes they can be pretty mean about it. To be clear, this point is not about being honest with your child. Be honest with yourself. Take the rose colored glasses off and look at your child. If little Jimmy has one gigantic nostril and one he can barely breathe through, you might want to start reinforcing his self-confidence in this area. I’m not saying that you should point it out to him, but maybe you should go out of your way to point out cool unique traits on other people. “Wow, Eddie Murphy has a really nice smile. He has a gap. That’s pretty cool and unique.” It may feel weird, but you’re building a foundation of comebacks for your child. So when Billy’s classmate says, “Your eyebrows are crooked,” his response will be, “Yeah, but I like them. Their unique,” instead of immediately bursting into tears and running home.
4) Seek to Understand Before Seeking Understanding.
Our kids intentions are often far different from the outcome of their actions. Many times their attempts at independence, kindness, and scientific discovery, just look to us like a huge attempt to destroy our work or our clean home. Few things can crush a child’s self-confidence faster than getting yelled at for doing something they thought was a good thing. So as tempting as it is to immediately fly off the handle when you see red and yellow flowers drawn all over your work presentation, it will serve you well to train yourself to breathe before you react. Even if it’s through clenched teeth, ask, “What were you trying to do?” Trust me, when she replies, “you had a sad face when you were working so I thought the flowers would make you happy,” you will thank yourself for taking the time to understand her intentions.
5) Avoid limiting keywords.
A great way to boost your child’s self-esteem is to eliminate the words “just” and “too” when describing them or others. These words undermine truths about a child’s value and identity, and quickly turn a compliment into criticism. Hear the difference between, “Maurice is smart,” and “Beatrice is too smart.” By simply adding “too” it implies that maybe being smart isn’t such a good thing. Imagine what happens internally when you say to your son, “You’re too little to pour your own juice; you’re just 3.” In my house the rule is “you’re not too anything, and you’re not just anything.” This rule is applied outside our home, as well. I always immediately correct adults who say my daughter is “too tall.” I smile at her and say, “Yes, she is beautifully tall.”
There are many more ways that I will add in the future, but these should give you a good start. Test them out and let me know how it goes. If you have any to add, feel free to respond in the comments. 🙂