10 Simple Ways to Boost Self-confidence in Kids 1 of 11
1: Be an emotion coach
Your childs ability to identify and understand her own feelings is central to her self-confidence. Emotions and experiences are what make you feel like you and know how to deal with and connect to others. The better your child knows herself, the more tools she has for life.
Sit on your impulse to fix things or make bad feelings go away. Listen, mirror, and be empathetic without sweating how to instantly make things okay. When your preschooler is a heaping mess of tears over a change in plans, instead of immediately trying to convince her its not a big deal, make sure you first say something like, Wow, you have big feelings about that. Is it disappointing? This doesnt mean you should waver in your plans or second-guess yourself, it just means you acknowledge how it affects your child.
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2: Structure and rules
It sounds counterintuitive, but having rules and structure in the family is a major self-esteem booster for your child. Thats because when kids know who is in charge and what to expect, they begin to internalize a sense that the world is a good, safe place. Instead of wondering whats coming or how the rules might change, they can relax and spend their energies elsewhere. When you are consistent and reliable in your reactions and the systems you set up in the house, it makes your child feel secure (even though she may not act as though she likes it).
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3: Check in with your own self-image
Your child takes cues from you. Especially in the early years, she often looks to you to know how to feel about the world. Its hard to expect your child to feel happy and confident if you dont feel this way yourself. Check in with the signals youre sending about friendships, whether or not you feel valuable and in control, and your positive or negative outlook on life.
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4: The right kind of praise
Youve probably heard this one a lot recently and its good advice: dont get caught up in good jobs! and gold stars for your child at every turn. It doesnt necessarily brighten your childs self-image to hear you praise her for the outcome of her work. Its much more meaningful when you acknowledge effort, persisting in the face of challenges, or the problem-solving process your child goes through.
Kids who are praised for their effort are much more likely to try hard in the future, whereas those who are praised for getting the right answer or doing the best job are more likely to give up the minute they dont get those accolades.
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A full nights sleep is critical to your childs thinking skills, emotional regulation, and ability to get along with others — all of which affect self-esteem — not to mention her overall health. For example, preschoolers who dont sleep enough have been shown to have more behavioral problems and compromised problem-solving skills.
Toddlers ages one to three need between 12 and 14 hours of sleep, while preschoolers ages three to five need 11 to 13 hours. Its important that those hours are consistent too; over time, its better for your child to go to bed early every night and get 12 hours of sleep than it is to stay up late some nights and make up for the sleep loss with occasional longer naps.
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6: Follow her lead
Forget your agenda and watch where your childs interests take her. Your little ones self-confidence comes from following her curiosities and practicing her strengths. Challenge your child to explore, make plans, and find out more about the areas shes intrigued by or has a natural ability in.
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7: Play clueless
Instead of instructing, spend time with your child exploring and figuring things out with her (even when you already know the answer). As the developmental scientist Alison Gopnik has found, kids are much more likely to be creative and curious when adults act as if they dont necessarily have the answer and theyre discovering right along side the child.
Of course your child is constantly listening, watching, and learning from you, but make sure some of your time is spent pretending you dont know how things work either.
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8: Talk about what happens between you
Not only does it help to coach your child with her own feelings, its great to talk openly about your relationship and interactions together. For example, your child is perched on the crafts table and refuses to put her PJs on. You reach your patience limit and storm out of the room in a huff. Your little bedtime-avoiding monkey starts to cry. Go back in, sit on the floor and narrate it back to her: I think I know whats happening here. You wanted to play, and I was feeling frustrated because you werent getting ready for bed. Then I got upset and walked out of the room. It sounds like that made you upset too. So were both feeling upset now.
Blow-ups and tense moments — they will happen. Dont simply move on, but think of them as opportunities to connect with your child.
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9: Coach social skills
Navigating relationships is key to self-confidence. For example, if your child is low on impulse control or empathy and tends to hit, push, or snatch, spend time helping her see how her actions impact others and learning to check in on a friend if that friend is hurt or upset. If your child is on the other end (the snatchee or the one who gets pushed around) and tends to collapse into tears with the slightest aggression, help her stand up for herself and find a voice to say, I dont like that, Thats not fun for me, or I need space.
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10: Respect the downtime
Family life is busy, and you may be trying to help your preschooler get ahead with extracurricular activities, day trips, and so forth. But when kids have downtime, they get to create their own ideas, use imagination, and follow through on their own plans — a huge boon to self-esteem. Make it a goal for your child to be bored sometimes (and not default to watching the Cars movie). This is when some of her best work (otherwise known as play) gets done.
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