There are so many things that I want for my children. I want them to be in good health, have empathetic hearts, be independent in their play and exploration, and show kindness in every gesture and thought. And while this is true of all the caregivers out there, beyond those values, one simple yet complex word comes to mind: confidence.
From my wise adult perch, the kids’ confidence seemed simply because I was well aware of the benefits. But on the other hand, confidence is complicated because I know how easily it can be lost. Even at this (most) basic and secure point in my life, all it takes is a less-than-positive interaction with a friend or a work project that I don’t feel certain about. (or really, whatever) for a shaky foundation.
But in those moments when my confidence is tested, I have emotional and practical tools to keep myself grounded. Yes, even if I want to kneel. So the question arises: How can I best instill confidence in my children?
Featured image of Hannah Haston.
It’s a careful balance to take my kids’ road bumps seriously — without taking them lightly. therefore seriously that I send them into a spiral of anxiety. I want to provide them with thoughtful strategies and insightful advice, encouraging them to play to their strengths. There are parts of their relationship that they can control and parts they can’t. I want them to understand the difference.
But while I’m extending the ropes and (bit by bit) letting them practice independence, I still want to prepare lunch for them until they’re 30. And I like to include Post-It notes to remind them how unique and special they are.
And, perhaps most notably, I wanted to disconnect from the Internet and hide our phones. (Especially lately, take a deep breath.)
But I can only do half of it. Acknowledging there was only so much I could do as a parent, I reached out to Austin-based licensed family therapist and board-certified art therapist, Carolyn Mehlomakulu for guidance. Her gentle guide and professional advice.
Keep reading to learn Carolyn’s wisdom and insights on how to help your child build confidence, practice authenticity, and, little by little, learn to thrive.
What are the signs of a child with a healthy sense of confidence?
When a child experiences healthy confidence, they can:
- Realize what they’re good at.
- Know that they have positive qualities.
- Willing to try new things.
- Show determination in a challenging task.
- It is possible to continue from mistakes or failures.
Children with healthy self-esteem also tend to have a growth mindset. They realize that they can learn new things and improve through practice and hard work.
What are the signs that they may be suffering from low self-esteem?
Signs of low self-confidence may include:
- Make negative comments about yourself.
- Hesitancy to try new things or expect them to fail.
- Give up easily when faced with difficulties.
- Having trouble identifying any of their strengths or positive qualities.
Contrary to a growth mindset, less confident kids may have the opposite: a fixed mindset. This means they believe their abilities are fixed or unchangeable, so they struggle to realize that they can improve things. In relationships, low self-esteem can also lead to unpopular behavior or being overly influenced by what others think.
Why do children need healthy self-esteem?
Self-esteem is important for general health and mental health. If a child doesn’t feel good about themselves, they’ll often have problems associated with depression, anxiety, or anger. Children with healthy self-esteem also tend to have better relationships with others (both as children and as they get older).
In relationships, children with low self-esteem tend to become bullies trying to make themselves feel better or indecisive and mistreated by others. Self-esteem also plays an important role in learning and trying new things. A child with healthy self-esteem is more likely to engage in challenging activities and work hard.
How do children develop self-esteem?
Self-esteem begins with unconditional love and strong attachment in the parent-child relationship. It continues to evolve through the experiences people have and the feedback they receive from others. When a child has experiences such as being able to successfully do something, complete an activity or learn something new, they build their self-esteem and sense of competence. When children receive feedback from others about the positive qualities they have, this also helps develop self-esteem and identity.
What are some ways parents can help boost their child’s self-esteem?
- Provides the foundation of unconditional love and active care. Children develop better self-esteem when they feel that they are loved and accepted no matter what by their parents or caregivers.
- Praise should be specific and tied to examples. When you see your child doing well, reflect back specifically on what you see and what it means. Vague, general statements like “well done” are not as powerful as specific statements like “you were so kind when you shared your toys”.
- Acknowledge both achievements and efforts. Point out and praise them when you see them working hard, trying their best or not giving up. Those growth mindset skills are essential to healthy self-esteem.
- Reflect back to your child the many positive qualities you see in them and share with them what you feel makes them unique. Look for opportunities to point out strengths such as humour, creativity, kindness, determination, curiosity, etc.
- Balance negative criticism or feedback with lots of positive comments or interactions. Sometimes, parents are too focused on pointing out what needs to be fixed or fixed, leading to children feeling that they are always messing things up. Some recommend trying to give your child a ratio of five positive comments or interactions for each negative feedback or redirect you need to give.
- Model yourself and positively accept the way you talk about yourself. When parents talk about themselves negatively or make critical comments about themselves, it teaches their children how to be self-critical. Instead, parents can model healthy self-esteem by talking about why their child’s mistakes are OK. Instead of making negative comments about themselves, they can encourage themselves to speak for themselves and engage in activities they may not be the best at.
- Take the time to really listen. Whether your child is talking to you about a problem they have, sharing their favorite concern, or voicing an opinion about something, stop what you’re doing. Giving them your full attention for a few minutes is a great way to let your kids know they’re worth your time. Doing so can confirm their unique preferences and let them know that their thoughts and opinions are valuable.
- Give your child plenty of opportunities to try new things and encourage them when they get stuck. This allows your child to have experiences that will build healthy self-esteem and help them learn about themselves.
- Help your child develop healthy friendships. Do what you can to gently cultivate positive friendships, support your child by hosting play sessions at home with active friends, or involve your child in activities they will enjoy. meet people who are like them or have similar interests. If you are concerned that your child has a friend who is hurting their self-esteem, talk to your child about your concerns, how they deserve to be treated, and ways they can be assertive. Stand up for yourself.
How can social media negatively impact a child’s confidence?
Social media seems to be most harmful (for both children and adults) when it leads to patterns of comparing yourself to others. The things we post on social media often reveal a distorted, more positive version of our lives. We selectively publish achievements, show off the cool things we’re doing, use filters to improve our looks, etc.
When someone compares their ordinary life to a filtered, idealized version of someone, that negative comparison can often hurt self-esteem. Social media also seems to damage children’s self-esteem when it leads to problems like cyberbullying. Without social media, a child who was bullied at school could at least leave it behind when they get home for the day. But social media and technology can mean that bullying continues even outside of school, making it even harder to cope.
However, the impact of social media and technology on children’s self-esteem is not all negative. Technology can have a positive effect on children’s self-confidence as it allows them to make positive friendships, pursue interests and learn new skills, and connect with the communities in which they belong. related (especially if they feel different or neglected at school).
What books would you recommend if a caregiver wanted to learn more about how to support their child’s confidence?
Two great books that I recommend are How to talk so kids will listen and listen So kids will talk and Trap auto-suggestion.
Are there any resources you recommend to kids if they’re feeling low?
I would recommend books on growth mindset and self worth. These are great for encouraging kids and building self-esteem. You can find a few of my favorites below.