5 Ways to Raise More Confident Kids

Concern for children’s self-esteem is fairly new. Today, it is one of the biggest worries parent’s have about their child. In fact, Google finds over 7 million sites addressing children and self-esteem!

Our greater focus on protecting and increasing kids self-esteem is misguided. I think kids actually struggle more with self-confidence than self-esteem. I’m going to explore how parents can do less esteem protecting, so their kids can do more confidence building.

Self-esteem versus Self-confidence:

Of course, a child feeling accepted, loved, and worthwhile is important. Don’t young children naturally feel good about themselves? Kids seem to have this innate ability to know they are loved and to give love freely in return.

I know my kids initiate affection without any reservation. Where adults may evaluate the timing and response when giving affection, kids don’t. My kids don’t stop to ask themselves if it is a good time to give mom or dad a hug, they just do.

If self-esteem is the ability to feel loved, then what is self-confidence? If you are confident, you are sure of yourself. Confidence focuses more on being sure of one’s abilities, skills, and self.

I don’t know anyone, kids or adults, who feel confident 100% of the time. Yet, I’m continually surprised by how many children’s problems resolve themselves when parents, including myself, leave the problem alone.

My kids are even great at reminding me that “they can do (something) themselves.” They may remind me with their words, while they also freely show me with snarls and actions. Either way, they have a great way of showing me when I’m stepping into their territory.

Don’t we all need to struggle when we are learning something new? Why do we feel the need to rescue our kids from their learning? I think it all goes back to worrying about our kids’ happiness and self-esteem too much.

5 Ways to Raise More Confident Kids:

So, if a child is unsure of their ability to manage their feelings or solve their own problems, what do we do? I think Lady Bird Johnson was right on when she said,“Children are likely to live up to what we believe of them.” In my family, the more I treat my kids as helpless, the more they act helpless. The good news is, it is never to late to self-correct and get back on track by doing less, so our kids can do more.

Here are 5 ways that parents can raise more confident children:

Recognize your own worries. Although they may focus on different areas, we all have worries. Even with the best of intentions, we may project our fears onto our kids. For instance, if you have a hard time with criticism, rejection, and disappointment, you may worry how your kids will handle the same things.

In turn, you may leak your worries about being well-liked onto your child: “Don’t say or do that, kids may not like you.” Once you recognize your own fears, you can learn to be less leaky with them: “Sorry sweetie, that is mommy’s fear. True friends like you even when you make mistakes. We all make them, even mommy.”

Decide who owns the problem. Each person is responsible for their own thoughts, feelings, and actions. If you are unsure, ask yourself: is the problem something only my child can change?

If it’s not your problem, can you leave it alone? I mean not even poke at it – I know it’s hard!

Coach them in problem solving. On the other hand, when your child comes to you with a problem they are struggling with, restrain yourself from fixing it for them. As long as your child is safe, this can be a great coaching opportunity. What does your child think the solution is? What have they tried?

Most of the time, I find my child has already solved the problem before coming to me. Or, at least the problem has evaporated for the moment. They have nothing to complain about when they realize they have already solved it.

Don’t overuse advice giving. When a child is stuck in problem solving, “I don’t know” likely means they are unsure. Kids will become sure when they have lots of opportunities to try solving their problems.

Giving our kids advice doesn’t help them solve their own problems. It’s ok to give kids ideas and suggestions, yet I try to use them sparingly. Usually when I am pressed for time and low on energy!

Praise effort not outcome. Kids may not always succeed as they try their solutions. Teach them that the outcome doesn’t matter as much as their effort and hard work. It may take multiple attempts to learn something new.

I know it’s hard to see kids struggle. In my family, it is usually fleeting. I can out worry any of my kids. They are over it before I am. They have solved it and moved on. And, if it is not fleeting, it takes more work on my part to internally remind myself that some learning takes longer than I expect it to.

For some parents, this is going to be a new way to think about parenting. I want to hear your perspective. How can you do less, so your child can do more? When do you see your children solving their own problems?

Photo Credits: Woodley Wonderworks

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15 responses to “5 Ways to Raise More Confident Kids

  1. Marci, there is so much value in this post. I have to admit that reading the five ways you list is much easier than practicing them. It’s so good that you point out how we may project our own worries, I’m sure I do, because this is not the first thing that comes to mind when we’re deep in worry. My pitfalls as a parent almost always boil down to over-protectiveness. This instinct to wrap my child in a cocoon, which I know is a bad idea, is a real struggle for me. Maybe that’s what makes it all so interesting!

  2. Great tips! I think self-esteem and self-confidence are very interchangeable. Esteem is not just “feeling loved” but also “loving yourself,” and more specifically “thinking you are valuable.” Confidence is self-efficacy, and “feeling you are capable.” Both are interdependent on each other. One of my fav. books is “Six Pillars of Self-Esteem” by Nathaniel Branden, who was a student of Ayn Rand.

  3. I hear you Belinda. Writing about what I think is one of the ways I keep these ideas in the front of my head. The calmer I am, the more I can apply my thoughts to my everyday life. I imagine most moms have a “mother-bear-protect-your-young” instinct in them. It’s having a choice and slowing down my instincts (when they are safe) that I work on.

  4. Hello Marci, this is excellent stuff. I am a grandmother now so I’ll pass this blog on to my children. They are confident adults and I have gratefully congragulated myself on keeping well out of their lives until they asked me in. I especially felt always that we underestimate kids. Kids ought to be treated like honoured foreigners who don’t speak our language very well and are getting used to our strange customs and expectations.

    Ever time they asked I would give them honest answers, be it sex, God or the kids next door. While they didn’t, I didn’t offer. When they asked to do things I may have felt were too much for them ‘at their age’ I let them try, holding my heart in my hand. If they weren’t ready, they’d never repeat the experience until much later. But I’m sure they grew tremendously with the effort.

    I think the pendulum has swung too much the other way. From my childhood, overprotected and controlled kids to underprotected and not controlled at all they are now overfreed and yet controlled. A paradox no kid can cope with, I think.

    I also believe that children need limits to feel secure. They’ll push the limites outward more and more as they feel ready.

    Then I sometimes think (coming back to underestimating them) that our kings of old and their knights in shiny armour, the Lancelots, were between 16 and 20 years old, girls married at 13 and knights were apprendiced to their Lords for sward practice and the like at between 5 and 7. Ok, they all died probably before they reached 35 but that’s not the point. The point is that they were very capable and of course, as all youn people, immortal. Today they have to try each other’s strength in rather unhealthy ways. I beg for more sports facilities, intellectual challenge, pushing them into achieving their own potential.

    I would like to suggest that they get into scrapes most of the time – and from a very young age – because they are underchallenged and bored.

    • Rosmarie, I love how you describe kids as foreigners trying to learn our language and customs! I think we underestimate kids and parents both.

      For me, it’s about slowing down and thinking and choosing what to leave alone and what to limit. I decided not to remind my 6 year old all the steps to get ready for school today, and guess what? She knew what to do. And, I knew what to do to have a more relaxing morning too. More posts to write…

  5. This is an excellent post, and very timely for me. I’ve just been working on the opening of a memoir, in which I mention that in the 1950s, no one cared much about how kids felt about themselves. Or if they did care, they seldom discussed or showed it.

    Your tips are well thought out and sensitive. I especially like “praise for effort, not outcome.”

    I’d also like to add to Rosemarie’s wishes for kids today that they have more arts facilities and opportunities.

  6. Hi Marci! This is a very informative post. I believe self-esteem and self-confidence are both super important for kids. I believe I overuse advice giving with my kids and I do too much problem solving for them. I’m very good at the praising effort though. 🙂 This post was an eye-opener. My kids are pretty much grown but it’s never to late, right?

    Thanks for a wonderful post! Loving blessings!

    • Never too late indeed! My parenting role started only 6 years ago, but I imagine I’m up for a lifetime of parenting – even if that means getting out of the way 🙂

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