6 Tips for Raising Truly Confident Kids

6 Tips for Raising Truly Confident Kids

Parents want their children to be self-assured; here’s smart advice to make it happen.

By Judy Koutsky

You see it all the time in groups of children: Some kids are shy, some are followers, and some are simply confident in who they are. They may not be the coolest or smartest kids, but they're super comfortable in their own skin, which makes other kids want to be
around them.

But why is it so important to raise confident kids? “The components of confidence -- which are really competence and resilience -- drive success and satisfaction in life, both as a child and long term as an adult,” says John Duffy, a psychologist and author of The Available Parent.

Thankfully, as the parent, you have the tools to bolster your kids’ confidence. Here, experts weigh in.

1. Let your child lead. As a parent, you want the best for your children, and watching them do something incorrectly or struggling to do it right may make you want to jump in. “These tactics are a show of no confidence in your child, and the message she will hear (despite what you say) is, ‘I don't think you can handle it,’ ‘You're not competent or resilient enough, so you need me to do for you,’” says Duffy. Instead, give your child space to figure things out on her own. You can be there if she needs help, but only if she asks.

2. Hear your child out. Kids are constantly trying to navigate their own challenges – academic, social, or otherwise -- and often, they’ll use their parents as a sounding board. “Confident kids just need an ear more often than not,” says Duffy. “They are not looking for a parent to problem-solve for them.” Just listen, and don’t necessarily give your advice or feedback unless it’s requested. It’s hard to do, but listening is really important to allow your children room to make decisions (both good and bad) and grow confident in their decision-making ability.

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3. Hold the bar high. “I've worked with parents who think it’s best not to have a high expectation bar, but by lowering your expectation level, kids will not try as hard,” says Duffy. “If we show how little faith we have in them, they will act accordingly.” If you maintain a high bar, your child has the opportunity to feel a sense of accomplishment for reaching goals.

4. Let your child pursue his passion -- even if you don’t get it. You’d really love for him to play a musical instrument, but he’s into drama. Letting him pursue the hobby that he loves will lead to confidence. When you love an activity, you tend to practice and participate in it more, which generally makes you better. (Plus, you learn a lot in the process.) Letting your child pursue what he loves sends the message that you believe in him. You send the message that you may not understand his passion, but you trust him and his instincts.


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5. Don’t make them your mini-me. By constantly telling them what to do and how to do it, according to your standard and your image, it undermines your children’s confidence in their own ability to learn and make good choices. “In that circumstance, many children develop a sense of learned helplessness and become passive, waiting for direction and praise at every turn,” says child psychologist Ginny Trierweiler, PhD. If your child knows you love tennis, she may wonder if she should join the tennis team. Try and get her to make the decision on her own by asking questions like, “Do you like tennis? What do you think are the pros and cons of trying out?”

6. Embrace opportunities to teach them resilience. Being able to overcome physical, emotional, or social challenges is one of the best ways to build confidence in kids. They’re going to be dealing with adversity all their lives. Sometimes they’ll succeed, and sometimes they will fail, but learning how to pick themselves up and keep moving forward is one of the most valuable skills they can learn.

How has your child learned confidence?

Judy Koutsky is the former Editorial Director of KIWI magazine, a green parenting publication. She was also Executive Editor of Parenting.com, AOL Parent and BabyTalk.com. Follow her on Twitter @JudyKoutsky.

Image ©iStock.com/CEFutcher

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