From the moment children are born, they develop an array of new abilities as well as the confidence to use them. They blink. They cry. They turn over. They eat. They laugh. They speak. They walk. They run. As they become older, however, they’ll need to sustain their confidence, as it will help them learn new, more difficult skills, have faith in their own abilities, understand more about their strengths and their weaknesses, and understand out how to overcome obstacles that they encounter. Instilling healthy confidence in your children is essential; above all else, it requires good communication and honesty.
Why Confidence Matters
Kids should be able to talk about themselves positively. They should know what they’re good at. They should feel good about being good at things.
“Kids should be able to say: I’m confident in these areas, because I’ve worked hard. I’ve practiced a lot. I really want to get good at this. That’s a good thing,” says Dr. Roseanne Lesack, a certified child psychologist and director of the Unicorn Children’s Foundation Clinic at Nova Southeastern University in Florida. Confident kids tie their level of effort and work into their ability. With a good dose of it, they’re more primed to excel in certain areas, be it soccer, piano, writing, or math. They’re also better discerners of they’re not good at. And, for kids with good self-esteem, understanding that has no bearing on their overall sense of self.
When to Teach Confidence
“As soon as kids are verbal and are able to express what they’re good at, you can immediately start working on their sense of confidence,” says Dr. Lesack. Having consistent conversations where parents compliment your kids and ask them what they think they did well will help them learn how to be comfortable talking about themselves, complimenting themselves, and being honest about their strengths and their shortcomings, from a very early age.
How to Model Confidence
Teaching a child confidence isn’t just a game of shouting “You’re great!” at them until they have a healthy sense of self-esteem. Modeling confident behaviors, getting to the nuts and bolts of their strengths, and making success a product of communal efforts.
What Does Teaching Confidence Look Like in Practice?
Say a child has really aced a math quiz. Their parents should compliment them for their success. They should them that they did great, yes, but then, ask them the steps it took to get them there. How did they study? Did they do something different this time than the last time? Did they pay extra attention in class, or ask questions? Did their teacher provide a lot of help and do a great job at teaching them? Talking to the child about the process of their success, complimenting them on taking those steps, pointing out what steps are replicable in case there’s a quiz down the road, and pointing out people who helped them get there, will help them feel confident in their work, and ultimately, recognize that it is not all about them.
When Confidence Becomes Arrogance
“There are different types of confidence,” says Lesack. “There’s an ideal: the confident kid, always at the front, leading, the first one to raise their hand, the one who just has that sort of stature and presence. Not every child should be that,” says Lesack. That type of confidence might work for kids who are outgoing and expressive, but the most important type of confidence doesn’t need to boast — especially when it’s not warranted. If kids don’t recognize that sometimes they might not know the answer, that they might have off days, or that occasionally, they might mess up, they might not be able to own their mistakes. And that is when confidence becomes arrogance and an unearned sense of accomplishment. Honesty is key, and parents need to foster that.
“Kids should be able to say, ‘I’m confident in these areas because I’ve worked hard, and i’ve practiced a lot, and I really want to get good at this.’ Kids also need to know what they don’t know. You don’t always want your kid to be confident. In fact, you want the opposite. Because you don’t want them to be cocky.”
Originally published on Fatherly.
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