18 Easy Ways to Build Confidence in Your Children
There are so many things in our world tod1ay that are vying for our children’s attention. There’s movies and shows made for children that are marinated in the superficial, sprinkled with jokes that are so not age-appropriate, and filled with unattainable images. The messages of the media and Hollywood are all around us, and they undoubtedly impact our children.
These silent – and sometimes loud – messages are succeeding and they’re resulting in children who have broken perspectives. In 2015 researchers found that more than half of young girls and one-third of young boys, both ages 6 to 8, believe that they should be thinner than they are. I’m not sure if you’ve seen the average 6 to 8 year old lately, but… pardon me while my heart cracks into powdered pieces! An even older study showed from the years 1999 to 2006 hospitalizations for eating disorders in children, ages 12 and under, spiked by 119%!!! From 2007 to 2016, the rate of suicide in children between ages 10 and 14 doubled. In 2017, statistics confirmed that every five days there is one child under the age of 13 who commits suicide. And now in 2018 it’s reported that suicide takes our youths lives more than automobile accidents do.
These stats shouldn’t be normal, and I see no reason why they should keep rising. I think as parents we 100% can make a difference if we just take the time to make a change.
So, here are 19 easy ways that you can do just that and help boost your child’s confidence – not merely in themselves, but also in you, their parent, and in the God who created them:
1. Be the Example They Need
If we’re honest, regardless how much we try to protect them, they’ll get outside pressures at some point or another. While it’s normal that those pressures come from their peers, as well as the media, I’ve noticed that now a lot of kids are getting this stuff from their parents, too. They hear us talking poorly about our bodies, about our beauty or what we see as a lack-of. They see us concerned with the superficial (celebrities, social media, flat stomachs, etc.) and the material (shopping, make-up, cars, vacations, etc.). The music we listen to, what we watch, the clothes we choose to wear – they see/hear it all.
Like any parent knows, children are sponges and our behavior and our concerns are what can become normal in their perception of the world and of themselves. Rather than ushering these silly worries into their lives, we should protect them from what can potentially become crippling, lifelong struggles. With the statistics on suicide, eating disorders, depression and anxiety on the rise in our children’s generations, we’ve got to get a grip on this stuff. Rather than being burden-givers, let us strive to be burden-lifters.
We’ve all probably experienced the horror of witnessing our children copy our bad habits, so we’re well aware of their ability to adopt our flaws. If you talk poorly about yourself, if you’re consumed with frivilous things, if you’re mean to people, if you let your anger control you, if you speak harshly to them or their father, what do you think all of this is teaching them? I encourage you to be an example of grace, of mercy, of love, self-control, compassion, selflessness and positivity. We can show our kids the right way to live. It’s a whole lot of work and a huge weight to carry, but it’s good for us, just as much as it’s good for them.
We can give them an example of a better way to live. In the process we’ll lift burdens from their backs that should have never been there to begin with.
2. Be a Parent
Now this might sound silly, but it’s totally possible to be a parent by name, but not by practice. I’m sure we’ve all witnessed and heard of parents who let down too soon, who loosen up too much, and in the end they unintentionally do harm to their children.
As a result, children are growing up without structure, which ultimately breeds a whole lot of undesirable qualities – bleh. Discipline is non-existent, consistency is out the window, respect is not expected and they’re basically left to parent themselves (if that’s even humanly possible). Rather than raising their children up, they leave them to figure life out on their own.
I’m sure these parents don’t go into this parenting style expecting that they’d steal confidence from their children, but essentially that’s what happens. Children need boundaries, they need order and they need discipline. Study after study has found that children thrive in homes that give them structure, which produces a sense of security and predictability. Through set rules, boundaries and loving discipline we provide structure for our children.
3. Be Consistent
I think everyone has had that one friend who is just straight-up unpredictable. They’re sometimes on-time, other times they leave you hanging for literally hours – or they never show. Other times they’re enthusiastic and funny, next thing you know they’re upset and irritable. One moment they’ve got a steady job that has total career-potential, next thing you know Facebook reveals they’re backpacking through the Appalachian mountains for a year – like what is going on! I’m not sure about you, but as much as I love those friends, I’ve learned I can’t really put my trust in them and I definitely can’t depend on them.
This is exactly what our children can feel when we’re parents who lack consistency. Whether it be a lack of consistency in our discipline, in our love, in our grace or in our expectations – inconsistency breeds insecurity in our children.
If you’re a scatter-brain like me, then it takes some good thinking sessions to figure out exactly how you want to go about this whole parenting stuff. Figure out how you’re going to function in your home and stick to it – of course being flexible where change is required (cause we do make mistakes and get it wrong sometimes).
If you tell your kids that if they do x, y or z that consequence A is going to go down, then when x, y or z happens you better rain some consequence A on them kids. You need to be a woman of your word. The last thing you need is to appear to your children as someone who doesn’t mean what they say. Where’s the trust or security in that? If you want your word to mean anything, then stick to your word and be consistent- don’t change things up all the time, lay some hard ground rules that stand true through and through.
As I stated before, studies have given us an overwhelming heap of evidence that children thrive best when they have a predictable foundation in their life – structure = security/confidence.
4. Be their Safe Place
Building trust in any relationship is such a fragile thing. Someone can prove to be reliable 100 times over, but the moment they let you down once, everything can change.
When it comes to dealing with our children’s hearts, this is true, too. We have to prove to them, time and time again, that we are a safe place for their fears, for their emotions, for their dreams. If we don’t listen to them, if we write off what they’re feeling, if we tell them they shouldn’t feel what they do or call them names, we will not be seen as a place of comfort for our children to run to in time of need.
When children feel a sense of security in their home, knowing that they are heard and accepted, it does so much for their confidence. They not only grow a confidence in themselves (because they know they’re loved), but they grow a confidence in you, their parent. I’m not sure about you, but I want my children to think of me when something is going on, and to have the comfort to talk with me, regardless what it may be, and know that I am on their side, I’ve got their back and that I’ll tell them the truth.
Be a safe place for your children. If you’ve made some mistakes here, it isn’t too late. Apologize – and you’ll be surprised how quickly they’ll be willing to forgive – and begin the process of earning their trust again and becoming a place they know they can rely on in anything.
5. Give the Right Kind of Compliments
It may be a surprise, but there is a right and a wrong way to compliment your children. Studies have proven that if you go about this the wrong way, you can actually end up doing harm, rather than good.
So, what is the right way to compliment your children? Follow these few basic prinicples:
- Be Real About It
Don’t be fake. Your child might not get it at first, but they’re pretty smart – I’m sure after awhile they’ll catch on to whether you’re being real or not. So, compliment them when there’s actually something to be complimented. If you’re like me, compliments aren’t something you’re used to giving a whole lot, so it might take a little more effort and intentionality for you, and that’s fine. Whether giving compliments comes naturally to you or not, whatever you do, just be real.
- Get face-to-face
Rather than giving your children a verbal pat on the back while you’re occupied, get eye-to-eye with them. Make eye contact and then verbalize your affirmations. This allows you to affirm them with your whole person, not just your words. While your words uplift them, your body language shows them, I see you, I’m paying attention to you, and this is for you – no one else.
- Be intentional with your words
The words you use to affirm your children will be different depending what stage of life they’re in. For infants you might use sounds, like coos, to show your agreement with what they’re doing – whether they’re being a champ at tummy time or holding their head up for the first time. As children get older you want to use words that highlight the character traits they displayed in what they did, or your empathy for what they were feeling. For instance, your child may have tried to feed themselves, but they just can’t seem to get a piece of food in their mouths. You can say, “I love your determination to learn how to use the fork, you’re doing a great job. How about mama helps you just a bit and you can use your hands to eat these berries?“
- Highlight their strengths in times of negativity
No one’s perfect at anything and as humans we tend to focus on our shortcomings and our failures – same goes with our kids. Don’t let your little one be ridden with lies or feel like everything they do is wrong or like they’re not good enough (when they say things like, “I can’t do anything right” and “I suck at this”). Instead, highlight their strengths in their moments of negativity. If they’re doing their homework and got all but one or two right, perhaps say, “Those darn two problems! Why you gotta be so hard? But look, you got 8 right! That’s so good! Let’s try to tackle the other two again.”
- Don’t focus solely on their successes
Not that you shouldn’t congratulate your child when they achieve something, but also give notice to their character during the process. By giving them recognition and affirming words throughout their journey, you’ll help them to not be so focused on whether they succeed or not. This helps for when they do fail, rather than being so consumed with the end result, they perhaps will be able to appreciate all it took to get them there and what they learned and overcame on the way.
6. Teach Them to Be Resilient
This goes hand-in-hand with some of the compliment “strategies” above.
I think we’ve all heard about the “everyone gets a trophy” world so many kids are living in these days. I think we’ve all seen “helicopter” parents and the “I do everything for my kids” parents, too. A lot of these methods actually teach our children lessons that are in opposition to resilience. It gives them a warped view of the world, and when they come face-to-face with real life, because they will, they’re simply unprepared and lack confidence to overcome them.
Here are a few things you can do to help your children be resilient:
- Show them what resilience looks like
Rather than just demanding that your child be resilient, why don’t you show them what it looks like? There’s nothing like the real-life, lived out example that parents can provide their children. Often we demand things with our words, but our actions contradict us time and time again. Kids catch on to all that, so get yourself together and model for them throughout your life what it is to be resilient.
- Let them make mistakes
Rather than coming to save the day all the time, or doing everything to ensure they don’t fail, let them make mistakes. It’s through making mistakes that they have the opportunity to think critically about what to do next. So, you find them video gaming it up and you know they have an exam the next day (and you’ve already encouraged them to study), don’t say anything more. Just let them play and when the next day comes they’ll experience that terrible feeling of going into a test unprepared. And you know what? Good. Next time maybe they’ll go about things differently and study – hoping they’ve learned from their mistake. And whatever you do, don’t rub your child’s failure in their face. No “I told you so“s or “That’s what you get“s. None of that nonsense. Simply say, “Oh man, your grade definitely shows you didn’t study for your test. How are you going to fix that moving forward?” This brings us to the next point…
- Stop asking “why” questions
What I mean by this is when they make a mistake, don’t ask them “why.” When I was young and I did some stupid things – say for instance I was hyper and running around and broke something. If my parents asked me, “why did you break this” the best answer they’d get is, “well… because I was hyper and couldn’t contain all my emotions and so I let them out in an interpretive dance.” That’s not really what they were going for, but hey, it’s the truth. So, to avoid the duh answers to your “why” questions, replace it with a “how” So, say it’s the same situation as above. Instead my parents ask, “How do you plan to handle your hyperness moving forward so this doesn’t happen again?” It would allow me to think about my mistake and figure out a solution for future hyper moods. I could answer something like, “Well, I guess I shouldn’t dance in the dining room anymore since there’s a lot of fragile things in there, and I’ll leave all that goodness for my room where nothing valuable can be broken since everything’s made of plastic and covered in all the stuffed animals I have.” Lol.
- Allow appropriate risks in their life
When you parent like a helicopter, you really rob your child the ability to be resilient. When we give our children appropriate freedoms for their age and stage of life, we give them the opportunity to learn limits for themselves. For instance, when I was about six years old my mom heated a curling iron to use on her bangs (early 90’s action) and she left it on and propped it on the counter next to her bathroom sink. She had to use the restroom, and as she was walking away she told me, “Vanessa, do not touch that. It’s hot, you’ll burn yourself.” My mom very well could have unplugged the curling iron – though she wasn’t done using it – doused it in ice cold water so to remove all the heat, and tucked it away in a shelf she can only reach by using a stepping stool. But she didn’t do that. And guess what I did? Yup, I reached up over that counter and attempted to curl my own bangs. To this day I have a mini faded burn mark on the middle of my forehead – but you can bet I learned my lesson and never did that again. lol
- Teach them how to deal with problems
This is similar to the “why” question, but rather than being in the context of mistakes, this is when they face some sort of obstacle, fear or challenge. The point here is to get them to learn for themselves what does and doesn’t work in various situations in life. Through trial and error they’ll begin to learn the best way to approach various challenges, therefore being resilient when it’s needed.
- Stop giving them all the answers
This is one that always gets to me, but I totally get why as parents we do it. We’ve got to stop giving our children the answers to their problems, to their failures and even sometimes to their questions. You’ve got to let them figure it out on their own! When we supply our kids with the answer every time, our actions are essentially telling them, “I don’t think you can do this on your own.” “I don’t think you’re capable of making your own decisions” and “You’re not good enough.” Often times our children come to us and want us to do things for them when they don’t believe they’re capable of doing it – so when we say okay and do it for them we silently affirm that negative voice in their heads. I don’t mean to sound like I’m saying to never help your children, what I mean is to give them the opportunity to figure it out themselves first. If you see they’re having a hard time coming to the answer, rather than just giving it to them, ask challenging questions that get them to think about it in a different way.
- Teach them emotion-control
Now children are basically mini-humans with unfiltered emotions. I think we all know this and have experienced this – especially if you’ve parented a toddler. So, rather than letting them just go ham with their emotions – cause that ain’t cool – teach them emotion management. Now, before I move further, I want to clarify what I do not mean. I don’t mean to teach your children to hide their emotions, or that emotions are bad. I don’t mean to teach them that emotions “are for babies” and I don’t mean to teach them that crying = “they’re acting like a girl.” Don’t reject what they’re feeling. Don’t do none of this stuff girl. What I do mean is to teach them that it’s okay to feel upset, angry, sad and disappointed, BUT you should also teach them that certain behaviors are not okay, and to think about what they’re going to do next. For instance, say your toddler is upset because you took away an old, dingy, used deodorant stick that they were trying to eat (real life situation in my home). Naturally they’ll get upset because they’re not getting what they oddly want. Rather than saying, “You better stop acting like that, I’ve told you no!” Instead, be like, “I understand that you’re upset, and I totally get why. You can be mad, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to be mean.” As they get older you can add in the “encourage them to think about what they’re going to do next” part.
7. Let Their Voices Be Heard
Now, if you think about it, when you have a family, you’re exactly that, a family. You’re a group of people living under one roof, so what each of you do naturally affects the others. Since this is the case, you should include your children on appropriate matters and let their voices be heard. So, for instance, say that you and your husband are considering making a big move out of town, but you’re not entirely sold on it just yet. Why not take it to a “family meeting” and inform your kids, and ask what they think?
This gives children a sense of belonging, as well as a sense of confidence because they’ve been shown that their voice matters and that they’re heard.
8. Remember – They’re Human, Too
I think this is something that every parent struggles with at some point or another. There’s those moments when our kids just take us to our limit or cause us to put our hand over our face and think, “Why? Why in the world would you do that?!” I’ve been there, and I’m sure some of you have been, too. When we get to those points we often get upset and impatient with our kids – essentially we treat them as if we’ve never done anything dumb ever. We also forget in those moments, especially if our children are young, that they’re still discovering the world around them. They don’t have all the knowledge and experience like we do, so they literally have no reference points in their minds to refer to when they encounter things. So… they try things out that to us just don’t make sense.
My hope is that we’d remember in those moments that they’re just a kid, and that they’re human, too. Last I checked, I’m a nearly 29 year old woman, and I still do some of thee most mindless things. But the last thing I need (or want) is for my husband or some random to get mad at me and tell me how stupid I am – that just tears down at your confidence. So, next time your child does something that just makes you cringe, remember they’re only human, just like you.
9. Partner With Them in Their Interests
One thing that breaks my heart is when parents don’t honor their children for who they are. Rather than taking the time to dive into what their children are into, they try to make them who they think they ought to be. This can definitely be a confidence-killer in children because it tells them that what they care about doesn’t matter.
I can say with 100% confidence that one of the main things every child on this planet desires is the love, approval and acceptance of their parents. So, when parents walk alongside their children to figure out what their interests are, and they take the time to partner with them in pursuing those things, it builds a child’s confidence.
10. Teach Them to Serve Others
When you teach children to serve others you help them in a whole host of ways.
Many children suffer from low-confidence because they don’t feel important or they feel like they’re unable to give anything that is of any value. When we serve others it gives us an opportunity to see that we can and do bring value to others lives and that the world doesn’t revolve around us. So, by raising your children to be selfless, by serving others and helping wherever and whoever they can, you help give them confidence. I wholeheartedly believe that God designed us to serve others, and I think He displayed that so clearly through the life of Christ. So, let your children know the goodness that God has woven into their hearts by simply serving others.
11. Give Them Household Responsibilities
I feel like this goes with “letting them have a voice” because once again you’re showing them they have a place in the family and that their input matters. This time I’m not talking about their verbal input, but the value they can bring to the family-unit with their actions.
When children feel like they serve a purpose in their home, that they bring value to their family and they have a place in the whole, it gives them confidence. By you giving them responsibilities, it also shows them that you trust them to do the job and to do it well – and that you believe they’re capable of doing it. Those silent messages speak volumes to our kids! So lighten your load mama and give them one or two things to be responsible for (be reasonable). You definitely want to try and start this as soon as they’re able – you can even have them do it with you at first – you’ll be amazed at the impact it can have!
12. Let Them Know Your Love
Once again, children need consistency from us, they need a form of order, and I believe that loving them – verbally and with affection – provides them a sense of order.
Have you ever been in a relationship where you just weren’t sure where the other person stood? Have you ever gotten mixed signals from someone that you had dreamy eyes for? I’ve been there, and let me tell you, it’s thee absolute worst. Talk about anxiety and boarder-line obsessive thinking!
This obviously is different than a parent-child relationship, but I think the effects can be the same. If we’re not clear about our love for our children, if we show them some days and rip it from them other days, we leave them feeling vulnerable and uncertain. But when we choose to love our children, day in and day out – regardless what ridiculousness they do – with our words, with our time, with our affection – it gives them peace and security. A secure child is a confident child, so give the gift of love to your children.
13. Admit When You’re Wrong
Though we’re the adults in the equation, we can often be wrong. When you find yourself in a situation where you wronged your child, where you said what you shouldn’t have, where you did what you shouldn’t do, apologize. When we let our children see that we mess up sometimes, too and that we’re also willing to fess up to it, it helps them establish a sense of confidence. 1. It shows them that your relationship with them matters to you, and you’re willing to make yourself uncomfortable to make things right. 2. By admitting your wrongs, you give your children the freedom to admit theirs – and there’s nothing more freeing than that.
14. Don’t Compare Them to Their Siblings
I don’t think I really need to explain this one – just don’t do it, please.
15. Celebrate Their Uniqueness
Instead of ever comparing your children to each other, why not celebrate who they each are as individuals? I don’t mean throw them a party, I mean to highlight and compliment their unique qualities. By celebrating what is unique about each child, you show them that yes, you’re different, but your differences are valuable and they’re a good thing. Often times it’s our differences from others that make us feel alone, out-casted and not accepted, so combat those thoughts in your children by appreciating what makes them, them.
16. Give Them One-on-One Time
Having a family can be straight chaos. It helps to pull each child away sometimes and to give them your undivided attention. This is so helpful in building children’s confidence because it shows them that hey, despite life being all kinds of busy, I want time with you, you matter to me, I love you and you’re important. I mean, c’mon, what isn’t confidence building about that?
17. Give the Gift of a Happy Marriage
If you’re a married mother, then I urge you to do what it takes to get your relationship on the right track and to keep it there. Mainly, I urge you for your marriage’s sake, as it deserves your whole heart, attention and concern. You made a vow and I pray that you’ll do what it takes to keep it. Not only does working toward a happy marriage benefit your marriage, but it also will do wonders for your children.
Any form of instability in a child’s life breeds insecurity, low self-esteem and a lack of confidence. While that may not be true for every child who’s ever lived in an unhealthy marriage environment, generally that’s the case. When parents provide their children with a happy marriage, they give them the ability to feel secure and confident about their day-to-day lives.
18. Let them Know God’s Love
It’s important for our kids to have a healthy confidence in who they are and in you, their parent. But I do believe even more than those things, our children need to have a confidence in who God is, and the love He has for them. I believe this wholeheartedly because their confidence in themselves and in you, can only go so far.
We all have a deep need to know why we’re here, how we got here and what the purpose of this thing called life is. The answer to these questions go far beyond our children and far beyond us. Those answers are only found in who God is – after all, He is the Creator of this place and of every one of us. So, teach your children about God, and with your life and with your words, share the Gospel – the Good News of Jesus Christ – every day.
For God so loved, He gave. Jesus Christ crucified. Resurrected. His Spirit filling, guiding and sanctifying. God loves your children, every last one of them and He made a way for them, that they can have eternal peace with God. They need to know that and as their parent we have the ability to mirror His love and character in how we parent. So, live your life in obedience to God, trust Him and obey Him and show them what it means to follow the Lord.
When we share the truth about who God is, what He has done through Jesus and what He is doing by His Spirit, we give them confidence, not merely in themselves, but in God. When anyone has confidence in God and in His love for them, it fills them with meaning, purpose, value and a sober confidence. Let’s give this kind of confidence to our children – I can’t begin to express just how much they really need it.
19. Use Your Words Wisely
Last but not least, choose your words wisely, sis. Often times we can say things and without realizing it they’re things that harm – and sometimes we unintentionally harm others deeply. Just think about someone who was given a nickname like “chunky.” They get older and though they may be slim and fit, that nickname may’ve caused some serious body-image issues. So, our words matter.
Our good intentions unfortunately don’t give us control over how what we say is perceived. I know we can’t walk on eggshells or be obsessive over the words we use, but I encourage you to be cautious and intentional with them. Your words are powerful – so make sure, as best you can, that you use them wisely.
In the end…
My prayer for each of us is that we’d take this parenting stuff seriously and recognize the impact we can have. I personally have learned that parenting is not something I can simply just do – I’ve got to work at it, learn and grow where I need to. Let’s make our homes and our families places that breed confidence in our children – in themselves and in us, and ultimately in God. God doesn’t desire for any of us feel less than or worthless – He knows better than any of us just how valuable we truly are – so let’s partner with Him in making sure our children know that.
In All Honesty,
What do you do to build your children’s confidence? Give some insights, share your thoughts 🙂