Raising a confident child

There’s a difference between self-confidence and arrogance. Toddlers are naturally somewhat self-centered, since they’re only just learning how to see things from someone else’s point of view. The only center they know is themselves! But self-centeredness doesn’t mean anything about a toddler’s sense of self-confidence, though it’s easy for parents to feel that an assertive, self-centered toddler’s self-confidence is robust enough that it doesn’t need much encouragement.

The toddler years are an important time for the formation of self-confidence, though, as young children start to form their mental image of themselves. This happens right alongside their growing understanding of other people’s feelings, as they start to get a sense for themselves and others as individuals.

The importance of self-confidence

Children and toddlers who are confident in themselves and their abilities can have a much easier time moving through the world, and may be happier, stronger, and more emotionally resilient. Confidence encourages children to try new things, to learn, and to grow, allows for social success, and to feel good about themselves generally. Self-confident toddlers grow into children and adults who know how they should be treated in their friendships and other relationships, and who won’t let others treat them badly.

More than that, self-confidence can be self-fulfilling. Self-confident children know their own abilities well enough to know that, even if they fail when they try something new, they’ll figure it out with a little practice. This makes them more likely to try it again, and so more likely to eventually succeed, which will add to their self-confidence for next time. The same is true of social situations – self-confident children are more likely to make new friends, giving them more practice at interacting socially, giving them better chances of successfully building relationships they enjoy, which will make them more confident in their abilities to do so in the future.

Strategies for encouraging self-confidence in your little one

Since every child is different, and responds to the world in a different way, there are any number of ways that parents and caregivers can work to encourage their children’s self-confidence, but there are a few common strategies that are generally successful.

  • Routine: Having predictable daily routines is a really basic early step towards building a toddler or young child’s self-confidence, since she knows approximately what to expect from most days. When the routine proves her right on most days, she learns to trust her own understanding of her life.
  • Problem-solving: Leave your toddler the space to solve some of her own problems – sure, you could show her the trick to that toy truck’s wheels, but she can figure it out, too, with a little extra trial and error, and when she does, she’ll have the chance to be proud of themselves, and she’ll have every right to be!
  • Help thoughtfully: Letting her do some problem-solving on her own doesn’t mean you can’t step in when she is having an especially hard time, though. You can also help to facilitate her problem-solving, if she’s having trouble with one thing in particular. This might mean asking her some questions that will help her reach the right conclusion on her own, or asking her if she wants some suggestions for solutions before you jump in. This way, even if you do end up intervening, you’ve shown her you respect her right to try new things, and that you’re confident in her abilities, and it gives her the chance to have a little control over when and how your intervention comes.
  • Quality time: Spending quality time together, playing with her, reading with her, and just making sure she knows you want to spend time with her, and enjoy her company, can make a huge difference in how she sees themselves.
  • Chores: Giving her small responsibilities and detailed, specific instructions on how to do those things gives her the opportunity to succeed, and to know she’s helping you out as she does. You’re one of the central, and most capable figures in her life, after all, and seeing that she can do things you’ll find helpful can be a huge boost to her confidence.
  • Don’t overshoot her abilities: Encourage her to keep trying at things she’s developmentally ready to learn until she masters them, but if she tries to take on something she’s just not ready for, there’s no harm in helping her out a little, or helping her work on some of the skills she’ll need in order to succeed.
  • Model self-esteem: The way you feel about yourself can have a big impact on how your little one learns to feel about themselves. Many parents find it fairly easy to be patient and encouraging with their toddlers, but many have more trouble being patient and kind when talking about themselves. Toddlers learn as much about the way adults act, and about the people they should grow into, by listening to what parents say about themselves as they do by listening to what parents say to their children.

In the end, your love for Baby is going to be the basis on which she builds her self-confidence off of, no matter which strategy you use, so it can be helpful to have a plan in mind for helping her grow into the confident, resilient child she’s going to be.

  • Katie Hurley. “How to Raise a Self-Confident Girl.” PBS Parents. PBS, February 1 2017. Retrieved August 28 2017. http://www.pbs.org/parents/expert-tips-advice/2017/02/raise-self-confident-girl/.
  • D’arcy Lyness. “Raising Confident Kids.” KidsHealth. The Nemours Foundation, July 2013. Retrieved August 28 2017. http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/confidence.html#.
  • Laura Markham. “12 ways to raise a confident, competent child with grit.” Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, LLC, June 5 2015. Retrieved August 28 2017. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/peaceful-parents-happy-kids/201506/12-ways-raise-competent-confident-child-grit.
  • “12 Ways to Raise a Confident Child.” AskDrSears. AskDrSears.com. Retrieved August 28 2017. https://www.askdrsears.com/topics/parenting/child-rearing-and-development/12-ways-help-your-child-build-self-confidence.
  • “About self-esteem: children 1-8 years.” Raising Children. Raising Children Network, July 7 2017. Retrieved August 28 2017. http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/self-esteem.html.
  • “Tips on Helping Your Child Develop Confidence.” Zero to Three. ZERO TO THREE, February 21 2010. Retrieved August 28 2017. https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/226-tips-on-helping-your-child-develop-confidence.
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