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 they know approximately what to expect from most days. When the routine proves them right on most days, they learn to trust their own understanding of their life.
- Problem-solving: Leave your toddler the space to solve some of their own problems – sure, you could show them the trick to that toy truck’s wheels, but they can figure it out, too, with a little extra trial and error, and when they does, they'll have the chance to be proud of themself, and they'll have every right to be!
- Help thoughtfully: Letting them do some problem-solving on their own doesn’t mean you can’t step in when they are having an especially hard time, though. You can also help to facilitate their problem-solving, if they're having trouble with one thing in particular. This might mean asking them some questions that will help them reach the right conclusion on their own, or asking them if they want some suggestions for solutions before you jump in. This way, even if you do end up intervening, you’ve shown them you respect their right to try new things, and that you’re confident in their abilities, and it gives them the chance to have a little control over when and how your intervention comes.
- Quality time: Spending quality time together, playing with them, reading with them, and just making sure they know you want to spend time with them, and enjoy their company, can make a huge difference in how they see themself.
- Chores: Giving them small responsibilities and detailed, specific instructions on how to do those things gives them the opportunity to succeed, and to know they're helping you out as they do. You’re one of the central, and most capable figures in their life, after all, and seeing that they can do things you’ll find helpful can be a huge boost to their confidence.
- Don’t overshoot their abilities: Encourage them to keep trying at things they're developmentally ready to learn until they master them, but if they try to take on something they're just not ready for, there’s no harm in helping them out a little, or helping them work on some of the skills they'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 themself. 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 they build their self-confidence off of, no matter which strategy you use, so it can be helpful to have a plan in mind for helping them grow into the confident, resilient child they're 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.