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