There’s no question that childhood development sets the stage for the rest of a person’s life. Confident children are more likely to achieve success in their personal and academic lives than their uncertain counterparts. But in a fast-paced and competitive world, it’s easy for kids to doubt their ability to excel. That’s where parental guidance can make all the difference.
Children are born with certain personality traits. Some kids are naturally headstrong and confident. Others may tend to be timid and insecure. As a parent, you can help less confident children learn how to become more self-assured. Here are five parenting techniques for cultivating self-confidence in your kids.
1. Teach Them Financial Responsibility
Learning how to earn, save, and wisely manage money is a key component of self-confidence. Most parents would agree that the public school system does a great job of teaching students about many important topics. However, personal finance has historically been a woefully ignored subject in many locations. Fortunately, it looks like that trend is changing. More states are now requiring at least one personal finance class in order to graduate from high school.
This is a great start to helping kids learn financial responsibility. But parents still have an obligation to financial literacy for kids, as well. You can start by opening a bank account for your children and helping them learn how to monitor it. It’s also essential to teach them how to follow a budget and put away savings for a rainy day. Kids who know how to manage money from a young age tend to be more responsible and optimistic about the future.
2. Encourage Healthy Risk-Taking
It’s natural to want to protect your child from danger. However, teaching children how to take healthy risks is an important part of helping them to become independent. Children who fail to learn this skill may have a more difficult time chasing their dreams and becoming successful adults. Don’t mistake the word “risk” for engaging in dangerous or unhealthy behavior though. Anytime your child steps out of their comfort zone, they’re taking a risk.
Examples of healthy risks include making a new friend, venturing onto a challenging part of the playground, and learning a sport. Each of these actions includes the possibility of rejection or failure. But with your support, your child will learn it can be very rewarding to take risks. Avoiding risks may be a safe way to live, but it won’t help them learn self-confidence.
3. Be Careful About How You Communicate
It can be hard to raise a timid child, especially if you’re a bold adult who can’t understand their trepidation. But be careful how you communicate with them to avoid making the situation worse. Steer clear of phrases like, “You aren’t living up to your potential,” or “Why are you being a baby?” This type of negative talk will only encourage children to doubt themselves even more.
Instead of shaming children into being braver or taking more initiative, it’s much better to build them up. Let them feel the fear and discomfort of new situations, but encourage them through it. Give them positive reinforcement by letting them know you believe in them and you know they can do the hard thing that scares them. If they still fail to conquer their fears, don’t tell them you’re disappointed. Let them know you still believe in them and their ability to overcome their fear next time.
4. Put Greater Emphasis on Effort Than Results
It’s common for parents to praise kids for their abilities rather than their efforts. For example, a parent might praise their child for “being so smart,” or for “having such a beautiful singing voice.” While any type of praise is preferred over negative reinforcement, ability praise can be surprisingly damaging to a child’s self-esteem. To illustrate this point, consider a study conducted on 5th graders who were given a test. After the test, psychologists praised some students for their hard work while praising others for being really smart.
The students who were praised for their hard work were more likely to tackle harder tests by practicing at home. The students who were praised for their abilities were more likely to respond negatively to harder tests. They viewed their failure as a personal shortcoming, while the students who were praised for effort understood they could do better by trying harder. For this reason, it’s better as a parent to emphasize effort over results or natural ability.
5. Offer Positive and Specific Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement can help children feel good about themselves. But as with the test mentioned above, it’s best if the positive reinforcement focuses on specific efforts. For example, instead of telling a child they’re “so smart,” you may have better results praising their efforts.
Let them know you’ve noticed the work they’ve put into their math lately or praise them for dedicating so much time to learning piano. By reinforcing their positive behaviors, you’ll help them develop confidence in their own efforts.
Children are highly sensitive to how their parents view them. When you express confidence in your child’s ability to learn and do hard things, you help them believe in themselves. Use the tips above to help them grow from an insecure child to a highly capable adult.