Kids’ ability (or lack of ability) to develop self-confidence early on may have a profound effect on the rest of their lives, including their careers.
One recent study shows a positive correlation between confidence in childhood and favorable wages and promotions in adulthood. And it’s easy to observe how confident kids are better able to cope with the ups and downs of life than children growing up with questionable self-esteem.
What are some ways of building healthy confidence in your own kids? Consider the following:
- Think of effort and improvement as benchmarks of success. Since no one can excel at everything, it’s important your child explore a number of different activities to hone in on his talents and interests. Require he give each class, sport or program his best effort for the duration, but let him know he need not be brilliant in any. That said, once he finds something he’s good at, continued participation can reinforce his confidence in other areas as well.
- Be a role model. Kids need to observe how seasoned adults approach new and/or tough situations. Approach your own ups and downs with an attitude of “This may be challenging, but I can handle it.”
- Give him age-appropriate responsibilities. Even young kids can increase their sense of competence by feeding pets, weeding gardens, taking out garbage, emptying dishwashers, etc.
- Teach him positive self-talk. Researchers have long studied the concept of self-fulfilling prophecy, that our expectations are predictors of what will happen to us because we unconsciously influence our lives accordingly. And many of us have a nagging inner voice that constantly tells us we’re going to fail. Talk to kids about shutting that down with a louder, positive voice that says “I can and I will.” And don’t forget to praise them when they form their own strategies, such as tackling the toughest tasks when they’re most rested and alert.
- Show him how to “fake it till you make it.” Sometimes the ability to feign confidence is nearly as impactful as confidence itself. In some situations your child may need to put on a confident demeanor until he actually starts to feel at ease.
- Model social skills. Don’t assume your child will intuitively know how to handle different social challenges. You may have to walk him through various situations, pointing out how his actions (or lack thereof) are likely to impact the way others react and respond.
Finally, be aware you can’t be there to coach your child through every challenge. For that reason, one of the best things you can do for him is to show him how to effectively handle his own moments of uncertainty or discomfort. He should know they happen to everybody and there are coping mechanisms that can help.
“From dropping your child off at a play date, or sleep away camp, being away from parents helps to build and foster independence because children won’t have mom or dad to run to if they need something,” states a recent blog on TheLittleGym.com. “Watch your kids’ self-confidence flourish when you let go.”