Building your child’s self-confidence

Instilling confidence and positive self-esteem in your child is vital from a very early age

Instilling confidence and positive self-esteem in your child is vital from a very early age, as it provides the foundation to good mental health, self-confidence and well-being in later years.  Between 2 and 5-years-old is a really emotional age, where it’s completely normal for children to be shy and sometimes lacking in confidence in situations outside the family home.
To build confidence in your child at any age, it’s important to be positive as much as possible and to encourage and praise your child warmly and positively.   More than anyone else, young children will always look to their parents for cues on how to behave. They model themselves on you all the time, so they need to see you regularly saying something good about them, about your husband or your partner, your other children and the people around them. Positivity begets positivity, and it begins in the home. 
A child’s self-esteem and confidence is acquired, not inherited so it’s important that parents are positive role models and try to avoid being overly critical.  Draw on the specific things that your own parents did to build your self-confidence and try to avoid all the things that they did which may have weakened your self-esteem!!  If you find that you are self-deprecating on occasion, your children may learn to do the same.
Support your child with his/her interests and you will find that they will be naturally drawn to dancing or to sport, music, or drawing.  Often children focus more on the things they can't do, than the things they can. In group situations, children will often compare themselves negatively with their peers so recognise their efforts and achievements and acknowledge progress with praise and positive reinforcement. This feeling of accomplishment will allow them to feel capable within themselves, providing the platform to do more and builds their sense of self.
Allow children to make choices and simple decisions – you can start this at a young age as providing children with choice allows them to learn about outcomes and consequences, to problem solve and promote independence.  It’s tempting to wrap children in cotton wool and cosset them but by over-protecting them, they learn to be more dependent on their parents and adults and they may believe that they are more helpless and incapable than they really are! 
It also helps to support your children to socialise - they’re not born sociable in terms of thinking about other people’s points of view or even simply sharing their toys.
Introduce these concepts to them gently and encourage them to share and to think about people’s feelings if they are upset or not included in a game.  Encourage your child to really think about what their friends would like to do and to accommodate them within reason. Learning to ‘give and take’ is a lifelong lesson and when your child is surrounded by friends they care about, their confidence will increase and they will feel good about themselves and their position within their peer group.
Ultimately there’s no better way to improve a child’s self-belief than to indulge them with as much one-to-one time as possible, demonstrating clearly that their thoughts, feelings and actions do matter. When children feel their parents notice them and recognise them as an individual, it really helps to develop the self-belief that they are important as a person, strengthening the foundation for a confident and well-balanced adult. 
Dearbhala is Director of Childcare with Giraffe Childcare

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