Self-confidence is not something people are born with. It results from a combination of factors:
- Learned skill: Self-confidence is a combination of skills, not just a single quality. People are not born with it or without it. It can be learned.
- Practice: Self-confidence comes from practice. It may appear to be spontaneous, but it isn’t.
- Internal locus of control: Self-confidence results from what psychologists call an internal locus of control. (Locus means central point.) This means that people who are self-directing, who accept responsibility for their own results, have greater self-confidence.
HOW TO HELP YOUR CHILD BUILD CONFIDENCE
- Encourage your child to follow his or her strengths. Show your child that self-confidence comes from being the best “you” possible, not from trying to be someone else. It is the result of following paths like these:
- Doing what comes naturally
- Developing his or her talents
- Following his or her convictions
- Expressing his or her own style
- Show your child how to plan ahead for challenging situations. When a person is prepared for a challenging situation, he or she is much more likely to feel confident and perform better. The most basic example is taking a test in school. Those who are better prepared almost always do better, which in turn builds self-confidence.
- Encourage your child to take action. Being proactive almost always results in feeling more confident. Show her how to break a challenging situation into small steps and then to take that first step, no matter how small it seems.
- Help your child to rehearse for success. One of the best ways to build self-confidence is to practice an important conversation before it’s time for the real thing. For example, if your son wants to ask his teacher for a chance to retake a test he did poorly on, offer to play the role of the teacher in a practice run.
- Encourage your child to be persistent. Explain to him or her that self-confidence is the result of a lot of hard work. In fact, it has been said that success is 99 percent persistence and 1 percent talent.
HOW IS SELF-CONFIDENCE RELATED TO SELF-ESTEEM?
Without self-esteem, it is difficult to really be confident. Self-esteem is the sense that a person carries inside that he or she is worthwhile. This feeling comes from a lifetime of experiences that convey that one is worthy. It starts with the relationship that a person has with his or her parents—so you, the parent, are the key factor. One of the most important things you can do for your children is to convey the message “You are worthwhile.”
The ways to raise responsible, happy children are limited only by your imagination. You are probably already doing some of the things on the following list, but there may also be a few new ideas here that will help you build your child’s self-esteem:
- Tell your child on a regular basis that you love him or her. Actually say the words. If you think, “I don’t have to tell her. She knows,” you are wrong. It doesn’t count if you think it but don’t say it out loud.
- Give your child an example to follow. Take the time to teach him or her the steps. Kids need models. It’s unfair to expect that your child will know what to do in daily life if you haven’t shown him or her how to do it.
- Spend time with your child. If you are absent most of the time, he or she notices, and probably thinks it’s because he or she isn’t important enough.
- Look at your child when you speak to him or her. This conveys, “This is important and you are important.”
- Look at your child when he or she speaks to you. This conveys, “What you are saying is important. You are important.”
- Explain why. It takes more time, but it conveys that your child is important enough for you to spend your time helping him or her to understand. When you explain why, you are also saying, “I understand that you need to know why. I am going to help you get your needs met.”
- When your child tells you about something that happened, ask how he or she feels about it. And take the time to listen to the answer. This conveys that what he or she says is important.
- When you ask a question, encourage your child to elaborate. Say, “Tell me more about that” or ask, “What was that like?” This is another way to convey that what he or she says is important.
- When you ask your child a question, don’t interrupt when he or she is answering.
- When you ask a question, watch your responses. Don’t disagree or criticize his or her answer. Doing so teaches that it isn’t safe to be candid and will make your child edit what he or she tells you.
- Set a positive example with your own behavior. You can only expect your child to behave with dignity and self-respect if he or she sees you behaving that way too.
- When you lose your temper or make a mistake, apologize. Say that you are sorry; be specific about what you are sorry for; and give your child a chance to respond.
- When you know that you have disappointed your child, acknowledge it. Ask him or her how he or she feels about it.
- Give your child a private space where he or she can express himself or herself.
- If your child did a good job on something, say so.
- If your child didn’t do such a good job on something, point out what he or she did well.
- After a disappointment or failure, ask, “What did you learn from the experience?”
- When you are giving feedback, describe specific behavior. For example, “I like how you asked the question so politely” or “You still need to pick up the towels off the floor.”
- When there is a problem, focus on the issue, not the child. For example, “You didn’t do the last 10 problems on this assignment” is more constructive than “You never finish anything.”
- Ask your child to go with you on routine errands just because you want to spend some time with him or her.
- Touch your child when you talk to him or her.
- Give your child a hug at least every few days.
- Go in and say goodnight before your child goes to sleep. (This is easy to forget once your children become teenagers.)
- Look up and smile when your child walks into the room.
- Introduce yourself when your child is with a new friend.
- Ask your child to tell you about the book he or she is reading or the movie he or she just saw.
- Review child development literature regularly to stay updated on what is normal at each age and stage. It is important to recheck your standards and expectations to be sure they are realistic for the child’s age and individual abilities.
- Look for ways to maintain your own self-esteem. If you are unhappy, discontented, or disappointed in how your life is turning out, it will be difficult for you to build the self-esteem of your children.
- If you show that you accept yourself and your actions, you give permission to your child to do the same.