Confidence is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give their child. Carl Pickhardt, a psychologist and author of 15 parenting books, says a kid who lacks confidence will be reluctant to try new or challenging things because they're scared of failing or disappointing others. This can end up holding them back later in life and prevent them from having a successful career.
"The enemies of confidence are discouragement and fear," he says. So, as a parent, it's your job to encourage and support your child as they attempt to tackle difficult tasks.
Here are 12 more strategies for raising a confident child:
1. Appreciate effort no matter if they win or lose.
When you're growing up, the journey is more important than the destination. So whether your child makes the winning goal for his team or accidentally kicks it out of bounds, applaud their effort, Pickhardt says. They should never feel embarrassed for trying. "Over the long haul, consistently trying hard builds more confidence than intermittently doing well," he explains.
2. Encourage practice to build competence.
Encourage your child to practice whatever it is they're interested in — but do so without putting too much pressure on them. Harmony Shu, a piano prodigy, told Ellen DeGeneres that she started practicing when she was just 3 years old. "Practice invests effort in the confident expectation that improvement will follow," Pickhardt explains.
3. Let them figure out problems by themselves.
If you do the hard work for your child then they'll never develop the abilities or the confidence to figure out problems on their own. "Parental help can prevent confidence derived from self-help and figuring out on the child's own," Pickhardt explains. In other words, better that your child gets a few B's and C's rather than straight A's, so long as they are actually learning how to solve the problems and do the work.
4. Encourage curiosity.
Sometimes a child's endless stream of questions can be tiresome, but it should be encouraged. Paul Harris of Harvard University told The Guardian that asking questions is a helpful exercise for a child's development because it means they realize that "there are things they don't know ... that there are invisible worlds of knowledge they have never visited."
When children start school, those from households that encouraged curious questions have an edge over the rest of their classmates because they've had practice taking in information from their parents, The Guardian reported, and that translates to taking in information from their teacher. In other words, they know how to learn better and faster.
5. Give them new challenges.
Show your child that they can make and accomplish small goals to reach a big accomplishment — like riding a bike without training wheels. "Parents can nurture confidence by increasing responsibilities that must be met," Pickhardt explains.
6. Never criticize their performance.
Nothing will discourage your child more than criticizing his or her efforts. Giving useful feedback and making suggestions is fine — but never tell them they're doing a bad job. If your kid is scared to fail because they worry you'll be angry or disappointed, they'll never try new things. "More often than not, parental criticism reduces the child's self-valuing and motivation," says Pickhardt.
7. Treat mistakes as building blocks for learning.
"Learning from mistakes builds confidence," he says. But this only happens when you, as a parent, treat mistakes as an opportunity to learn and grow. Don't be over-protective of your child. Allow them to mess up every now and then, and help them understand how they can better approach the task next time. Pickhardt says parents should see "uh-oh" moments as an opportunity to teach their kids not to fear failure.
8. Open the door to new experiences.
Burkhardt says you, as a parent, have a responsibility to "increase life exposures and experiences so the child can develop confidence in coping with a larger world." Exposing children to new things teaches them that no matter how scary and different something seems, they can conquer it.
9. Teach them what you know how to do.
You are your child's hero—at least until they're a teenager. :-) Use that power to teach them what you know about how to think, act, and speak. Set a good example, and be a role model. Pickhardt says watching you succeed will help your child be more confident that they can do the same.
10. Praise them when they deal with adversity.
Life is not fair. It's hard, and every child will have to learn that at some point. When they do encounter hardships, Pickhardt says parents should point out how enduring these challenges will increase their resilience. It's important to remind your child that every road to success is filled with setbacks, he adds.
11. Applaud their courage to try something new.
Whether it's trying out for the travel basketball team or going on their first roller coaster, Pickhardt says parents should praise their kids for trying new things. He suggests saying something as simple as, "You are brave to try this!" "Comfort comes from sticking to the familiar; courage is required to dare the new and different," he says.
12. Celebrate the excitement of learning.
Kids look to their parents for how they should react to things. So if you get excited about them learning how to swim, learning martial arts or speaking a new language, then they'll be excited about those things too. "Learning is hard work and, when accomplished, creates confidence to learn more, so celebrate this willingness to grow," Pickhardt advises.
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