Giving your child the gift of confidence is one of the most important things you can do as a parent! While instilling confidence, determination, and resilience is important for every child, if your child struggles with ADHD, auditory processing disorder, dyslexia, autism, a learning disability, or reading difficulties, boosting his or her self-esteem can be even more important. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite tips, ideas, and recommendations from parents of confident kids, just for you!
Show them the love... It seems simple, right? But showing love, acceptance, and patience is one of the most important things you can do to help your child face the world in a more self-assured way. No parent is perfect, so don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Instead, own your mistakes, apologize, and move forward in the most loving way possible!
Take a step back… Focus more on coaching your child to success instead of controlling his or her every move. Don’t do things for your kid when you could be teaching him or her how to do it and providing lots of opportunities to practice! Help your child love the process of trying something new and getting really great at it! Intervene when necessary to keep your child safe, but let him or her tackle things alone as much as possible.
Pat them on the back… When your child succeeds, give him or her some positive feedback and praise! Let your child know when he or she has done a great job, and when they come up short, praise his or her efforts! Don’t be unrealistic in your praise, kids can see through that very quickly and your compliments will mean less in the long run if they aren’t authentic. Let your child know you’re seeing his or her hard work and pat them on the back when that hard work pays off!
Be a confident role model… If you’re serious about helping your child gain confidence and inner strength, you need to model those qualities. Talk about your skills and talents, what you’re great at, and how you have worked to develop your strengths. Show them what positive reinforcement and self-care look like in yourself! Don’t pretend to be perfect. It’s important to acknowledge your struggles but focus on the positives. Remind your child of positive characteristics you see in them and talk about how he or she can refine and improve those skills as well.
Ask for their input… Ask your child for their advice and opinions! Letting your son or daughter weigh-in on age-appropriate situations demonstrates that it’s OK to ask for help (even adults need advice sometimes!) and that you value their input and ideas.
Show them that mistakes are normal… No one wins every time! Help your child understand that hurdles are to be expected, setbacks are common, and losing is just a part of life. Focus on helping your child try again and move forward positively. Everyone makes mistakes, what really matters is what happens after we’ve made them. Do we give up or throw a fit? Or do we pick ourselves up and keep moving? As a parent, you have the opportunity to teach your child to be resilient! Don’t diminish his or her feelings, but focus on taking the next step, trying something new, working a little harder — anything to get them back on track and working toward their goal.
Cheer on their competitive side… From sports and physical activities to theater groups and student councils, group activities, school clubs, and sports teams are great opportunities for your child to find his or her strengths, cope with setbacks, work with others, and so much more!
Let them catch you complimenting them… Direct praise is important, but overhearing adults talking positively about them to others can be a huge confidence boost to kids. Talk about your child’s achievements and efforts to other adults in situations your son or daughter can hear without putting him or her on the spot or making the situation uncomfortable.
Encourage curiosity… Every chance your child has to try something new is a chance for his or her self-confidence to grow! Create safe situations for your child to tackle things independently, explore new situations and expand his or her horizons! Encourage your child to try new things, gain new skills, and diversify their day to day.
Find the strategies that work best… Every child’s brain works differently, and finding the right strategies to help with your child’s biggest hurdles is so important! Build confidence by helping your child understand why certain tools work better for him or her, so they can help find the right strategies in the future! When possible, get to the root cause of your child’s issues, to give them the tools they need to overcome or work through struggles.
Research other role models… Whether your child has a specific diagnosis or struggles with certain tasks more than others, finding role models that have overcome similar obstacles is a great way to build their confidence. There are so many uplifting stories of people who have overcome great obstacles, help your child find the stories that he or she resonates with and use them as inspiration to build their confidence.
Nurture problem-solving abilities… Teaching kids how to solve problems themselves is the groundwork of life-long confidence. Talk through situations together, and ask questions that help you understand where they’re at with a specific situation. If your child’s first response isn’t appropriate, keep talking until they come up with the right plan.
Keep their commentary in check… Of course, you’re going to be anxious when your child is trying something new on the playground, or practicing behind the wheel, but your nervous commentary isn’t doing anyone any good. Vocalizing your worries, even your most well-intentioned ones, can undermine your child’s confidence. Have the safeguards in place to keep your child protected, but keep your anxieties to yourself!
Keep their goals realistic… Big, long-term goals can be a great motivator for kids, but setting reasonable, smaller-scale goals can help kids avoid feeling like a failure. Help your child dream the big dreams, then break those down into smaller steps they can work through more realistically.
Let them choose… While encouraging children to try new things and creating opportunities for them to expand their horizons are both important tools to instill self-confidence, listening to them when they tell you what they love to do and supporting those interests is important, too. For example, if your child loves the theater, get your tickets for opening night! Even if you grew up excelling at sports and joining every team you could, shine the spotlight on your child’s passion and support him or her every step of the way.
Be consistent with rules and consequences… Your child may not like the rules you set, but knowing what your expectations and that you’ll follow through on consequences are important to raising confident kids. Your rules provide a foundation and structure your child needs to develop healthy boundaries as he or she learns to play by the rules in all situations they come to.
Teach them to be a good friend… We talked earlier about loving your child, and a healthy family relationship is the foundation for other healthy relationships in your child’s life. Help them understand how to be a good friend, neighbor, and teammate. Talk through different social situations and teach your child how important it is to be kind and confident in all relationships. Teach your son or daughter self-worth and what he or she should expect from their friends, then how to give that level of respect and consideration to others as well.
Let them lose… As parents, we want to protect our kids from everything, but allowing kids to fail is a blessing in disguise. Trial and error is how we all learn, and letting a child fall short lets him or her see that failure is not the end of the world. Confident kids don’t see losses as a catastrophe, they see them as a chance to get better or try something new next time.
Don’t compare them to others… Comparisons can create doubt, confusion, and a lack of confidence in kids. Comparing your child to others also opens the door for jealousy and negativity. Focus on helping your child improve every day, not just live up to someone else in their life.
Focus on their efforts… When your child perseveres, praise them! A child with self-confidence doesn’t give up when the going gets tough, so when you see your child putting on a brave face, trying again, and showing resilience, applaud that perseverance! Compliments regarding how hard your child is working are just as important as recognition for when they win or do something well.
Expect help at home… Kids today are busier than ever, but setting expectations that your child helps out at home is an important piece of building confidence. Making age-appropriate chores or family jobs part of the routine keeps kids connected and teaches helpfulness, reliability, and time management skills. Kids who feel useful and valued at home will feel more confident and secure in other situations as well.
Accept imperfections… As a parent, you know perfection isn’t realistic. However, kids have a harder time accepting that truth and embracing their flaws or mistakes. Kids today feel incredible pressure from social media, TV, movies, and more. Talk to your child about what’s real and what isn’t, how problematic filters and social feeds can be, and how his or her imperfections may someday be their greatest strengths!
Model and teach positive affirmations… Make positive self-talk the default for your child through affirmations that build him or her up. Give them positive statements to fall back on when things aren’t going their way. That way, your son or daughter has a stockpile of phrases to build confidence and help them move forward, instead of resorting to negative self-talk.
Give them undivided attention… Set aside some time to focus solely on your child. Children are smart. They know when you’re multitasking or when you’re distracted. Focusing solely on your child shows that he or she is important, valued, and worthy of your undivided attention.
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