Building children’s confidence

  • Encourage your children to keep on trying even when the task is hard or frustrating. Give children the courage to keep going. “That’s it! You almost did it. Keep going… Good for you. You kept trying and you did it!


  • Show your children that “Mistakes are OK”. People who believe that mistakes are a natural part of learning are more confident about trying new things. “That’s OK. We all make mistakes. It’s how we learn. Now you know to do it differently the next time.”


  • Be a “Strengths Detective”. Pointing out your children’s strengths is a much better confidence-builder than focusing on their limitations. Sometimes, if their behaviour is challenging, it is hard to see their strengths. But all children have them. If we encourage activities that build on their strengths, it motivates them to develop interests they enjoy. When this happens, we often see an improvement in their behaviour.


  • Give your children lots of time to just play. When children play they can take the time they need to master activities that interest them. This builds confidence and motivation to try new things. Playing also promotes development of flexible thinking and creative problem-solving skills.


  • Set children up for success. Encourage them to do a task one step at a time. This helps children see their progress step-by-step and motivates them to keep trying. Give them things to do that they are capable of, but also challenge them to learn something new. Activities that gently stretch your children’s abilities help them tolerate small amounts of “healthy” stress. This shows them that effort is needed to learn new things and solve problems. It also helps them learn to deal with frustrations in daily life.


  • Offer choices. Simple choices build children’s confidence by giving them the chance to make decisions and have some control.


  • Keep it simple. Offer only 2 or 3 choices so your children don’t feel overwhelmed. “Do you want to have a banana or a yogurt for snack?” or “It’s cold outside. Do you want to wear your hat or pull up your hood?”


  • Encourage cooperation. Offer choices that encourage your children to do what you need them to do. Cooperation is more likely if they feel they have some control in the situation. For example, you can say “Dinner is ready. Do you want to wash your hands yourself? Or do you want my help?” or “It’s time for bed, do you want to walk up the stairs or do you want Daddy to carry you?”


  • Keep safety in mind. For example, we don’t give children a choice about wearing a seat belt, bike helmet or holding hands when we cross a busy road.


  • Encourage your children’s positive choices. “You made a good choice to put on your helmet. Now you can really ride your bike fast.” or “You’re getting along so well with your sister! It was a great choice to share the blocks.”


  • Help your children be assertive. Children who stand up for themselves are less likely to be bullied. You can help your children set limits with their brothers, sisters, and friends by practicing how to say “No!” or “I don’t like that!” using an assertive voice and body language.


  • Teach your children ways to solve problems and resolve conflicts. Help children 3 years and older identify the problem and think of positive solutions. “There is a problem here because you both want to play with the yellow car. That’s making you feel unhappy/angry/sad. Let’s think of some ideas to solve the problem.” Then step back and let them try the solutions for themselves.


  • Read or tell children stories about how others develop their strengths and confidence.
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