From the moment a baby is born, they start learning. They learn how to cry, eat, sleep, they poop. They start to walk and grasp their hands and, as they become little capable children who can build blocks and read short words and go on the real potty, they start to become confident beings. But that sense of confidence needs to be fostered as little kids become big kids and encounter more complex challenges and are tasked with overcoming more intense challenges. So how do parents make sure their kids have a healthy sense of confidence? We spoke to Dr. Roseanne Lesack, a certified child psychologist and director of the Unicorn Children’s Foundation Clinic at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, about five things that parents can do to instill confidence in their kids.
They Tie Their Kid’s Work Ethic to Their Success
Parents should always compliment their kid’s work ethic, even if they don’t get an A on the math test or win the soccer game. When parents praise kids for the effort they’ve made, rather than the results of that effort, kids develop a healthy self-confidence that’s tied to their pride in being a hardworking person. “Kids should be able to say: I’m confident in these areas, because I’ve worked hard. I’ve practiced a lot. I really want to get good at this. That’s a good thing,” says Lesack. If parents don’t stress this, kids might forget their worth if they fail at a math test despite their best efforts, which can lead to a crisis of self-confidence.
They Compliment Themselves in Front of Their Kid
Confident kids come from confident parents. So don’t be shy about talking about personal qualities, skills, and successes.“Parents should talk about their own accomplishments: ‘I put in a lot of effort into this project at work, and I did a nice job because I spent time on it,’” Lesack says. When parents model positive self-talk, kids absorb that sense of self-confidence.
They Compliment Their Kids on Their Skills
Parents who want to raise kids who have a healthy sense of confidence don’t just shout, “Great game!” at them until their kid knows they’re awesome. They compliment them on specific things that they did well, such as “When you made that goal in the second quarter, you had some really great footwork,” or “At the end of the game, you played really great defense against number four.” By complimenting their kids on specific moments, they avoid giving their kids an outsize sense of having been the star of the entire game. They also, per Lesack, give their kids the tools to talk about their own strengths with specificity.
They Are Honest With Their Kids About Their Weaknesses
Parents who want to raise confident kids (who don’t become arrogant jerks) don’t lie to their kids about where they need to work harder. Now, it’s not like parents should walk around and say, “You’re bad at math!” That could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. But parents might be able to say: “Some people need to practice more and work harder at math, and that’s okay.” Kids who know that they might have to put in more effort than their peers also continue to tie their self-worth to their work ethic, and don’t have an unearned sense of confidence. “Kids also need to know what they don’t know. You don’t always want your kid to be confident. In fact, you want the opposite. Because you don’t want them to be cocky,” says Lesack.
They Tie Success Back to Teamwork
Parents also don’t let their kids think that they and they alone were the reason they won the baseball or basketball game. When complimenting their kid’s all-star moments, they mention their friends and say how well they did, too, and they encourage their kids to compliment others on their efforts. According to Dr. Lesack, parents need to make sure that kids know that their own success doesn’t occur in a vacuum — and that without the help of hardworking friends or study buddies, they might not have won the game or aced the test.