Building Self-Confidence from the Ground Up

Child pouring water on herselfMy son, 16 months old, appears to be even more active, more interested in doing things by himself, more daring and excited when he throws his diaper away, puts his toys away, or whatever accomplishment he does. Part of this was developed by my spouse and me and our encouragements for him to explore, connect, interact and be more independent. Of course, he cannot do everything on his own due to his age, but we are helping him to become a self-confident little boy and eventually a young man.

Our approach appears to be similar to our parents’ and how my husband and I were encouraged to try things on our own. We went on a family vacation and stayed with my mom, who met our son for the first time. It was great to see that. I also observed how she encouraged him to pick up his mess and when he did she said how good of a boy he was and clapped for his accomplishments. I was glad that I was doing the same thing, maybe not all the time but enough times to where my son will clap for himself. It’s cute to watch.

When our children are young, we have a wonderful opportunity to begin building the foundation for self-confidence. As parents, our job is to raise our children to become healthy, independent, secure, self-confident, and mature young men and women. At different levels of development, a child can appear to be more self-confident, but this may be related to how “easy” the task appears to be. As the child gets older, the lack of self-confidence may be more apparent because the tasks may be more challenging or there may be more fear of outcomes or a lack of support from us parents.

There are a lot of factors that help or hinder a child from becoming a healthy, self-confident person. The factors include: nurturing/not nurturing parents, environmental stressors, relationship with peers, past accomplishments or past fears, personal insecurities, and the list goes on.

It is hard to see our children go through struggles and difficulties because we so want to help them to succeed. They WILL succeed, in their way, in their time, and even through their struggles.

Yes, we need to help our children, and it is okay to help them. We need to be careful that our “help” does not actually become a hindrance to them. What does that mean? Well, it means to me that if I continue to help my son and that impacts his learning to become more self-confident, then my “help” is becoming a hindrance to him. That is not healthy. That means that I am more concerned about my own needs than my son’s needs.

I totally agree that we as parents do not want to see our children suffer, but again it is through suffering that self-confidence, learning, and maturity are developed. When we help our child too much, that help can backfire and the child can become more lazy and dependent and not want to try at all. The other side can be where we do not help at all, and then the child can become more resistant to seeking help, resentful for lack of support, and develop an attitude that he/she does not need anyone, which is not healthy either. Parenting can be challenge, that’s for sure! So, how can a healthy balance be achieved?

A healthy balance is achieved by:

  1. allowing our children to try things on their own.
  2. allowing them to get frustrated and to learn how to work through the frustration. It is still good for parents to be watchful and make sure the frustration is not too overwhelming for the child and if it is, then step in to help.
  3. asking the child if he/she wants help. I will ask my son if he needs help to buckle himself into his jogging stroller and he will shake his head “no” and keep trying. It may not always be buckled the correct way but when it is, he does clap for himself and I clap for him too.
  4. respecting the child when he does not want help. Yes, there are ways that a parent can do things better or faster, but it’s not always necessary for us to jump in. Be aware of the necessary times to jump in. For example: making sure my son’s car seat is buckled the correct way because it’s his safety I am concerned about.
  5. monitoring our own self-confidence so that we are truly helping and not hindering our child.
  6. continuing to encourage them to try. But don’t overdo it, because we do not want them to become angry and then not try at all!

This is a good place to start. We all like a little encouragement and praise, and we feel good when we accomplish something. Our children are not that different.

Self-confidence will grow; be patient and encourage.

Related articles:
Parenting for Healthy Self-Esteem
Listening to Your Child
Finding “Nemo”

© Copyright 2012 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Kelly Sanders, MFT, Child & Adolescent Issues Topic Expert Contributor

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Janet

    June 26th, 2012 at 3:38 PM

    I have never been the best at encouraging this independence in my daughter, because as an only child it was often easier for em to do things for her. And now I worry that I am setting her up for becoming an adult unable to do things on her own because honestly I have never really let her.
    And my husband isn’t any better at it either. We pay the bills, don’t make her get a job because we want her to do well in school, but is that really setting her up to be a success once she graduates and finds that multitasking is generally a part of any adult life?
    I know that these are mistakes that we are making and that only we can change but you know how hard it is to stop those years of that kind of behavior.

  • Rod

    June 26th, 2012 at 4:50 PM

    You want your kids to grow up capable and strong with a good sense of who they are and self confidence. And a big way for them to develop this is to have the chance to learn things on their own. But it’s so hard sometimes to sit back and know that they are doing something wrong and will fail, but that’s when you have to take that step back as a parent and remember that the only way most of us learn is try and fail, not to have someone always doing everything for us. There is no leasson to be learned unless we have the chance to do something for ourselves. And think about the sense of accomplishment that they will then have when they have the chance to do it for themselves and succeed. remember that feeling? That’s how we want our kids to have th chance to feel too.

  • Nana J

    June 27th, 2012 at 4:18 AM

    I see my own grandkids and how they thrive so much when they earn praise from their parents. That can only boost their self esteem and confidence in who they are.

  • farrow

    June 27th, 2012 at 4:32 PM

    I have a child who never wants any help with anything and that is just as frustrating as needing help for everything. What does he need me for if he never asks for my help? Isn’t that my biggest role as a parent and what it should be? I want to be needed too, but he brushes me off and tells me to lay off he can do it himself. What happened to that sweet little boy who always needed a hand to hold?

  • David J

    June 28th, 2012 at 4:35 AM

    give them confidence but not a sense of entitlement that they don’t deserve

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