27 Feb How to develop confidence in children [25 powerful tips and tricks]
Confidence is one of the most important attributes a child can have as they grow into adults. Self-confidence helps children succeed in school, make friends, and develop the skills they need to become happy and successful grown-ups. Unfortunately, many kids struggle with low self-esteem and lack of confidence. As parents or educators, it’s important to help children develop and maintain confidence so they can reach their full potential.
What exactly is confidence?
Confidence is a state of self-assurance and belief in your own abilities, qualities, and judgments. It goes beyond arrogance or bravado and encompasses a genuine sense of inner strength and trust in yourself. Confidence is not about being flawless or having all the answers. In fact, it involves acknowledging your strengths and embracing imperfections with a positive mindset. It is a mindset that lets you navigate challenges, take risks, and pursue your goals with determination.
It’s about being brave and trying new things, even if they’re outside your comfort zone. Confident people are positive and believe they can overcome problems and achieve success. They’re comfortable with who they are and they inspire others with their self-assurance.
Why is it important to have confidence?
Confidence is important because it helps someone feel good about themselves and their abilities. It also encourages them to experiment and take risks. Being confident can help someone make and maintain relationships with others. Confidence is not limited to specific areas of expertise but extends to all aspects of life, empowering individuals to make decisions, express themselves authentically, and pursue their aspirations with conviction.
If someone does not have confidence, they may feel insecure. They may be hesitant to try new things and may be less successful in completing tasks. They may also feel lonely and isolated, because they are less likely to reach out and make friends.
With the proper guidance, all children can develop and maintain the confidence they need to reach their full potential. Let’s find out how.
25 ways to develop confidence in children
1. Be flexible in your approach
Remember that every child is different. Where they’re starting from, how quickly they develop confidence, and what kind of support or activities they respond to best. Everyone has different-sized comfort zones and different responses to being outside their comfort zone. Some of us respond well to tough love or being dropped in at the deep end. Others need gentle nudges in the right direction with lots of support along the way. There’s nearly always a learning curve when finding out what works best, so be prepared to adapt.
2. Create a positive self-image
One of the foundations of confidence is a positive self-image. This isn’t just about a child’s physical appearance, although it can include that. It’s important to encourage your child to recognise their strengths, be proud of their accomplishments and be secure in who they are as a person. This begins with providing love and support, words of encouragement, and praise when it’s due.
3. Avoid negative labelling
Children are sponge-like. They absorb what’s around them because this helps them learn quickly. If a child feeling low in confidence is constantly labelled as “shy”, or told they have low self-esteem or they lack self-belief, they will internalise it. It’s a powerful self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead, choose to describe them as having “quiet confidence” or being a “good listener” or “waiting for the right moment”. Not all confident people are extroverted and not all extroverts are confident.
4. Recognise victories and how they were achieved
All the little wins in life can build a solid foundation of confidence, but only if they’re framed in the right way. Winning is great fun, but that feeling passes and we want to see long term benefit from those wins. Recognising everything that went into that victory and understanding how a child’s effort and skill created that result will double the impact it has on their self-confidence.
5. Set realistic goals and acknowledge achievements
If your child doesn’t yet have a track record of success, now’s the time to set some goals, make a plan, and get to work! Start with small, achievable milestones to help a child understand the process of succeeding and avoid them being intimidated by a challenge. Create a habit of setting a goal, following a plan and achieving the desired outcome. This experience will carry over to their other endeavours, building confidence each time.
6. Praise their effort
Not everything we try will go to plan. Sometimes we’ll prepare thoroughly and have a bad exam day. Sometimes we’ll lose to a competitor despite a lot of hard work. That has the potential to knock a child’s confidence. But if we focus on the process, what we learned, and the effort we committed to the cause, we can take the positives and be confident we can repeat that effort next time and improve where necessary.
7. Avoid over-criticism; be constructive
Being critical is important to being successful. And being successful ultimately breeds confidence. But criticism must be constructive; helping a child do something better next time. Whilst some adults are hugely motivated by criticism, most children are not motivated by being told they’re not very good at something. This is because they automatically understand the comment as a fact; not necessarily something they can change. Being overly critical will make a child shy away from anything they’re unsure they can accomplish, because they might see it as futile.
8. Learn from failure and mistakes
While failure can impact a child’s confidence, it doesn’t have to. Failures and mistakes happen because we’re not prepared enough or simply not good enough to achieve our goals. Perhaps we made a mistake because we lost concentration. But now we’ve identified these weak links, we can become better. Knowing we’ve worked on weaknesses and developed into a better person should give us even more confidence than before.
9. Support them in getting really good at something (anything!)
Knowledge and skill in one area gives someone confidence. Your child will be far more confident playing a game they’re familiar with. They look forward to school when they have their strong subjects lined up that day. Mastering a skill gives children confidence not only in that area, but in their lives in general. It really doesn’t matter what that skill is; they now know they have the ability to improve at something, giving them a growth mindset. They also know what it takes for them to get better; they’ve developed a kind of personal blueprint for success.
10. Help them overcome a phobia
Many people have a fear or phobia of something. Sometimes they don’t affect our life very much, like a fear of spiders. But other times, they can. The fear of public speaking, for example, is very common, but it puts a limit on the kind of career a child might have in the future. If your child has a fear of something, now’s the time to overcome it. Reframe public speaking. It doesn’t make you nervous, it makes you excited. It isn’t something you “have” to do, it’s something you “get” to do. There’s no more powerful tool for building confidence than going from a state of fear when doing something, to thriving in that environment.
11. Encourage positive self-talk and self-kindness
It’s one thing having those around you saying the right things, but often the voice in our own head is the most powerful. It’s important that children are kind to themselves and their internal narrative is supportive. This can be hard to teach, but one way is to help children develop mantras and affirmations they can read each day. Here are some you can purchase from Amazon to make the process easy.
12. Let them make their own decisions
Allowing children to make their own decisions, even if for something small, like what to wear to school, will help them realise they can make good choices on their own. It shows you have belief and trust in their decision-making abilities too. This empowers them and helps them become more independent, contributing to enhanced confidence levels.
13. Remember past successes (write them down!)
If we’re going though a tough patch or struggling with a big challenge, our confidence can wane. But this is where all those past wins come in handy. Create a “cookie jar” of previous wins that your child can revisit and reflect on to remind them of just how many times they’ve succeeded in the past. These little reminders can be exactly the thing a child needs to give them confidence they can achieve something new.
14. Encourage participation in sport and physical activity
Not only is sport a great way to make friends, learn new skills and keep fit, but it develops confidence in many ways. As children, our physical strength, ability and flexibility develop so quickly. When directed into a sporting context, we can clearly see how much we’re growing and improving. Sport combines physical development and skill acquisition and it provides an objective way of measuring progress, showing kids just how far they’ve come.
15. Join a drama club
Drama clubs have an excellent track record of helping people come out of their shell and gain confidence. Kids will develop confidence interacting within a group setting, communicating with others, performing in front of a crowd and learning lines and skills. While drama might not feel like someone’s calling, that’s exactly why they should go for it. Besides, who wouldn’t want to be the next big Hollywood actor or actress?!
16. Join a debating team
If drama isn’t their thing, competitive debating could be the next best option. Debating gives kids confidence in several areas. They learn to speak coherently in front of others, they get good at thinking on their feet, they work hard to construct arguments, they collaborate with their teammates. Being good at debating gives children excellent communication skills and teaches them to stand up for themselves. If there’s no debating team at their school, learn the principles of debating and hold some family discussions!
17. Avoid comparison
Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy” and he was quite right. It’s always possible to find someone we compare badly too. We’ll find someone smarter than us. Faster than us. More able in a specific skill than us. That’s not going to help with confidence. Instead, we must focus on our own endeavours and own successes. We must be happy for others who have achieved things or have favourable characteristics, just as we’d like people to be happy for us.
18. Beware social media!
At a certain age, your children will begin using social media. Following on from the last point, social media can be an awful place for self-confidence because it’s easy to compare ourselves to literally thousands of other people each day. As you know, the content shared on social media is heavily edited and heavily curated to show someone at their very best. Younger children don’t always know the backstory or context for all of this. They don’t understand that someone has used AI to transform their appearance or that it’s taken 500 attempts to make that single trick shot. Heavily limit the time they spend on social media and ensure they’re aware of all the fakery and misinformation out there.
19. Surround them with positive people and role models
Being around positive people is crucial to being confident. When you get inspired by positive people, it can change how you think about your own trajectory. It might mean you become unafraid to fail, happy to try new things, and look forward to being celebrated when you succeed. Having a supportive group of family and friends is paramount to building confidence and having some role models that inspire confidence is a bonus.
20. Encourage independence
Independence is a powerful attribute to develop in today’s kids. Many grow up overprotected and spoon-fed, resulting in a small comfort zone. But a degree of confidence is required for independence, so the two work hand-in-hand. Independence both requires and builds confidence, but giving a child independence demonstrates to them that you believe in them and trust them to behave correctly. Leaving them to figure things out for themselves also develops their problem-solving skills, another contributor to feeling confident about their own ability.
21. Encourage them to take risks and try new things
Some children grow up with a fear of failure. This is a real impairment when it comes to having a fulfilling life and career because it limits what they’ll try. They won’t take that once-in-a-lifetime chance. They won’t go for that game-changing new position. They won’t take a gamble on a great business idea. We need kids to be comfortable with taking risks and trying new things and the best place to start is doing just that. The worst that can happen is they need to try again. The best is that they achieve things they never thought possible and that supercharges self-confidence like nothing else.
22. Model confidence yourself
Kids emulate those around them, so how you behave has a huge bearing on how they behave too. If you demonstrate self-confidence in everything you do, they’ll pick up on that. They’ll see how a confident person acts in different situations and be able to do the same when it’s their turn. We mirror the people around us subconsciously, so make sure you’re demonstrating behaviour you’d want them to copy.
23. Get them to read inspiring books or watch inspiring movies
Kids can certainly be inspired by the stories they engage with. The Clever Tykes storybooks were written for exactly that purpose (for kids ages 6-9) and we have some recommended movies for kids too. Children absorb the confidence they see in books and films. They see a character they relate to and they emulate their mindset and attitude. You’ll see an instant increase in a child’s self-belief after they finish watching or reading a powerful story.
24. Reduce anxiety with mindfulness and meditation
Sometimes our inner confidence and self-belief can be masked by anxiety. It’s important, therefore, for children to be able to manage their stress and know what to do when they feel worried. Mindfulness and meditation are excellent practises to get into as a child. Here’s something that could help.
25. Remember it’s a process
Sometimes you go to bed low on confidence and wake up feeling like you can take on the world. Mostly, however, confidence doesn’t happen overnight. It builds over time. Setbacks will knock confidence down a little, as will negative experiences in school, sport or with friends. It’s important to zoom out and focus on the overall trend. It can take years for a shy child or one with low self-esteem to find their inner confidence, so be patient.
This is the perfect starting point to help your child develop the skill of confidence towards life, play, work and relationships.
You can also read about developing ambition and building resilience in kids.