how to build your child's confidence
Experienced Moms | Positive Parenting

5 Key Ways To Build Your Child’s Confidence At Any Age

One of our goals as parents is to build confidence in our child. Let them know within themselves that they can be anything that they want to be. Don’t be shy or ashamed of who they are. 

Perhaps when you were a child you struggled with confidence. A million things could have played into your lack of confidence. Heck, you might be even lacking confidence within your own parenting. 

Sometimes things we do, we think will help them build their confidence, but they are actually lowering their confidence. Often it is having them seek approval and acceptance through others and not themselves.

So let’s talk about the 5 key things that parents are doing that is not benefitting the child and what you can do instead. 

Parent Pressure

We have all dealt with peer pressure as a child and even as an adult. We were told to not do something just because others are doing it, right?

Do we hold that same lesson to ourselves as parents?

Your child won’t eat what you made for dinner, you fight, threaten and bribe- nothing. Then you see your other child liking it or someone else is eating the dinner and you say “see, your brother likes it.” Or see that other kid is going down the slide, you can too.” Sound familiar? We have all been there.

What I came to realize is that when we say those things it’s not much different than if their peers are pressuring them into doing something they don’t want to do.

I get it, they need to eat, you cooked all this food and you don’t want to waste the food. This is where we can pause and think- “what is keeping him from not wanting to eat what I made?” Is he even hungry? Does what I just made not sound appetizing to him today even though it’s his favorite?

What is keeping him from not going down the slide when he will jump off just about anything else?

We can pause and get curious. Instead of pressuring your child, ask them questions. This will let them be heard, and also help build the skill to listen to their body. Get them to question their behaviors and build the skills to voice what they are feeling and thinking without feeling like they are going to be judged, yelled at or criticized.

The less we pressure them into something the more they learn how to listen to their body and not be confused and question what they are feeling, wondering if what they are feeling is wrong and if there is something wrong with them for feeling that way. 

Lose the Rewards and Praise

I know this seems so good and the kids love them, to an extent. They like getting things, yes, but is it helping them be motivated, be proud of themselves because THEY feel the true accomplishment rather than feeling accepted and approved because they met someone else’s expectations?

This is a hard one to do, we have all been praised and rewarded, I still catch myself saying “good job!”

This is not a judgement to anyone who uses these, but I just wanted to point out what this is really teaching our kids and meaning to them whether they consciously realize it or not, but subconsciously it’s there.

So, what am I talking about? 

From the time we potty train we praise our child “YAY, you went potty!” they get happy and see that you are proud of them. Often we give them a reward for going potty also. After the first few times they lose interest in the reward.

They may still like that you look happy and proud of them. But when they have an accident and they get a lecture and they hear in your voice your disappointment they feel like they let you down. 

This is just one example, but this happens when we give our kids praise at any age about anything. When they hear the praise they feel happy because they made you happy and they feel a sense of approval and acceptance.

But, when we aren’t very happy about the outcome they feel like they let you down and that they are no longer worthy of your approval and love, they aren’t accepted anymore.

Have you felt this way before even as an adult?

Rewards, bribes, threats, and praise all work the same. If you do something right then you get that reward to show that your behavior and what you did was accepted, and if you messed up then you know that you and your behavior wasn’t accepted.

A huge thing to keep in mind is that when a child doesn’t do something, forgets to do something or just straight up refuses, it’s because they are stuck and something is blocking them from meeting the expectations. 

“Kids will do well if they can.”- Dr. Ross Greene

This means that when a child can’t, won’t, and doesn’t want to do something it’s because something is getting in their way. I will talk about this next week in more detail. But this is why rewards and praise don’t work.

This is causing them to fight, start having limiting beliefs about themselves, and causing a lack of confidence in themselves that they can’t do anything or more importantly that no one will listen to why I can’t do something.

Recap this section.

Rewards and praise can either cause lack of confidence due to limiting beliefs, or that they are needing approval and feeling accepted and the only way that will happen is if they meet other’s expectations the way they want them to. Rather than meeting their own expectations resulting in self-acceptance, self-approval, and motivation. Which brings me to my next point. 

Intrinsic motivation vs. extrinsic motivation

What is intrinsic and extrinsic motivation?

Intrinsic motivation is when you or your child does something simply because they like doing it, without having any outside incentive to do the tasks that they are doing. 

From this they get a true feel of accomplishments, they feel good about it within themselves without having to feel good because they pleased someone else. They did the task on their own, causing them to feel good because of themselves, which leads to intrinsic motivation.

They love that feeling and that is what keeps them motivated. This builds huge confidence within themselves because of that feeling that they did it all on their own because they wanted to. They met their own expectations and not someone else’s.

Now, I’m sure you can see what extrinsic motivation means? It is when you or your child is motivated through rewards. 

Let me be clear, you are not a bad parent if you use rewards, praise or bribes. 

While we use these to get our kids to behave how we want them to rather than communicating with them, this is when we see the power struggles, those moments when they flat out refuse to do chores, throw tantrums etc. 

The rewards (extrinsic motivation) will only last for so long. After a while I’m sure you have noticed your child not wanting to do the chores or any other tasks no matter how much you bribe, threaten or no matter what you get them. This often turns into us thinking our kids are manipulative, brats, and selfish.

But really they just don’t have the skills (another topic for another day). They could care less about the reward, that feeling of getting something often wears out.

Two reasons for this: they are feeling stuck like we talked about before, or they don’t have that internal drive that they got with the intrinsic motivation. 

I’m sure you’re thinking, so what since they don’t like taking the trash out, that won’t give them the sense of intrinsic motivation, then they just don’t have to do anything around the house to help? 

Nope, not at all. I will talk about this next week, it’s too much to cover in this post. Make sure to keep your eye out for the post How To Get My Kids To Do Things That I Ask.

Observing rather than hovering

Being a parent is fun, but we can’t help but to worry 24/7 right!? It’s so hard to make sure that they don’t do things so they don’t get hurt, so they don’t feel pain.

“No, get down from there!” “Watch out, that’s high you might fall.” “Be careful!”

Words we say a million times in our lifetime. 

But, on the other hand if we don’t watch them and they get hurt, then we hear people criticizing us because we weren’t watching our kids. 

So, what are we to do?

The best way for kids to gain confidence especially when they are young is to explore and experience things. Sure, they might fall, break a leg, get hurt, that is life.

Now, I’m not saying just let your kids do whatever and they can learn from that. No. We are still the parents and we are there to make sure they are safe. Like walking across the street.

But, if you see them climbing a big play structure at the playground, if we shout “stop, get down or be careful!” That will automatically send them into panic and distract them from what they are doing.

They started climbing because they listened to their body saying ok, I’ve got this, I’m going to try. If we get in the way of that, they will start to question their body, their judgement and their intuition. 

Or if we see them doing something and we jump to a conclusion, what we think they are going to do or what is going to happen, they won’t be able to learn.

For example, I would see one of my boys get a stool to stand on, take it to the counter to climb onto the counter so they can get a cup and fill it with water.

At first I wanted to yell, “No! Get down, what are  you doing up there? You will fall, you can’t be on the counter!”

But, instead of yelling and freaking him out, I watched to see what he was planning on doing. I was still standing by in case he needed me, but I watched my child be independent, problem solve, and build his confidence, plus helping out so I didn’t have to do it! 

Sometimes we see the worst in the outcome, but we can wait and observe and trust that they will ask for help when they need it, building that trust on both ends will go a long way.

Giving them a voice in the house

Most of us have grown up where their parents make the rules, decisions, and that was that, there was no negotiating and the child definitely had no say in how anything in the house went.

Sometimes I hear parents say “well, what I’m supposed to let them take over the house and they get to do whatever they want?”

No, not at all. But, they are also human, and they have feelings and needs, opinions and ideas. 

A brilliant way to help a child build their confidence is to let them feel heard and that their ideas and opinions are validated. When it comes to setting boundaries, problem solving, having choices you also will see less power struggles, arguing, frustration on both sides, and tantrums. 

Everyone, especially kids need that sense of belonging, of being a part of a community, being heard and having a voice. The more they get to have a voice the more they will know how to use it and in a positive way. They will feel confident in their ideas, opinions, and will know that their voice matters. 

Summery

The first key to helping your child build their confidence is first to not pressure your child into doing something they aren’t feeling comfortable doing and letting them listen to their body. 

Second, how rewards and praise is sending a different signal to our children than what we are intending to. It is actually hurting their confidence rather than building it.

Third, what intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation is and how intrinsic motivation keeps them wanting to keep doing a task because they feel good about it because they met their expectations rather than meeting someone elses. Also, how extrinsic motivation doesn’t last and doesn’t help build a child’s confidence or motivation. 

Fourth, how we can trust our child and let them listen to their body before we rush over and stop them from doing something (unless it’s dangerous of course like running across the street or speeding while driving). Sit and observe and let them tell you when they need your help. 

And Last, give your child a voice in the decisions in the house. Listen to their ideas, opinions and suggestions and work as a team to resolve a solution. 

If you found this helpful, come join The Everyday Mindful Parent Squad Facebook Group. There we have an amazing supportive group for moms and dads, where they get a lot of useful resources, support, and advice to get closer to going from chaos to harmony in their home. 

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