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Parents with more than one child often say, “I’ve brought my children up in the same household, with the exact same rules, but they are so different in many aspects.” You may find one child showing lots of self-confidence and an “I can do it myself” attitude and another child who needs a little more encouragement when tackling new challenges.
Either way, you can do many things as parents to support your children and help them develop their self-esteem. Making sure your child knows they are loved by you unconditionally will bolster their self-worth.
As a mother to two children, I am often reminded that self-esteem is knowing that God will equip us for the work He has set out for us to do.
1. Help your child initiate new tasks
At every stage of their development, children face new challenges they can learn from, and each one is an opportunity for their self-esteem to grow. These milestones spark a sense of competency and joy, from figuring out how to hold a cup or taking their first steps.
As they grow, they will have ample opportunities to learn from you: from mastering the skill of buttoning a shirt, tying their laces, or learning a musical instrument, they will look to you as their source of encouragement and inspiration.
2. Learning through mistakes
As you show them how things work, be patient and let them do what they can. Even if they make mistakes, your child gets to learn from it by trying to do it over and ultimately feel proud of their achievements.
Help them see that everyone makes mistakes and not let the fear of failure get in their way but instead know how to take setbacks in a calm manner. You can monitor their progress, make sure that new challenges aren’t too easy or hard for them to manage, and help break them down into smaller steps.
Confidence and self-esteem are not about succeeding at everything all the time but being resilient and not giving up or feeling too distressed when the going gets tough.
3. Giving praise
Children do need our support and encouragement, but praises should be made wisely to develop their confidence whilst keeping it ‘real.’ When praising your child, consider the big picture: the overall warmth and supportiveness of your family. Find ways to encourage kids when they’ve failed, not just when they’ve succeeded. Here’s how you can help:
Overpraise can sound fake. Praise that doesn’t feel earned can backfire. Overpraising makes them feel uncertain about their true abilities. For example, telling a child, she played a great game when she knows she didn’t will make her feel hollow. It’s better to say. “I’m proud of you for not giving up,” and be specific about what they did to improve.
When children feel insecure, they stop wanting to try, or they may hold back for fear of failing. It’s better to avoid praising kids for their abilities. Instead, praise them for things that they can clearly change—like their level of effort or the strategies they use.
Praise for effort and progress. Avoid focusing only on results (such as getting an A) or fixed qualities (such as being smart or sporty). Instead, offer most of your praise for effort, progress, and attitude.
It is important to let them know you’re proud of their efforts regardless of the outcome. For example: “I see you’re working hard on that project,” or “I’m proud of you for practicing your guitar. You’ve really stuck with it.” With this kind of praise, kids put effort into things, work toward goals and try.
Results aren’t always immediate, so when kids work hard at developing a new skill, they’re more likely to succeed.
4. Be a good role model with the right attitude
Children learn best by watching us. Set a good example to your child by putting effort into your everyday tasks with a cheerful attitude (like setting the table, doing household chores, or making a meal), you’re setting a positive example.
When you avoid rushing through your chores and take pride in a job well done, your child learns to put effort into doing their homework, cleaning up their toys, or making the bed.
Kids feel more connected and valued when they’re counted on to do age-appropriate jobs.
5. Avoid harsh criticism and help them set goals
The tone and messages kids hear about themselves from others easily translate into how they feel about themselves.
Harsh words are harmful and not motivating. Let them know you value the work they are doing. When kids hear negative messages about themselves, it harms their self-esteem. Be patient and help them to focus on what you want them to do next time.
Break down longer-term goals into realistic benchmarks. These task-setting lessons will help them attain their goals throughout their life.
6. Focus on strengths
Find out what your child does well and enjoys. Exploring their own interests can help kids develop a sense of identity, which is essential to building confidence.
Offer chances for them to develop these strengths. For example, my son loves playing the drums, so I would encourage him to join the school band, orchestra, and concerts. My daughter, on the other hand, loves trying new skills, and I would encourage her to try various activities offered at her school’s co-curricular program. These opportunities allow kids to feel capable and confident in developing their talents and interests.
Self-esteem grows when what they do matters. Kids can help at home, do a service project at school, or do a favour for a sibling. Helping and kind acts build self-esteem and other good feelings. When kids have self-esteem, they feel confident, capable, accepted, and appreciated for who they are.
7. Teach them to be sociable
Developing their social skills is one way of getting them to be more confident, especially around strangers and friends—thus helping them to gain more independence under social circumstances.
Keep in mind that some kids are shy and introverted, and they may feel more comfortable in smaller social settings, so don’t push them into something they aren’t ready for. Over time, their social skills will improve with practice as you help them discover their personalities and interests.
You can use role-playing skills to help younger children to experience what-to-expect scenarios at home. You can suggest ways your child can talk more effectively to various types of individuals and switch roles with them to show them how to respond.
8. Teach them to trust God
I can testify from personal experience that teaching Godly self-confidence that is founded on dependence on God has helped my children and family pull through many situations. Based on God’s promises, they learn to trust the plans God has for them (Jeremiah 29:11) and make wise, godly decisions in their lives.
9. Bible verses that build self-confidence
Here are six Bible verses you can share with your kids. When they are feeling downtrodden, you can build their confidence back up and boost their self-esteem each time you remind them that our identity is in Christ.
Psalm 139:13-14: For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
Philippians 4:13: I can do all this through him who gives me strength
Ephesians 3:12: In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
Hebrews 4:16: Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
2 Timothy 1:7: For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
Isaiah 41:10: So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.