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How to raise confident kids
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In this edition of LIFEadvice, Coach Kim gives parents easy tips for raising children with good self-esteem. - photo by Kim Giles
Question:

My son really lacks self-confidence and is scared of everything. He has so much self-doubt I worry about him the rest of his life. What can I do as a parent to correct this and help him gain confidence and believe in himself more?

Answer:

I am so glad you asked this question because self-confidence is the most precious gift you can give your children. It is also the most important thing you must work on in yourself. A persons self-worth drastically affects the quality of their marriage, their career and their general happiness in life.

So, the first thing you must do to help your children is check your own self-esteem. Are you plagued by self-doubt? Do you compare yourself to others or talk out loud about how dumb you are, or express fears about being inadequate? If you do, you must stop. The most powerful way to instill confidence in your children is by example, and you cant give what you dont have.

If you struggle with fear around not being good enough yourself, I strongly recommend you to get some professional help with it. Working with a counselor or coach who knows how to change the way you value yourself will make a huge difference for your whole family.

You must also teach your family that life is a classroom (a place of learning and growing), not a test where your value is constantly on the line. You are good enough as you are right now, even though you are imperfect and struggling, because your value is not based in your performance, appearance, property or anything else. Your value comes from the fact that you are a one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable human soul made of love, for love and by love. No matter what life lessons you are currently experiencing, you have the same infinite value as everyone else and always will.

Make these ideas something you talk about often in your family.

When you embrace these principles and start living them, your children will follow your lead. Here are a couple other suggestions for raising confident kids:

  1. Teach your children human value is infinite and doesnt change. When you lose a game, there is a good lesson in it but it doesnt affect your value as a person, same with bad grades and getting in trouble. Separate a bad performance from being bad. Bad choices provides rough lessons, but they don't change intrinsic worth. Remind your children everyone has the same intrinsic value regardless of their circumstances. Show by example that losing a game doesn't bother you or affect your value.

  2. Give smart praise about intrinsic qualities. Focus more on who they are (their character, qualities and attributes) than on how they perform or look. When you praise appearance or performance, it gives children the idea that their value is based there. Praise them for being kind or honest instead. Look for opportunities to help them equate who they are with their inside goodness. Make sure your comments about other people are focused on things like kindness, honesty and courage too.

  3. Dont give so much praise that children become dependent on verbal validation to feel good. Say you should be proud of yourself more than Im proud of you. This demonstrates that what they think of themselves matters most. When they ask, Does this look good on me? say, What do you think of it? Teach them to live to please themselves, not others.

  4. Give children lots of positive encouragement that you believe in them. Tell them they can do hard things, make good choices and handle tough situations. Tell them they are capable, strong and wise. If you believe in them, they will believe in themselves.

  5. Always encourage children to ask for help when needed. Explain that asking for help doesnt mean they are weak or incapable. It means they are smart. Smart people ask for help often. Let them know that we all need help at times and help them to see there is also no shame in doing something badly while you are learning to do it better. That is how everyone learns.

  6. Instead of solving problems for kids, teach problem-solving skills and show them how to find solutions on their own. Ask tons of questions until they figure out the answer. This builds confidence and gives them the skills they need to survive in life.

  7. Ask lots of questions and listen to what they think and feel every day. This is the most powerful way to make children feel important and valued. Imagine how important you would feel if adults actually listened to your ideas. This is one of the most powerful ways to instill confidence. Make asking questions and listening to your children a daily habit.

  8. Set boundaries, rules and consequences in your home. A lack of structure makes children feel unloved and unsafe, but dont go overboard. Children also need to learn how to make decisions on their own and be responsible for their choices. Give them as much freedom as possible and empower them to make good decisions.

  9. Remind them often that life is a classroom, not a testing center. This means there are no mistakes, only lessons and chances to grow. When children make mistakes, focus more on correcting the error in thinking that created the problem than on punishing them for the behavior. They need to understand why the choice was wrong and what happened inside them when they made that choice. Correcting thinking and helping children to understand themselves is the goal.

  10. Help them learn to process emotions in a healthy way. There are some great resources on processing emotions on my website that can help.

  11. Remind them that every experience in their life is there to teach them something. If they are bullied at school, the universe is probably trying to make them stronger. Being on the losing team may motivate them to work harder and stay humble. Help them to trust the classroom of life and understand its only goal is to serve their growth and education. Everything that happens is a lesson. Help them trust the process of life so they will worry and fear less.

  12. Remind them that what other people think of them doesnt matter, but you must model this behavior if you want them to believe it. Show by example that you are bulletproof to put-downs and dont worry about the opinions of others.

I also have a confidence program for children that includes 10 "Claritypoints for Confident Kids," which teach principles of truth and self-esteem. You can download them here and are welcome to use them with your son.

You can do this.
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