We’ve all heard that “confidence is key.” But how does confidence help kids succeed and feel happier?
Research shows that a confident child is better prepared to face the world and make an impact. A confident child is more likely to:
- Have grit. They’re more likely to take on more difficult challenges, persist through setbacks and failures, and avoid quitting.
- Protect themselves. They’re more likely to develop healthy relationships and stand up for themselves against insults.
- Perform well. They’re more likely to get better grades and demonstrate stronger problem-solving abilities.
- Love themselves. They’re more likely to maintain a positive self-image and practice activities like self-compassion.
- Communicate well. They’re better equipped to share their thoughts and feelings, which helps build strong relationships and facilitates healthy emotional development.
There’s a wealth of research to support these claims. If you want to learn more, we recommend looking into Albert Bandura’s work on self-efficacy, Michele Borba’s studies on educational psychology, Kristin Neff’s exploration of self-compassion, and Carol Dweck’s work on self-esteem and motivation.
The idea of building confidence may seem daunting, but there are a few simple things you can do to help nurture confidence in your kids. It’s also important to remember that confidence is not an on/off switch. Building confidence takes work and time, and it develops across several different dimensions. Check out our resources on how to support your Rebel on her confidence journey through five pillars: mind, body, family, community, and world. Your child may also find it valuable to track her confidence over time.
Ready to jump in? Here are a few ways you can help your child develop confidence over time.
Encourage Independent Decision-making
Kids feel confident when they have some control over the world around them. You can help your child develop autonomy starting at any age. For young kids, this might be as simple as letting them choose their own outfit or what story they want to read. For older children, you can let them choose what after-school activities interest them, or even what order they want to do chores in. Even small sets of choices—for instance, “Do you want to wear your red shirt or your green shirt?”—can help your child feel like she has control. What’s important is that you abide by her choice. This will help foster a sense of control and self-efficacy, both of which are components of confidence.
Provide Opportunities to Achieve Mastery
Kids love to see that they’re improving at something, and to be celebrated for that improvement. You can absolutely help your child see that she’s improving her skills. These celebrations do not have to be only for large achievements, either. For example, cheer your daughter on when she plays a note correctly that she’s missed before, or when she does better on a test than she has in the past. You can help your daughter by encouraging her to join a team, pick up an instrument, join a club, try a new puzzle, etc.! Remember, what you’re celebrating is her ability to improve, not necessarily a result or mastery itself. She doesn’t need to be perfect, she just needs to feel good about persevering. Which leads us to…
Foster a “Growth Mindset”
A “growth mindset” pushes people to run toward challenges, and develop and rely on the skills of dedication, hard work, and commitment. In comparison, a “fixed mindset” is a belief that some skills are innate, or that people are born with skills that make them better at things. In other words, someone with a growth mindset wants to grow and improve!
You can help your daughter develop a growth mindset by focusing on the journey, not the destination. Celebrate the effort that went into her preparation rather than just the outcome. You can even help her feel good about failing when you compliment her ability to get back up, and highlight what she’s learned from mistakes. This will help your child learn about the importance of effort, and that work can be its own reward.
You can teach your child to express her feelings, opinions, and wants respectfully. This will help her talk about her wants and needs and create healthy boundaries. You can help her develop these skills by role-playing conversations with her, modeling healthy assertive behaviors in your own life, listening and complimenting her when she asserts herself respectfully, and finding books and movies with assertive characters. You should also work to respect her boundaries and talk to her honestly when you disagree.
Be a Good Role Model
Your kid looks up to you and learns from you. That means when you practice confidence, she’ll want to as well. When you value your confidence, so will she. When you are confident, she will grow more confident too. You can practice all of the steps above and talk with your daughter about your own confidence journey. That will help her learn that confidence requires practice, takes time, and isn’t something that happens immediately. You can also craft together or try out some of the activities in our Courage+Confidence hub.
Building confidence may seem daunting at first, but there are concrete steps you and your daughter can take to build it up over time. An important first step is realizing that building confidence is a journey, sometimes up, sometimes down. But the process of working on confidence, talking about feelings, and practicing will surely help your daughter (and you!) on the confidence journey.
And here’s some good news: you and your daughter are not alone! Sometimes it can feel like you’re the first person to think about how to build confidence or stand up in the face of adversity. In fact, there is an enormous community of girls and women who have worked incredibly hard to build confidence as they grew up. Check out our book Growing Up Powerful for letters, stories, Q&As, and advice from girls who have been there. This bold, big-hearted guide to girlhood will have girls and tweens feeling excited and confident about growing up!