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“Self-confidence is the foundation of all great success and achievement.”
- Brian Tracy
Confidence is vitally important to a child’s future happiness, health, and success. Confident children are better equipped to deal with peer pressure, responsibility, frustrations, challenges, and both positive and negative emotions.
And what is the key factor in developing a child’s confidence?
YOU! The child’s parents and teachers.
No pressure, right? Don’t worry—building a child’s confidence doesn’t have to be an intimidating or complicated task. Use these 25 research-based, immediately implementable strategies to start boosting the confidence of your children or students today.
1. Ensure they know your love is unconditional.
The way we see our kids (or the way our kids believe we see them) has a profound impact on the way they see themselves.
Make it clear to your children (or to your students) that you love and care for them even when they make mistakes or poor decisions, and avoid harshly criticizing or shaming them.
2. Give age-appropriate tasks around the house or classroom.
When kids do chores or small jobs, they feel that they are making a valuable contribution, which gives them a sense of competence and confidence.
Give your child age-appropriate responsibilities like making the bed, feeding the dog, setting the table, folding clothes, picking up toys, etc.
Assign your students tasks like putting away supplies or passing out papers.
3. Address them by their name.
Addressing children by name is a powerful and simple way to send the message that they’re important, especially when paired with eye contact.
4. Give them age-appropriate “special tasks” to help you out.
In addition to chores and classroom jobs, give children “special tasks” to help them feel useful, responsible, and competent. Using the word “special” gives children an even bigger confidence boost.
In the home, these special tasks can include helping with a pet or younger sibling as needed, being your cooking “assistant,” or, for a very young child, simply dressing himself.
In the classroom, kids can help make classroom decorations, water plants, erase the board, etc.
5. Join their play (and let them lead).
Joining in a child’s play sends the message that he is important and worthy of your time.
During playtime, parents can allow children to initiate or choose the activity, as well as lead it. When parents engage in and appear to enjoy a child-led activity, the child feels valuable and accomplished.
Teachers of young children can implement this strategy in the classroom as well.
6. Focus on improving your own confidence.
This isn’t a step you can accomplish overnight, but it’s one of the most essential on this list.
Parents are a child’s first and best role models, so take time to repair your own confidence if it’s damaged. Don’t make negative comments about yourself in your child’s presence, and don’t hesitate to seek professional help if you think it could benefit you—and, by extension, your child.
Teachers, too, should avoid self-criticism and model confidence in front of their students.
7. Ask them for their advice or opinion.
Ask children for their advice or opinions on age-appropriate situations to show that you value them and their ideas.
This also helps children build confidence by demonstrating that even adults need help sometimes, and it’s okay to ask for it.
8. Make special time together.
Love and acceptance are key components of confidence and self-worth, so parents should spend quality time with their children to demonstrate that they are valuable.
Take him on outings, eat dinner together, play games, go outside, or do any other activity that allows you and your child to enjoy time together.
Teachers can help children feel loved and accepted by getting to know students’ interests or hobbies and making a point of having personalized conversations with each child, like, “How was your soccer game yesterday, Sarah?” or, “I think you would really like this book about dinosaurs, Timmy.”
9. Let them make age-appropriate choices.
Like chores and special tasks, choices help children feel competent and powerful.
Allow children to make age-appropriate decisions like what to wear, what to eat for breakfast, what game to play or color to use, where to go on an outing, etc.
Teachers can build choice into the classroom by letting students make decisions about how they will demonstrate mastery of a skill (show what they know about weather by drawing a picture, writing a song, or creating a story) or letting the class discuss and choose certain books or activities.
10. Set aside time when you give them undivided attention.
Parents, your child recognizes when your mind is on something else or when you’re not giving him your undivided attention.
To help your child feel valued and confident, set aside time to put away the electronics, put thoughts of work or other distractions out of your mind, and truly focus your attention on your child.
Teachers, too, can take the time to give students their full attention and be attentive to their needs.
11. Encourage them to try a theater class.
Theater classes are a great way to boost confidence. Trying something new helps children feel capable, and theater teaches them to speak confidently in front of others and expand their comfort zone.
Parents and teachers alike can encourage kids to try out theater, and teachers may even be able to incorporate roleplaying or drama games into the classroom.
12. Praise them the right way.
Simply showering children with praise isn’t effective, but praising kids the right way can certainly build their self-esteem.
Give children genuine, specific praise that focuses more on effort than on results (like getting straight A’s) or on fixed abilities (like intelligence).
To learn more about giving effective praise, visit our ultimate guide to praising your child.
13. Let them overhear you speaking positively about them to others.
Another quick, easy way to boost a child’s confidence is to “accidentally” let him hear you praising his great achievements and efforts to others.
Children are sometimes skeptical when we directly praise them, but hearing you repeat this praise to others makes it more believable (and even more meaningful).
14. Resist comparing them to others.
Avoid comparing children to siblings or classmates with questions like, “Why can’t you behave like him/her?” or, “Look how well your sister does in school! Why can’t you do that?”
These comparisons cause children to doubt themselves, believe that they can’t please you or meet your expectations, and ultimately lose confidence.
15. Practice positive self-talk with them.
Both children and adults often engage in negative and damaging chatter with themselves: “I can’t do this,” or, “I’m terrible at __________,” or, “What is wrong with me?”
Model and teach children positive affirmations to use instead, such as, “I’m trying my best,” “I can always improve,” or, “I can do this.”
16. Cultivate their sense of belonging by hanging their portraits or artwork around the home or classroom.
Yes, even something as simple as hanging family portraits around your home can increase your child’s confidence!
In the classroom, too, you can post pictures of your students. You can also have them create self-portraits, design flags or puzzle pieces that represent their personalities and interests, etc. and hang these around the classroom.
This gives children a sense of belonging, acceptance, and love that will ultimately help their confidence soar.
17. Teach them how to set and achieve goals.
Setting and achieving challenging, realistic goals can help children feel more capable. Help your children or students set and stick to specific goals by following the simple steps outlined here.
18. Encourage them to try new things to develop new skills.
Children who lack confidence often shy away from trying new things or tackling new challenges.
Encourage the children in your life to branch out, try new activities, and develop new skills. This gives kids the confidence that they can tackle anything that comes their way.
19. Help them discover their interests and passions.
It’s also important for kids to discover their interests and passions. When children find what they like and excel at, they gain confidence in themselves and their abilities.
Create opportunities for your children or students to try activities that interest them, and be supportive of these endeavors.
20. Help them overcome the fear of failure.
The fear of failure often prevents children from trying their best and reaching their fullest potential, which can naturally diminish confidence.
Help kids overcome the fear of failure by teaching them that mistakes are a perfectly acceptable part of life and that people rarely achieve success without challenges and setbacks.
21. Encourage them to express their feelings.
When you criticize or overlook a child’s feelings, he may feel that his emotions don’t matter and conclude that this means he doesn’t matter either.
Encourage children to express both positive and negative emotions, and help them talk through these emotions in a healthy manner.
22. Make sure they know you’re upset with their choices, not with who they are.
Getting upset with your children or students sometimes is inevitable, and you will need to offer constructive criticism and consequences.
However, make it clear that it’s the child’s choices or actions that you’re upset with, not who the child is as a person. Direct all criticism at these actions instead of criticizing the child with statements like, “You’re so lazy!” or, “Why are you so bad?”
23. Surround them with positive, confident people (including their friends).
The more a child is around positive, confident individuals, the likelier he is to become a confident and positive individual himself.
Parents, give your child strong adult role models, and do your best to ensure that his friends are confident people who uplift and encourage your child rather than tearing him down.
Teachers, be a positive and confident role model for your students, and teach your students to be kind and build one another up.
24. Create a Wall of Fame to recognize their achievements.
In the home or in the classroom, you can demonstrate your pride and appreciation for kids’ achievements by creating a “Wall of Fame” that showcases achievements like good grades, art projects, trophies or certificates, pictures of the child participating in sports or other favorite activities, and more.
A Wall of Fame can highlight a child’s effort and determination, giving him a confidence boost that can be especially helpful in times of self-doubt.
25. Shower them with hugs!
Physical affection communicates love, acceptance, and belonging, making children happy and confident.
Parents and teachers of younger children can give kids high fives, back pats, hair tousles, and lots of hugs to show that they are cared for and valued.
Confidence shapes a child’s life tremendously, and it’s one of the most important gifts parents and teachers can give to their children.
If you’re unsure where to start, pick a few strategies from this list to try implementing this week. Once you’ve mastered those, try a few more. (You probably found a few strategies on this list that you’re already using in your home or classroom too!)
Give kids opportunities to feel capable and competent, and demonstrate through words and actions that they are loved and valued.
With your support, the children in your care will grow into confident individuals who are happy, successful, and thriving.