Seven ways to cultivate confidence in children

  • Family
  • Tuesday, 23 May 2023

It is important that parents are there for their children, by talking with them and giving support and trust. — dpa

INNER strength is not an inborn trait, but rather develops from a child’s social interaction with its parents, who lay down the groundwork for the child’s development in its earliest years.

Later, during elementary school and puberty the goal is to preserve this relationship, for the family – along with the school environment – has the biggest influence over how well children learn to cope with stress and difficult situations.

Here are seven tips from two child development experts on how parents can boost their children’s self-confidence.

Signalling love and support

”For personality development it is important that the parents are there for their children – by talking with them, with support and trust in the child,” says Michaela Goecke of Germany’s Federal Centre for Health Education in Cologne. Children who feel they are loved and accepted will find it easier to develop good feelings about themselves.

Christiane Kutik, a parenting coach in Munich, speaks of the “nest warmth” needed by a child – the feeling of truly being at home, liked, and able to relax. “Children do not gain self-esteem from other schoolkids, but at home,” she says.

In addition, grandparents, a good friend and a neighbour can strengthen a child. “It might be someone children respect because he can do one thing,” she added.

Good relationships also help young people through puberty. “The support of parents and family talks are important, even if the young person’s circle of friends becomes increasingly significant,” Goecke says.

Giving your complete attention

Even if they are no longer a small child and can handle many things for themselves, children still need the undivided attention of their parents in order to build up a strong sense of self-esteem. “Parents should put aside their smartphones more often and devote themselves fully and completely to their child,” Christiane Kutik advises.

This signals to the child that he or she is important to them and creates an atmosphere to talk about experiences. “Children don’t like to talk at the push of a button,” she says, “but rather then when the parents are fully present.”

Setting positive signals

Kutik also points out that children continue to need emotional support in elementary school and puberty. They need to be given a positive boost, for example, with a good start to the new day.

”Parents and children should take the time to really say goobye to each other before school,” she says. It nourishes a child when its parents send it away with good wishes.

And, the same applies in greeting each other. “Instead of receiving a pubescent child without comment, parents might say ‘you are too important to me to simply just pass by each other,’” Kutik says.

Going for walks together can help children regulate their emotions. — dpaGoing for walks together can help children regulate their emotions. — dpa

Being a role model in handling stress

In everyday life children can experience different kinds of troubles. ”Parents can support them by showing them how they themselves handle burdens,” Michaela Goecke says. The best approach is to stay calm, keep in mind one’s own limits and to seek and accept support when it is needed.

“It’s also helpful to set up rituals to calm down and relax,” she says. For example it could be withdrawing to a cosy corner to read, listen to music or stories, or having fixed quiet times. Taking a walk together can help children to regulate their feelings.

”When the child wishes to speak, what helps is to listen and to mirror its feelings,” Kutik says. “I understand that you are angry” is an example of such an expression of support.

Learning to resolve conflicts

Children learn in their families and from their parents how to cope with conflicts and resolve them. In this, parents are important role models. “Some conflicts - for example with others of the same age or with siblings - should be dealt with by children themselves, without parents intervening,” Goecke says.

When they learn to talk with one another and find compromises, it gives them the self-confidence to deal with difficult situations.

”Before parents get involved, they should ask their child, ‘can you solve this yourself?’” Kutik says. For, parents usually don’t know how a dispute got started. But if the problem to be solved proves too much for the child – issues such as being mobbed or shunted – parents should be brought in, she says.

Promoting independence

The older children become, the more they should be encouraged to make their own decisions and assume responsibility for their actions.

”When children try things out for themselves and learn from their mistakes, they also get to know themselves better as a person,” Goecke says. And so their courage and self-confidence will grow.

Kutik recommends things like leaving it to the children to set the dinner table or to go to the shop for bread rolls, because they will grow along with their tasks. If something doesn’t go right, she says a parent can still strengthen the child by saying “you’re allowed to make mistakes. I still love you all the same.”

Children need the undivided attention of their parents to build a strong sense of self-worth. — dpaChildren need the undivided attention of their parents to build a strong sense of self-worth. — dpa

Encouraging talents and hobbies

”From elementary school on, children need a hobby to strengthen themselves, at best one that is outside the school,” Kutik advises. If the child does not express any wishes, they should be encouraged to discover their interests and talents.

Knowing that he or she is good at something strengthens the child’s self-awareness. At the same time, hobbies can balance out daily school life and help to reduce stress. – dpa

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