Help Children Build Confidence, Character and Competency

Help Children Build Confidence, Character and Competency

Parental guidance on supporting children so they can support themselves

Praise your preschooler's effort on her magnum opus Everglades watercolor while also giving constructive feedback on adding legs to the featured alligator. Delegate the household recycling ministry to your child and help her set goals for math improvement this school year. Arrange meaningful volunteer service at the children's hospital or family beach cleanup to explore career interests and broaden their perspective  beyond digital dramas of 2.0 adolescence.  

With the school year upon us, show your belief and take affirmative action to help your children build on their skills and work through challenges themselves. Give unconditional love from their  math Olympiad victory to swim meet debacle. And remember that person who truly believed in you (maybe before you did) and made all the difference!

Firm Family Foundation: advises parents to show faith in their children as valuable, capable and loved, focusing on strengths over weaknesses and teaching positive self-talk regarding skills and setbacks. Challenge them to their full potential, and avoid projecting parental insecurities. 
Help them express their feelings. Give meaningful and specific praise --but don't overdo it.  "Simple words of faith to a child can be life changing," it says, in helping a child to feel confident in oneself and one's abilities despite any handicaps, challenges and shortcomings. gives tips to lay the groundwork for self-confidence. Give children responsibility to show "you believe (they) can contribute." Trust them with age-appropriate boundaries and with respect to safety. Praise generously and tell your child you believe in them when they obsess over one bad play in a winning game. "Often the balance is tipped by the confidence we give our children...or fail to give."

Activate Motivation:  encourages sweet affirmation of simple positive behaviors like helping a sibling and quietly reading. Help build strong friendships and set clear boundaries with rules like for social media and bedtime. Reframe failures as lessons and tell how you overcame past mistakes to show "perfection is overrated." And set goals from setting the table to practicing piano, which instills motivation.  "Motivation is an essential tool for later in life. Try to teach them every time they say 'I can't' to replace that with, 'what do I have to do so that I can?'"

Actual Face Time:
It's "hugely important" to make time for two-way communication. And have the child speak politely to adults with eye contact. "Our role as parents is to make our children independent of us. They need to be able to stand on their own two feet. They need to be able to make choices, stand up for themselves and believe in themselves," affirms

Build Resilience: 
The Washington Post discusses  "How to Build a Child's Self-Esteem" by promoting efficacy, the ability to complete a task or challenge using appropriate strategies independently. Identify specific improvements to work on to achieve a goal in attainable steps, such as holding the bat properly in learning baseball. "Lavish praise doesn't help because if I'm already wonderful why would I try hard or practice? Competence means not only developing skills, but also embracing the learning process," says Eileen Kennedy-Moore, Ph.D., author of "Kid Confidence."

So support children to figure things out for themselves and develop real competence from coping with tolerable stressors and uncomfortable feelings. "What we want to do is teach the skills to be able to protect themselves, and if they're not able to protect themselves, how do they look for help," says Ned Johnson, co-author of The Self-Driven Child.

Seek and They Shall Find:
Encourage children to follow their passions and challenge the status quo with service action, says  CNN, whether helping foster children or an elderly neighbor with groceries. "Instead of defining success as achieving a desired outcome, ask your child, 'How did you make an effort to live out your values, and to what degree do you feel proud of your efforts?'" child psychologist Ryan DeLapp advises.

They in turn find purpose and feel appreciated.  "It's the whole 'do I matter?' thing," said Dr. Ken Ginsburg, M.D., author of "Building Resilience in Children and Teens." "When kids contribute to the world, they know they matter, and knowing they matter is one of the most protective factors. It builds their self-esteem and furthers their motivation."

By Priscilla Greear