Cultivating Confidence – How to Build Self-Esteem in Children

As I get older, I can finally understand the vital role self-esteem plays in my everyday life. Self-esteem impacts my relationships, my career journey, and my overall health. Learning to value myself has been a long and bumpy road, which is why I’m committed to helping my daughter understand the complex topic, as well as teaching her how she can build and maintain a healthy self-esteem and improve her confidence.  

Confidence is a skill, not a personality trait. Below are four ways you can cultivate confidence and build self-esteem in children.

Promote independence

Teaching a child to do something and then backing off to let them try their hand at it is one of the best things you can do to build their self-esteem. Mistakes are common and, in this case, encouraged, so don’t get hung up on the idea that they’re not doing it right the first time. Simply knowing that they have your trust and support gives a child the confidence they need to believe in themselves, a trait that will translate into other areas of their life as well.

Let them lose

When my daughter joined a basketball team for the first time this summer, I was terrified that missed shots, bad plays, or lost games would discourage her from continuing the sport. So, you probably understand why I was shocked and amazed when she raved about the game on our way home, even though her team suffered a terrible loss (I’m talking 30 to 0 score).

Yes, she lost, but she also gained so much. She acquired the experience, the lessons, and the memories. The basketball season taught me that my daughter’s self-esteem is strong, probably even better than mine. We should all be a part of losing teams now and then.  

Provide praise and encouragement

My daughters’ losses weren’t rare. Her team lost nine out of ten basketball games. Finishing the season strong with their first (and only) win. Regardless of the score, minutes played, or mistakes made, my husband and I made the effort to provide praise and encouragement before, during, and after her games.

You’ll see a lot of tips online about not over-praising a child, and I get it. My comments were never to make my daughter believe she was the best basketball player on the court (she would admit she wasn’t), but to lift her spirits and keep her motivated when times get tough. I’d say those positive comments were a slam dunk!

Lead by example

I’m always shocked by my daughter’s ability to identify my habits and behaviors. She’ll immediately question my thought process, my reasoning, and my choices, forcing me to think twice before I do something. Now, I don’t mean I have to change who I am, but I do want to be sure that the things I do are actions I’d be proud of.

If I want to raise a confident child, I have to be a confident parent. It doesn’t mean I have all the answers or am certain of my next move, but it does mean that I accept myself for who I am, which is exactly what I would like for her to do today, tomorrow, and for the rest of her life.