"I can't do that!" (self-doubt in children)

"I can't do that!" (self-doubt in children)

This is how you can boost your child's self-confidence

"But I can't do that!" a sentence that is not uncommon, a sentence that is self-reproach and is often very painful to hear as a parent. Because parents want their children to be self-confident, to have the confidence to do something and to go through life openly and courageously. Parents are therefore wondering what the causes of their child's lack of self-confidence are. First of all, it should be said that every child has their own personality and while some children find it easier to master their everyday life with confidence, it is less easy for other children. The good thing is that self-confidence can be learned and thus also encouraged.

A healthy self-confidence is one of the most important basics that you can pass on to your child. Because self-confident children and later adults usually have it easier in life. Their self-confidence will help them to face life's challenges better. They know who they are, they know their strengths and weaknesses and they can also accept them.

Self-confidence is not innate, but develops over the course of childhood. So you have a big influence on how much self-esteem and self-confidence your child has.

Why is it so important that your child has a healthy self-confidence

  • Your child will explore the world without shyness and full of curiosity
  • Your child will find it easier to approach other children and make friends
  • Your child will find it easier to stand up for their needs and beliefs
  • Your child will be able to cope better with everyday life
  • Your child will find their way around faster in a new setting
  • Your child will find transitions easier
  • Your child will be able to differentiate themselves better 

What can you do to boost your child's self-confidence?

For a child to develop self-confidence, they must feel loved. From an early age, children begin to develop self-esteem. At first this happens very subconsciously. Confidence continues to build over the years as your child feels important and meaningful, or is made to feel that way. This does not mean to praise your child excessively and for every activity, but rather to perceive and respect your child with his feelings, needs and wishes. You should also encourage your child in his behavior. This is not your job alone, it affects the entire environment of your child.

Here are a few tips for your everyday life:

True Praise: As already mentioned, it is of great importance that you acknowledge your child. But it is important that it is authentic. Over-praise can cause your child to overestimate themselves, which can lead to your child experiencing a series of failures, which in turn could severely damage their self-esteem.

Challenge your child without overwhelming it: Give your child small tasks that they can be proud of afterwards. Because pride breeds self-confidence thanks to the feeling of having accomplished something on your own. Then praise and thank your child for completing the task. If you notice that your child is overwhelmed with a task you have set, accompany the task and master it together.

Take your child's feelings seriously: If your child is sad or hurt, don't downplay it ("Never mind, don't cry!") or try to distract them from their current emotional state. Instead, you should mirror your child's feelings, respond to them, and talk about their emotions. In this way, your child will learn to talk about their own feelings, they will also experience and learn that they are allowed to express their feelings and be themselves.

Ask your child for their opinion: When your child feels they are being taken seriously, it gives them confidence that their opinion counts and is valued. Also involve your child in decisions that affect your everyday family life (meal plan for the week, leisure activities, etc.). Ask it how it finds and experiences things, don't argue against it.

Let your child be loud: The Everyday life with children can be turbulent, loud and exhausting. But children don't have to be quiet, sit still, control themselves. Children are curious, they want to try new things and themselves. Let your child romp, be wild, pursue their urge to move. In this way, your child will feel encouraged that their wishes and, above all, their behavior are accepted.

Apologize: It is absolutely human that you sometimes do something wrong, become louder than necessary or are impatient. It is important that you apologize to your child afterwards. This way your child will learn that everyone makes mistakes and that you can apologize for them.

Criticize factually:  When expressing criticism of your child, it is important that you do not get personal and thus do not criticize your child's personality. Also, make sure it's done in a calm tone, even when you're angry. Before you talk to your child, calm down. Instead of saying, "It annoys me that you're so messy," say, "It would be important for me if you tidy up your toys."

Strengthen the friendships: Contact with peers and playing together is important for your child. Not every child finds it easy to make friends on their own, support them (see blog entry “Dad, I have a new friend”/topic friendships). You can also arrange play dates or find a suitable hobby with your child. It will help your child feel confident and empowered.

Give him security: The family should be the safe haven for your child, here it is valued, respected and loved. It can be the way it is and is just right. Show your child that you are always there for them and that you are happy to support them if they want/request help.

Mindfulness towards your child: Even if it is often difficult in hectic everyday life, always try to give your child your full attention. Your child's self-esteem develops primarily through the reactions they get from their immediate environment. If you don't have time or have other things to do, it's very important that you explain this to your child. Discuss/agree with your child on a later date when they will then have your undivided attention. If your child rarely gets your undivided attention, they will feel unimportant and not taken seriously in the long run.

Bad mood is allowed: As with everyone, there will be days when your child is simply in a bad mood. Allow your child to be in a bad mood, but make it clear that they shouldn't take their bad mood out on others. Offer him a retreat where he can be alone. But just leave your child in everyday life if they want to be with people but don't feel like direct interaction. If you want to virtually forbid your child to be in a bad mood, the result will be that your child will believe that his feelings are wrong and that he shouldn't have them.

Let your child set their own boundaries: Your child has a right to privacy and personal boundaries. support it. In everyday life there are many situations in which your child sets their limits. This can happen when she doesn't want to share her toys with the visiting children, doesn't want to kiss her aunt, or doesn't want to play in a game. Here it is important to decide how you will interact on a case-by-case basis. Your child doesn't want to share their toys - it's best to discuss with your child beforehand which toys they don't share. Your child doesn't want to kiss their aunt - that's perfectly fine and needs to be accepted by everyone (if they don't, be sure to support them!) This will have the effect of making it much easier for your child to say " to say no” and to be able to assert oneself.

Mistakes are right and important: On the one hand, child development without mistakes is not possible at all, on the other hand, it would also be fatal. Because a mistake signals to your child "It doesn't work that way, there must be another solution", or "It doesn't work yet, I have to practice it a few more times". They help your child to find the right solution. Mistakes in and of themselves are not bad for a child. For example, a toddler who is just learning to walk would stop trying after the first failed attempt, none of us would be able to walk. Mistakes only become a problem for children when they are criticized for them. Because that usually means that they are afraid of making mistakes. And when you're scared, it's natural to feel insecure and not dare to do anything new. That's why it's so important that you never criticize your child for mistakes, instead you should motivate them to try again. Don't give him the solution either. In this way, your child will learn to deal with mistakes in a relaxed manner. It will trust its own abilities and not give up immediately.

Never compare your child: Everyone is unique, has their own strengths and weaknesses! Comparison tends to make you feel inferior, inferior, and inadequate—and that's toxic to your child's self-esteem! Sentences like "when your sister was your age, she could already..." should not be used. However, what can help the development of self-confidence is if you compare your child to himself with positive developments. For example, you can tell him, "Look, a few weeks ago you couldn't ride a bike on your own and now you can do it so well. This is really great!"

Be a role model: As is almost always the case here, too, your child will learn a lot from you. Your child can sense when you are anxious or insecure yourself. That's why everything that boosts your self-confidence is also helpful for your child. So take care of yourself and be kind to yourself!

In the course of his life, your child will most likely come into situations that shake his self-confidence. It is therefore crucial to strengthen and consolidate it in childhood in order to give your child the tools for later.

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