How to Help Build Confidence in Children and Teens

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How to Help Build Confidence in Children and Teens

Has your child or student ever asked you, “What is confidence?» Were you able to explain it in a way they could understand? We often talk about the importance of trust, but it is sometimes difficult to articulate a clear and practical definition.

So what exactly is trust? And how can we help children understand trust and integrate it into their lives?

what is trust

Confidence is the belief that you are capable. It means seeing mistakes as learning opportunities, saying “I can” instead of “I can’t,” and believing that you can meet life’s challenges and succeed.

When defining trust, it is also helpful to talk about what trust is not. Trust is not:

  • Being arrogant or thinking that you are better than others.
  • Get it right every time; being perfect.
  • Bury your emotions; pretending you’re never nervous or scared.
  • It’s not a constant: we all have times when we don’t feel safe and that’s okay!

How to help children understand trust

There are many strategies you can use to develop a child’s confidence. But how can you help a child consciously understand what confidence looks and feels like?

Explain trust in kid-friendly language

Begin by explaining trust using child-friendly language. For example, say: “Trust is when you believe that you can do something, even if it’s hard.” Or, “Being confident means you are brave enough to try new things and move on after making a mistake.”

It is also helpful to give examples, especially from the child’s own life. Think of a time when the child was confident enough to try a challenging task, learn from a mistake, or face a fear (for example, speaking in front of the class or joining a new soccer team).

model trust

The best way for a child to understand and emulate trust is to spend time with trusting adults. If your confidence needs a boost, focus first on building your own confidence. It’s not a process that will happen overnight, but start by avoiding self-critical comments in front of your children or students.

Practice positive self-talk, surround yourself with positive people, and stop comparing yourself to others. Treat yourself with kindness and take care of your physical and mental health. Face your fears and try new hobbies and reflect on your accomplishments, strengths, and talents.

When you can do this confidence-building work yourself, you’ll have a much easier time helping kids do the same. You will naturally teach confidence through role models and direct interactions with the children in your life.

Identify examples of trust in books and movies.

Examples from books and movies are another way to help children learn an abstract concept. Search growth mindset movies list to see lots of movies that demonstrate confidence. These movies are all about chasing our dreams, overcoming obstacles, and never giving up.

Some books to teach confidence include:

  • The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper
  • I like the way I am!, by Karen Beaumont
  • A Bad Case of Streaks by David Shannon
  • Patty Lovell’s Head Held High Molly Lou Melon
  • Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae

When you read with children, ask them what lessons they learned about trust. Ask them to write and/or illustrate favorite quotes or moments, then hang them in your home or classroom if you’re a teacher. Refer to your favorite movies or books about confidence when you need a reminder about confidence.

Recognize and celebrate trust

When children show confidence, be sure to acknowledge and celebrate it. Showing confidence can include trying something newshow effort and persistence, and have a positive attitude about making mistakes.

These celebrations can be as simple as “High five! That took a lot of confidence” or “You were confident enough to try something new, good job!” Also use variations of self-confidence statements, such as, “Look at you! You can do difficult things!”

Talk about how it feels to practice trust

Finally, help children recognize the value of trust by discussing how it feels to practice it. What are the results of approaching life’s challenges and situations with confidence?

When children show courage, persistence, and the ability to overcome mistakes, ask them how they felt during the experience. Were they proud? Happy? Excited? Even safer than before? He explains how the more we practice trust, the more trusting we become.

How to help teens build confidence

Even children who understand and practice trust can begin to struggle as teenagers. The teenage years are full of challenges, changes, and comparisons. Here is an overview of some tips:

  1. Make it clear to your teen that you love him unconditionally. Your love is not dependent on his qualifications, talent, or behavior.
  2. Have open conversations about failure and mistakes. Don’t protect your teen from failure or panic when she makes mistakes.
  3. Celebrate growth, perseverance, hard work and effort. Focus not only on the positive results, but also on the process of achieving them.
  4. Help teens gain new and missing skills and discover their passions and talents.
  5. Teach teens about assertiveness and boundaries. Remind them that they are not a bad person for leaving toxic friendships or relationships behind or for refusing to tolerate hurtful behavior from others.
  6. Create a safe space for your teen to talk about difficult situations. Listen and offer compassion. Involve teens in the process of solving their problems instead of just telling them the answer.
  7. Adopt a growth mindset in your home and model the confidence you’d like your teen to have.

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