Fostering Confidence in Our Kids

by Elena on September 4, 2012 in Education

Reading, writing, and math are three things that parents and teachers have always looked at as indicators of success in schools.

But I have three other things that as far as I am concerned, may be even more important than if you have memorized your math facts or can write a perfect essay.

Fostering Confidence in Children | Ciao Mom

Confidence. Self esteem. A strong sense of self.

You might say that these three things are redundant. You might wonder why problem solving and creativity, some of my favorite topics are not what I consider to be the keys to school success. The truth is that if you are not confident you are less likely to take risks when it comes to problem solving or thinking outside the proverbial box to show creativity. If you are afraid to stand up for yourself or are easily swayed when someone else offers a suggestion that others think is better than yours, you are not likely to demonstrate the depth of creative ideas that are swirling around your head.

After twelve years,  I know the importance of confidence, self esteem and a strong sense of self even though I am not in the classroom myself today to welcome new students to a new year of learning, inquiry, and reflection.  But also? As a mom to a daughter whose confidence and self esteem sometimes play second fiddle to the voices of insecurity….I have never been so sure about these three, seemingly simple characteristics as the key to academic success in school and more importantly, in life.

The trick is….how do we foster confidence in our children? Especially if you are like me, not exactly the poster child of self confidence every single day?

The only answer that I can even begin to come up with is by being a role model with our own behavior AND encouraging our children in very concrete ways.  As people we take in feedback across settings, through verbal and non verbal cues.  We read body language, we hear the words that are used to describe our actions, efforts, and even behavior.

Strategies to foster confidence in children

It is not enough to say “That is great” when you are looking through a child’s school work. Providing concrete feedback like “I noticed you used descriptive sentences” or “I noticed that you capitalized at the beginning of each sentence” or even “I noticed that you used a lot of color in your picture” provide specific reinforcement. While we always want someone to “like” our work, the reality is that in life, not everyone is going to like everything we do. So starting children off with a foundation of confidence NOT built on what others like or dislike will help foster their inner sense of confidence and pride in their work.

As independent as our children want to be, they still need us.  Reminders that we are there and that we care, with a special lunchbox note or card hidden in their backpack can go a long way to helping our children remember that we are rooting for them. Our first day of school started off with a card left on my daughter’s bedside table so that she would see it when she woke up and of course a lunch box note to find when she sits down in the crowded and noisy cafeteria later today.

fostering confidence in children | Ciao Mom

Lunch Notes for Kids by Hallmark
(50 ways to add a little love to lunchtime written by Laura VanZee Taylor  
Fostering Confidence in Children | Ciao Mom

Reflecting on the good things is an important tool for life.  Instead of coming home off the bus ready to list the who did what and what went wrong during the day, my daughter knows that when she gets off the bus, I am going to ask her to tell me two good things about her day. We can get to the frustrating things later, but helping her notice the sometimes small successes can help later when we do talk about anything that might have been frustrating.

Setting goals helps guide efforts and show progress.  Children (and adults) often feel like they have to do everything well all at once.  Asking a child to set a goal can help them focus their efforts and allow them to see themselves grow as they work to achieve that goal. Setting a goal also encourages conversations about what might make that goal difficult, so that a child can think through the steps they will need to take to show progress.  Also? While we as parents have goals for our children, it is important to find out what they want to improve or work towards.  My daughter’s two goals are to learn more vocabulary words so that she can understand what she reads better, and to become a more detailed writer (I swear that I did not influence her in creating that goal!). Now,  I can weave specific feedback into conversations to help encourage her attempts to achieve her goals and foster her interests in concrete ways instead of just telling her, for example, that she needs to “write more.”

Fostering confidence in our children will help them not just in school as they speak in front of their classmates or demonstrate their knowledge to their teachers.  Confidence, self esteem, and a strong sense of self will prepare them for real life…the real life that is for better or worse, just a few blinks away.  I cannot even imagine how my own life would be different if I had developed a stronger sense of self confidence or self esteem when I was  younger.  But more than anything else, I know that to help my daughter develop these three traits, I need to model them myself and show her the importance so that hears it, sees it, and believes in the importance.

What about you? What do you see as the keys to fostering confidence in our children or in ourselves?

Ciao Mom



Thank you to Hallmark for providing me with Lunch Notes for Kids and a selection of greeting cards to help encourage and foster confidence in my own daughter as she heads back to school this year. No compensation was received for this post. All opinions are my own.

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Sandra September 4, 2012 at 11:55 am

Soooo true – especially about making specific comments when praising their work. You know, not every picture is amazing. But there is usually something specific that we can point to when talking about that picture.

I think that the confidence is even more important for girls. I have a 6 year old and I feel like I have this small window of time before she hits the tween years to instill confidence. To make sure that she has some skills and an ability that she can look to that is more than just how cute she is.

Thanks for this!

Rajean September 4, 2012 at 3:50 pm

Wonderful messages. I couldn’t agree more! Sharing.

Nancy September 4, 2012 at 7:26 pm

Excellent post. And one more thing to add: don’t just praise. Praise (like the card you showed) their work to achieve something. Kids should know that working to get what they want is a good thing. That everything shouldn’t just come easily to them. Praise them for what they DO — not just who they are.
Great post Love it.

Elena September 4, 2012 at 9:18 pm

yes, absolutely yes! Concrete (& constructive) feedback is so crucial. Our kids have to grow up taking pride in their own work regardless of whether someone “likes” it or not (though funny, as I wrote that, I thought about facebook—random, but interesting how we as adults now cover the FB like.)

angela September 5, 2012 at 8:48 am

I like the specific comments part. I know my kids, particularly the 4 year old, really respond well when my compliments aren’t so general.

ConnieFoggles September 5, 2012 at 9:55 pm

Specific words of praise really work. I too have trouble with self-esteem and my tween daughter corrects me when I put myself down. I guess I’m doing a good job.

Jessica @FoundtheMarbles September 5, 2012 at 10:22 pm

We work on self-esteem, confidence and sometimes keeping confidence in check! It’s a difficult balance for a parent to build self-esteem while letting them fail and to help them gain confidence without cockiness.

Rosa @ FlutterFlutter September 6, 2012 at 12:00 am

I love the idea about being specific… of course! That makes sense! And yet, now that I think about it I don’t do that, so thank you, because I’ll be purposefully trying to do that now. :)

hchybinski September 6, 2012 at 12:21 pm

SUCH a difficult thing – many days I think math, reading and writing are MUCH easier to teach. Love your ideas – thanks for sharing.


Lee Reyes-Fournier September 8, 2012 at 7:53 pm

Love this idea!! I always say our job is to teach our kids kindness and hope!

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