I’ve been thinking so much about building confidence in our kids lately. Maybe because Dave did something recently that I saw help. So I want to share this one way to build confidence in our kids.

I always think about how Dave and I as parents have more power than we realize. Sure, kids come as they are, and some are naturally more confident than others. But the growing-up years are such a prime opportunity to help kids grow that confidence. If we can instill a sense of confidence in these kids they’ll be able to stand on their own and fight for what they believe in life. They’ll be able to make their way in the business world. They’ll have a confidence about what they do as parents some day. I want them to be able be leaders for what’s right, and it takes confidence to do that.

Confident kids morph into confident adults who can change the world

I know that sounds dramatic, but confident kids make good choices, and turn into confident-good-choice-making-leader-adults. They’re not swayed by those around them. And in this day and age I want that so much for my kids. Heck, my word for the year is choose, so I must be worried about that one.

The choices we make each day make such a difference in our lives…and in the lives of those around us.CAITLIN CONNOLLY

Art by Caitlin Connolly.

So how do we as parents give our kids confidence?

My internal thoughts about this were heightened after a conversation I had with my sweet sister-in-law when she was here a couple weeks ago. (She probably has no idea I’m still thinking about this, but I am.) We were talking about how sometimes kids are confident despite parents who may break them down. Are they confident because they have to be? Because no one is building them up so they have to find that internal strength on their own? And then you see people who are still painfully shy and self-conscious despite having been built-up and coddled their whole lives. I’m trying to figure out what makes the difference.

I think it’s nurture and nature. I think good parenting helps, but it’s really dependent on that little personality that comes with each child. (But I’d love to hear anyone else’s theories about this.)

The reason I’ve been wondering about this is because we have one kid who we’ve been worried about in the confidence category. Serious shyness. Head down, shoulders sagging, scared to talk to adults, etc. Now, I’m not saying that shyness equals low self-esteem, but I don’t know, for whatever reason we knew this kid needed to be built-up.

What Dave did with his worry

So last month Dave had an idea. I won’t go into details, because I’m trying to keep the identity of this particular child anonymous, but Dave’s idea has made the hugest difference ever. Dave has taken the time out to take this child to a new class to build on a very favorite hobby three times a week. Tons of driving. Tons of individual time. That on top of some really good goals being made has been the work in progress over here with these two.

And I’ll tell you what, over the last two weeks this kid has morphed into someone different. Head is held high…not afraid to talk to adults…on task with homework, practicing, etc. …even with a big smile plastered across that cute face.

I could just kiss Dave for it…well, actually I did…a lot.

Parents can be powerful resources to help kids gain confidence

But I learned a powerful part of helping in that confidence category really can come from the parents….if they’re willing to put in the effort. If they can know that child well enough to really see who that child really is inside and what will help them. And Dave’s been doing just that.

I’m not saying this is a catch-all and that this particular child will be the President of the United States some day (but who knows??). All I’m saying is that I’m so incredibly thankful for Dave. And his parenting. Yep,  I think I just broke my vow not to talk about him on this blog, but I think this is ok since I’m not talking about how handsome I think he is.

And I’m also saying, I hope we can raise confident kids.

If anyone has suggestions on that please shoot them this way!

Post-edit note: this post was originally published in 2009.

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  1. My little ones are only 4 and 2.5, but my husband and I have been talking about this SO much this past week. You’ve read my mind! I love hearing positive stories like this. I look back on the inexplicable way my parents were able to instill confidence in me and it has positively changed the course of my life. This is definitely one of my top parenting goals and I don’t think it’s ever too early to start thinking about it. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Darn it, I was hoping for lots of comments. Of course, I have one who thinks he is literally the best at EVERYTHING at school. I’m not sure this is confidence, but I have had to break him down a few times and show him areas he is NOT the cat’s meow at.
    I think it might be a finer line with him than other kids.
    hopefully I can remember to come back and check these comments as they grow.

  3. I dont really know you, but I love to read your blog. You have such a way with words and I love your takes on parenting. I also have 5 kids and I am dealing with this exact same thing, so I think you were inspired to write this just for me =) My oldest child cant make a friend to save his life. He just doesnt have the confidence. I guess you could say that he is a “nerd’ type and he doesnt think there are any kids like him. He loves to read, to draw, to build things, and could care less about sports. Its so sad because he is so talented, smart and funny and I know kids would like him if given the chance to know him, but he unfortunatley gives up after the first try. How do you teach him confidence except to give him opportunities to excel. Thats my issue right now-where are those opportunities when it comes to kids and friends? I appreciate your advice and your experiences. I think your husband is spot on and that might be the answer to my prayers, so thank you for sharing.

  4. I completely agree. It has become even more important for us (still just as hard and time consuming and sometimes frustrating to figure out the “how”) now that we live on the east coast and there really aren’t as many good, nurturing influences around us.

    Great things to think about and work on.

  5. You’ve got me in tears here Shawni because this is something I’ve thought about a TON and like you I am not sure if shy kids are necessarily “not confident” but Jake and I have had the same conversations and concerns and this couldn’t have come at a better time.
    In this day and age with so much pressure with the outside world I want to make sure my kids have that confidence with in our own family so that eventually when they are read they can “choose” and stand up for what they want. I could write a huge novel about my thoughts with this.
    This post was exactly what I needed THAnk YOu!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Shawni, don’t I wish I had the answer…but this week I sent Ruby to her first Activity Days, alone, even though parents were invited because i was helping Jeremy with YM/YW etiquette dinner, and I popped in at the end to catch her singing with a mic, a capella, and strutting around the front of the room to her own choreographed rendition of “Food” from Oliver. She forgot the words part way through, glanced around, and then started back in. As I held in the laughs I kept thinking in amazement, where does it come from? This sense of self? She’s the youngest, newest, and couldn’t care less about “cool” or what anyone else thinks. I wish I could transfer this to some of my other kids. But I think in part it’s helping your kids discover WHO they are, what THEY are good at, what makes them THEM, and then building that up with opportunities, sometimes lessons, positive reinforcement, experiences that let them serve with their talent…wish we were having this discussion in person. Miss you! Brandy

  7. Hi Shawni,
    First of all. Just bought your book for myself as a mother’s day present from my kids! Aren’t those kids so thoughtful to know exactly what I wanted?!! I can’t wait to read all those secrets–I’ve heard so many good things! I think confidence is all about skills. And skills are learnable and teachable. Knowing that even though you may not be good at something now, but thinking you could learn how to be good at it is such a confident way to look at the world. Looking someone in the eye is a skill. Smiling is a skill. Learning how to initiate a conversation with a friend is a skill. Also, by developing our talents, we are developing skills. I will ever be grateful for my dad who noticed a potential sewing talent in me and promised he’d buy me all the fabric I could sew. He soon regretted this when I started asking him to go to the fabric store every other day. I am thankful everyday for his investment in my talent. Oh, and I think dads really have a big impact on their kids’ confidence–especially with their daughters and self-image issues. Wow. What a thought-provoking post this is!

  8. Couldn’t agree more… that building confidence is key and there is a difference with nurturing a child and that natural built in confidence. I love everything you’ve said here. Thanks so much for the reminder. I believe in this SO much! So glad to year your little is feeling more confident and bonding with dad. What a treasure!

  9. I found your blog through your parents and have been reading for a couple of weeks. I grew up in SLC and now live in Vegas with 4 adorable kids and a handsome husband.

    I went to a class at Women’s Conference once on building confidence and self esteem in children. The speaker said you need to build in two areas:
    the first is to build the confidence in themselves just because of who they are, they are special and unique and capable just because of their infinite worth and to have conversations with them about them and build them up and let them know that.

    The second is to give them opportunities to develop skills and talents that will give them confidence. Even simple things such as being able to tie their shoes, dress themselves, ride a bike and then to find their passion and talent such as sports, music, drama etc.

    I’ve always tried to remember that especially the part about building them up just because of who they are.

  10. I think of this too…and I think of what makes ME confident when I feel less-than-so in a certain area of life. (And when you are a kid, so MANY things are new experiences), and I really think a lot of it is independence and being able to (or being forced to) learn something new.
    I don’t know if that even makes sense, but I don’t think kids are any different from us in that way…they just have TONS more oppurtunities to experience the “buiding of confidence.”

  11. I heard once from a counselor that “if a child feels lovable and capable that he is free to be the best he can be”. The child might be dearly loved and most capable but he must “feel” it. That is often reflected by the way he is treated, spoken to, references to him, etc. I’m sure it’s also affected by those learning, growing opportunities where he can succeed. I found those words coming to me often and realize how much we reflect a child’s image back to him both positively and negatively, not somuch with a lot of praise but in many small ways. In the end it is up to the individual to “choose” how he is going to respond to the environment in which he lives. I agree it is one of a parent’s greatest challenges. Wish I’d been better at it…so glad you and Dave are so aware!

  12. So, I think my family is one of those situations where you look at us and think “how did all six of those kids turn out confident from that situation?” Well, I think it’s definitely a combination of nature and nurture. All six of us are pretty determined people. Part of that is just who we are, part was instilled in us by our parents yes, but a lot of it was the extended family that stepped in and loved us and befriended us, and showed us the way when our parents didn’t. It’s all about having someone (anyone or many of them) there for you, especially someone who will notice you have an extra need and be there to praise your successes (the world is so quick to offer criticism)….at least that’s the general consensus among the six of us.

  13. Thank you each so much for these great ideas. I have taken each to heart. So many ideas about helping them to develop skills and feel happy being themselves. I think also not trying to get them to be something they’re not…being totally accepting of who that little personality really is. I’m still mulling this over like crazy, but I so appreciate the comments.

  14. I would be interested in some more details on this if you don’t mind sharing – maybe through email if you don’t want it on your blog (and you have time).

    Anyway, lovely blog, I came over from Clover Lane and I’m happy to have found you!

  15. Just found your blog and I love it. Thank you!
    In my family, the very last part of our daily bedtime routine is to tell each child some "successes" from the day. My husband and I both come up with a couple of things ("Wow, you rode your bike so fast today!" or "It was so nice how you shared your treat with your sister", etc.). Our kids are 3 and 1.5, so they seriously eat this stuff up. I was surprised at just how young our daughter understood "success time" and started begging for more (I think around 15 months we started and you never saw a child listen more intently). Anyway, it is probably a bit young for your kids and I'm afraid my children will outgrow it at some point and I will have to come up with a new confidence building idea (I'm sure you'll supply me with some!). But I thought I would share it anyway.

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