Parenting author and psychologist Carl Pickhardt says a child who lacks confidence is reluctant to try new or challenging things because they’re scared of failing or disappointing others.
This can end up holding them back later in life and prevent them from having a successful career, he tells The Independent.
“The enemies of confidence are discouragement and fear,” he says. So, as a parent, it’s your job to encourage and support your child as they attempt to tackle difficult tasks.”
Here are 9 other tips from Carl to help boost your child’s confidence.
1. Appreciate effort no matter if they win or lose
When you’re growing up, the journey is more important than the destination.
So whether your child makes the winning goal for his team or accidentally kicks it out of bounds, applaud their effort, Carl says. They should never feel embarrassed for trying.
“Over the long haul, consistently trying hard builds more confidence than intermittently doing well,” he explains.
2. Encourage practice to build competence
Encourage your child to practice whatever it is they’re interested in — but do so without putting too much pressure on them.
Harmony Shu, a piano prodigy, told Ellen DeGeneres that she started practicing when she was just three-years-old.
“Practice invests effort in the confident expectation that improvement will follow,” Carl explains.
3. Let them figure out problems by themselves
If you do the hard work for your child then they’ll never develop the abilities or the confidence to figure out problems on their own.
“Parental help can prevent confidence derived from self-help and figuring out on the child’s own,” says Carl.
4. Let them act their age
Don’t expect your child to act like an adult. “When a child feels that only performing as well as parents is good enough, that unrealistic standard may discourage effort,” he says. “Striving to meet advanced age expectations can reduce confidence.”
5. Encourage curiosity
Sometimes a child’s endless stream of questions can be tiresome, but it should be encouraged.
Paul Harris of Harvard University told The Guardian that asking questions is a helpful exercise for a child’s development because it means they realise that “there are things they don’t know … that there are invisible worlds of knowledge they have never visited.”
6. Give them new challenges
Show your child that they can make and accomplish small goals to reach a big accomplishment — like riding a bike without training wheels.
“Parents can nurture confidence by increasing responsibilities that must be met,” adds Carl.
7. Avoid creating short cuts or making exceptions for your child
Special treatment can communicate a lack of confidence, says Carl. “Entitlement is no substitute for confidence.”
8. Never criticise their performance
Nothing will discourage your child more than criticizing his or her efforts. Giving useful feedback and making suggestions is fine — but never tell them they’re doing a bad job.
If your kid is scared to fail because they worry you’ll be angry or disappointed, they’ll never try new things.
“More often than not, parental criticism reduces the child’s self-valuing and motivation,” he says.
9. Treat mistakes as building blocks for learning
“Learning from mistakes builds confidence,” he says. But this only happens when you, as a parent, treat mistakes as an opportunity to learn and grow.
Don’t be over-protective of your child. Allow them to mess up every now and then, and help them understand how they can better approach the task next time.