As a tutor, I see first hand that confidence plays a key in the success our children have, both socially and academically.  In fact, instilling self-belief is absolutely necessary if we are to make any progress with students acquiring any literacy or numeracy skills.

There are many websites with content by ‘experts’ to give you tips on how to ensure your child grows up believing in themselves, but it is important to remember that each child is different.  Don’t lose heart if you follow this advice and it doesn’t all work for your child.  Talking to them and getting to know them and what makes them tick is the most important part in this process.

Develop a focus on positives

Most of us know that if our children experience defeat, we need to encourage them to be optimistic, but rather than giving them an off the cuff comment such as, “Well your mum and I think you did a great job,” acknowledge how they are feeling.  Try something like, “I can see how disappointed you are.  How about we see if we can come up with a plan so that you do even better next time?”

Try to get involved in setting realistic goals with your child and be specific about developing tactics to help them achieve these goals.  Don’t forget also that the goal for today might just be to get out there and have fun!

Encourage decision-making

Like adults, children also like to feel as if they are in control, but for a child with low self-esteem, this can become daunting.

Giving children a chance to make choices from an early age can help build a sense of responsibility.  Simple situations, such as deciding what to have for a meal, can provide you with an opportunity to get them involved in this process.

Talking to your kids about some of the everyday decisions you face is also an ideal way to get them involved without them feeling too much pressure.  You could discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the situation – this reinforces to them that their opinions are valuable.

Don’t always rescue your child

Of course we all want to support our children, but as Robert Brookes writes, children learn to succeed by overcoming obstacles, not having you remove them.  We need to strike a balance – while setting goals and achieving them should be the aim, kids need to understand that failing is often a part of life and dealing with this is just as important as celebrating success.

It is also important that children feel that they can play and try activities without thinking that as parents we will criticize them for doing something wrong.  There is a big difference between being there for them when things don’t go well and always trying to fix things for them.

Be realistic about what ‘confidence’ is

Being self-confident is not the same thing as being narcissistic or arrogant.  Having your child develop an awareness of what is realistic and  where their strengths and weaknesses lie will help them constantly aim higher and achieve more, but developing empathy is also an important part of the equation.

We all need to fit in and be appreciated and giving your child opportunities to help others is an excellent way of fostering this type of self-worth.  You can start by asking them to help with small tasks around the home.  Simply knowing they played a role in making the dinner that the family is eating can offer them an enormous amount of pride and more importantly it lets them know that even adults need help.


It’s important to realise that there is no perfect strategy for raising your child – otherwise we would all be reading the same book rather than browsing the internet reading articles like this!  See what works with your child – its most likely that instead of following one ‘guru’, you’ll get the most from taking a snippet here and something else from there.  The fact that each child is individual is what makes this whole parenting process so special.