“The enemy of sadness and fear is confidence, and confidence usually wins the battle, if it shows up”. In children, confidence is that internal mechanism that triggers belief in themselves elevates their self-esteem, facilitates resilience, fortifies the concept of “right and wrong” behavior, allows for new positive experimental experiences, and is infectious around other children. For us, there is no better feeling in the world than watching a child develop their confidence. We see this in our programs in several ways, but it is most prevalent during our “Missions” (team building activities). Watching children grow their confidence by collaborating, cooperating, and leading each other through fun and interesting challenges, makes our hearts glow. A confident kid grows to be a confident and successful adult.
9 Secrets to Building Confidence and Self-Esteem in Kids:
- Be an example.
“Lead from the front”. The way you interact with your child is the foundation for how they will grow up. Establishing a strong and lasting bond can start easily enough by sharing your interests with your child. For example, if you are an outdoors enthusiast, you can take your child with you to explore the outdoors. Teach them big and small lessons. For example, a big lesson might be “we are leaving to go outdoors for the day, what do we need?” Directions, Water, food, backpack, rain-gear, etc… A small lesson might be “which way does the sunrise and set, which direction is that?”...... This idea can be used for any interest you may have, and sharing it with your child will be fun for you and them. Also worth mentioning is the knowledge sharing and memories you will create together will boost your child’s confidence in you.
- Require physical and mental training.
As children develop and grow, requiring them to participate in healthy activities that keep them active and challenge their thinking is essential to establishing their “self-image” as they become older. There are also numerous physical and mental health positives that will come with participation in a “training” activity as well. We have seen that a child who participates in some form of physical training activity, possesses elevated self-esteem, over time. This is due to the ‘hardships’ endured during months and years of training sessions. It is that experience that will give them a “feeling” to rely on when they encounter their next challenge. The selected physical activity should be well-rounded and/or supplemented to include basic exercises, weight training for older children, some sort of cardiovascular exercising, and the occasional “out of the box” training session (for example, swimming in the lake for a training session). The mental training is as important as the physical and could be as simple as requiring quick research on a subject, to advanced as creating content on a subject (writing, video, post etc). It is a great practice to always encourage the mental sweat, just as the physical. 💪
- Teach them about bravery and integrity.
We teach our students that in order to be brave, you have to be afraid. “Courage is never exercised in comfort, but instead is the mechanism for overcoming fear”. Military veterans that have served in combat will tell you that “I was always afraid, but we still had a job to do, and I wouldn’t let my team down”. It is that feeling at its highest example that should be cultivated in children. Of course without the actual “military” aspect. Children should be taught to understand that it is natural and OK to feel fear, every single human being does at some point and for some reason, experiences fear. However, it is our reaction to that fear that makes us brave. A child that can mitigate stress reactions to fear at a younger age, will definitely have a leg-up in life from others who have not. For example, fear of trying something new or meeting new people can be overcome by the understanding of “maybe”. Maybe I will meet someone cool, maybe I will learn something helpful, maybe it will be fun, maybe it will be good for me. Fear is conquered by “I have to, and/or maybe”. Next is integrity, in the military, they taught us that integrity boiled down is “doing the right thing, especially when no one is looking”. We believe that integrity goes hand-in-hand with courage. Why? For example, “this is wrong and I/they should stop behaving like this.” That phrase is probably the most important example of bravery in a developing child, and leads them to being aware of right and wrong. Establishing a “moral backbone” as they get older, will definitely increase a child’s confidence in themselves, their family upbringing, and life as a whole.
- Encourage good, positively redirect the bad.
To encourage is to support, assist, or celebrate successful attempts or completions of a task. This is super important with children. Positively nudging a child forward is vital for easing their uncertainty, facilitates accountability, and renders your acknowledgment of their attempts and/or achievements. Where we lose sight of this is when a child gets off task or exhibits negative behavior. All children at some point will behave “negatively”, it is our job as parents and/or teachers to redirect their behavior back on track while being as positive and supportive as possible. If you fixate on the negative, they will too. So we nudge forward and overly celebrate the good and redirect positively the bad. This idea has been shown to provide children with superior coping skills when it comes to stress management, and will absolutely increase a child’s self-esteem compared to a child that is not encouraged and positively redirected.
- Importance of Imagination.
It is extremely important for children (especially younger ones) to exercise their imagination. They have their whole life to be serious, let them play when they are younger…. Children whose imaginations are exercised on a regular basis, are prone to be deep thinkers later in life, and will have increased creative confidence. Not only that, a child’s imaginary play could start them thinking (maybe even subconsciously) about what they would like to be later in life. As long as the child’s imaginational expression is positive, it should be encouraged. Play games, “pretend”, bring history into the fold while playing. Let them do it while they are younger, once they start getting older, imagination will be replaced with rugged reality.
- Life Lessons.
The wiser a child is, the more confident they will become. You should give life lessons to your children as often as possible. Appropriate subject mattered wisdom will give your child an answer to a question that hasn’t been asked yet to them. Examples are, teaching them to clean stuff (properly), use tools, operate different gadgets and machines, how to play sports, how to make a fire, how to put out a fire, and so on. The more big and small lessons we convey to our children, the better. Now, don’t overload them. Squeeze in the occasional lesson especially when it can be related to what’s going on at the present time. If a child can associate a lesson to an experience, they will remember it deeper, than if just heard or read in an academic setting. An example is making a fire. They will learn and remember better if they practice actually making a fire instead of just reading about it. Now, of course, all wisdom cannot be imparted in a practical application setting, but you should always try to take advantage of the ability to offer “real-world lessons” to your child. The more wisdom a child has, the more confident in themselves they will be!
- New Experiences.
The more positive experiences a child is exposed to, the better. The more well-rounded a child’s knowledge base is, the more confident they will be. The ability to be adaptable in a wide variety of different social settings is vital to a healthy emotional state in children (and adults). Take them to the movies, take them to the park, to restaurants, to obstacle courses, to indoor skydiving, to museums, to the woods, to the lake, on a boat, on a train, and so on. If financially you can afford it, there is no better thing to spend your money on than your child’s ability to have gained experiential knowledge and confidence. Include them in the planning phase of the activity if possible, this will make them even more motivated and excited to try something new. The more they experience, the wiser they will be, and the higher their self-esteem will be.
- Nurture Independence.
Every child yearns to be independent of their parents. This is not necessarily a bad thing. The more a child can be allowed to be independent the better, within reason of course. Independency in small tasks at a younger age has been shown to increase the developmental speed of fine and gross motor skills, increases emotional intelligence, and is a huge confidence booster for them. Once you have confirmed that the child can complete a task correctly, trust them to do it themselves from now on. Trust, but verify ;) Allowing a child to become self-reliant when possible is great for their self-esteem, whether 5 or 18 years old.
- Allow them to Lead.
Possessing the ability and opportunity to lead others in relatively any capacity is perhaps the most confidence-inspiring action a person can do. True leadership traits are confidence, intelligence, virtue, resilience, integrity, and physical strength. Leading others awakens things inside of us. We as humans are natural teachers (most of us). It is deep in us at a molecular level to teach the younger ones, so they may survive and continue the species. Allowing your child to lead you and other friends in the accomplishment of tasks will give their self-confidence a huge “shot in the arm” as they say. Have them practice by teaching you how to tie your shoe, do a chore, brush your teeth, etc. These small “hip pocket classes” that your child can give you will increase their confidence in themselves and it will let you know if they are conducting a task correctly. Sometimes your child may teach you the wrong way to do something, in that case, we would refer you to number 4 “Encourage good, positively redirect the bad”. Let them practice taking charge now, so later in life when they will be able to actually lead others, maybe they will accomplish something great ;)
Providing an environment that is conducive to self-confidence growth is one of the best qualities of Hot Ground Gym. We strive to let children find themselves with us. Whether it is getting over a fear of heights, of social settings, of “working out”, or of the dark, we will work with your child using these 9 secrets of Building Confidence and Self-Esteem in Children for as long as you and your child would like.
Doug, Sam, Jeremy, and DJ
Owners of Hot Ground Gym