Q Recently I read an article about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. The article emphasized that she possessed great self-confidence throughout her life. I have a five-year-old daughter. What should I do (or not do) as a parent to build up my daughter’s self-confidence?

When a child is self-confident, she has a belief that she can be successful and trust her abilities. Children with self-confidence tend to attempt more activities and try new tasks. Confident children are better able to cope with peer pressure, frustrations, emotions and challenges as well as projects and ideas.

When I volunteered at a local museum, my job was to get kids started on a project they could do all by themselves. Sometimes a parent would intervene and say “Let me show you how” and would take over when the child seemed stuck. Often the child would respond “No, I want to do it myself.”

When a child says “no” in those instances, it shows that the child already has a healthy confidence in her abilities. Even if you have the urge to intervene, it’s very important to let a child tackle age-appropriate projects and activities by herself.

Here are some other ways to help build up your child’s self-confidence:

  1. Help your child understand that your love is unconditional. It is not dependent on good behavior.
  2. Model confidence. Avoid saying about yourself, “I can’t do this.” Use the language of “This is hard, but I’m going to try my best.”
  3. Resist comparing your child to others. If it’s a negative comparison, then it can cause a child to doubt herself.
  4. Let your child hear you speak positively about her to others.
  5. Avoid criticism.
  6. Help your child discover her interests and passions and to pursue them.
  7. When something your child tries isn’t successful, help her view it as a positive challenge.
  8. Ask your child for advice or opinions on topics that are appropriate for a child.
  9. Teach your child how to set and achieve goals.
  10. Use specific praises such as “I liked the way you kept trying until you solved the problem.”

Good luck to you as you work on raising a confident child.


Betty Richardson, PhD, RN, CS, LPC, LMFT, is an Austin-based psychotherapist.

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