Across disciplines, confidence is a key factor for success and happiness. Confidence enables people to share their ideas freely, pursue their dreams with passion, and be leaders. For some, this confidence comes naturally. But for most, confidence needs to be built up over time; thus, it’s a good idea to learn how to build confidence in kids. Read on to discover helpful general strategies and some simple specific activities for building children’s confidence.

What causes lack of confidence in a child?

There are a number of factors that can harm a child’s self-confidence. A more obvious cause is excessive negativity and/or criticism directed at the child, as well as unreasonable expectations for success. According to Tim Elmore, a successful author and speaker on leadership, another less known cause is over-protecting children. When they don’t have the freedom to make their own decision (and thus mistakes), kids will not have the confidence to act independently later in life.

Explore helpful ways to build confidence in kids

Confidence building is a gradual process which will require patience from both you and your kids. Below are some general guidelines for boosting kids’ confidence.

1. Let kids make their own choices

Decision making can be a stressful process, which is why kids need to get practice with small decisions from a young age. When parents make all the decisions for children, they feel unsure when they have to weigh multiple different options. Avoid this by allowing children the freedom to build their own decision making process, and make a few mistakes along the way too!

2. Help them to set goals

Oftentimes, kids come up with ideas and dreams, but think they lack the confidence to achieve. One way to get over these negative thoughts is to set goals. Goal setting can help reduce dauntingly large endeavors into small, achievable steps which students have a better chance of accomplishing. You can help them to establish a goal-setting process by suggesting ways to break their ideas down in steps. With each small step a kid completes, they will progressively gain confidence in their abilities.

3. Encourage and help kids to practice

Learning how to improve a skill is a key part of building confidence. When something has been well-practiced, a child can know they are able to succeed as a result of their preparation. And, as kids find a repeatable process for practicing skills, they will be able to learn more quickly as well. This phenomenon is easy to observe in music, as learning an instrument can be a great way to build confidence.

4. Teach kids mindfulness

Many students who lack confidence are highly self-critical. One way to quiet those negative thoughts is to practice mindfulness exercises. This can include activities such as meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises. Any activity which frees the kid from self-awareness can help them judge themselves less harshly.

5. Present opportunities to challenge themselves

Children who are not challenged will never realize their full potential. It is through challenges that kids learn to push their limits, to see just how far their abilities can take them. To be clear, forcing challenges on children will not boost confidence and may even worsen it; rather, allowing them to find challenges on their own can help them develop that can-do attitude.

Discover activities to boost self-confidence in a child

With those general ideas in mind, you can now try some of these activities with your child!

1. Learn a musical instrument

Learning an instrument is a great way to build confidence because it can combine many of the above tips. Students will need to practice to improve, and need to set goals for what they want to practice. As students get better at the instrument, they will feel accomplished and gain confidence in their ability to grow. A great way to get a student started with learning an instrument is through enrolling in private lessons and/or joining a school music program.

2. Play a sport

Sports are another way students can learn to view themselves in a positive light. Kids have to not only compete with each other, but also “compete” with themselves to overcome their nerves and push themselves to their limits, bolstering their self-confidence. Plus, effective coaches help kids to set achievable goals and guide them to success. On the flip side, kids have to deal with failure and loss in sports, which can help them learn to view mistakes as a learning opportunity.

3. Positive affirmations

When stuck in a negative mindset, it can be hard to break the loop. One way out of that could be positive affirmations. Positive affirmations are positive statements one says to oneself, about oneself. It can be helpful to write positive affirmations down on paper, as this makes the statements more concrete and easier to revisit throughout the day. Doing this over a few weeks can help kids to realize how capable they are of achieving their goals.

4. Mindfulness exercises

There are a number of different approaches to practicing mindfulness, but most of them focus on awareness of the present moment. It can help kids to close their eyes and focus on their breathing, which can bring on a calming feeling. Raising this self-awareness is a great way to quiet the negative thoughts, and as kids do this more often, they will be able to quiet their negative thoughts quicker, which will make them feel more confident.

5. Learn a new skill like coding

Kids love to learn, and learning new skills is an excellent way to build up confidence. An example skill a child could learn is computer coding. Programming enables kids to bring their ideas to life as animations, games, and more. Seeing their hard work create a real-life result that they can interact with and share will surely leave them feeling gratified and self-confident! There are numerous online courses for introducing kids to coding. You can even get started with these award-winning live online free courses from Create & Learn, designed by professionals from Google, Stanford and MIT and led live by an expert instructor. Many students begin by learning coding with Scratch coding, a fun drag-and-drop programming language.

Now you know how to build confidence in kids

With the above tips and strategies in mind, you can start helping your kids to gain confidence. Remember, each child is different, so there is no one-size-fits-all approach. You may need to experiment with a number of different approaches before you find one that works for your child. If you’re not sure where to start, you can try some skill building with Create & Learn’s most popular beginner coding class: Scratch Ninja!

Written by Create & Learn instructor Dominic Occhietti. Dominic is a graduate of Michigan State University, where he studied music performance and computer science. He thoroughly enjoys teaching, whether that be coding classes, French horn lessons, or even downhill skiing lessons!