We’re moving to Japan…
Currently, we are traveling for a summer vacation before we complete our grueling move overseas. My son is exposed to new and unfamiliar situations and people on a daily basis, and it’s not always an easy situation for a pre-toddler, who is dealing with a lot of change. Confidence or believing in yourself is one characteristic that is extremely helpful when working through a lot of change. And there are a lot of ways I believe we can help small children gain confidence.
In the beginning, young children may lack confidence and frequently look to parents for guidance. In some cases, they may even cling for dear life to parents, as kids are so uncertain about the world around them. As parents, we possess a wonderful opportunity to help our children gain confidence.
Let’s explore why we should help develop confidence from an early age and how we can help young children approach unfamiliar situations with more confidence.
1. Why is confidence so important?
Confidence is a feeling or belief that you can do something well or succeed. Teaching our children how to be confident from a young age enables them to have faith in themselves. To believe in themselves. To know they can succeed.
Feeling capable of success promotes self-esteem and self-worth, both of which help a child feel good about himself. If your child knows he can do something well, he will begin to anticipate being able to do other things well. Things he hasn’t even done yet. And a willingness to try new things and interact with new people creates a more positive day to day life for a young child.
2. Build and set the foundation at home.
Utilize opportunities in your day to day routine to introduce your child to unfamiliar tasks, building your child’s confidence in a safe environment. Encourage your child to try something new every day. For example, providing a child with a challenging toy during independent play will help build confidence with problem solving, creativity, and critical thinking. With greater self-reliance and independence in their tool belt, children will start to show more confidence in new situations.
Learn how to get started with independent play here.
Other ways to encourage your child to try something new every day might include trying a new activity near your home, inviting new people over to your home or create a challenging task for your pre-toddler to complete. Use these opportunities to help your pre-toddler gain confidence in new situations.
3. Provide reassurance without rescue.
I know I talk about this a lot, but reassurance without rescue is a great technique for teaching your child to manage emotions and confidence. Offer your child the opportunity to explore the new situation. It’s okay to allow a pre-toddler to protest for a bit. Protesting, crying, whining or fussing is a great way to release frustration and express feelings of uncertainty.
We can even offer a child reassurance without picking the child up. There are so many ways to offer reassurance without swooping in to rescue. Just to name a few—you can sit next to the child, offer encouragement, or offer pat on the back. Offering a child the opportunity to work things out on his own, enables him to gain confidence in his ability to handle new and unfamiliar situations. It also helps him learn to regulate his own emotions without relying on mom or dad to resolve his emotions.
I recently took Jameson swimming, and he protested for a little while, but we kept smiling and encouraging him to keep swimming for a little while longer. After a short while, he started to actually enjoy the activity. Each day we kept swimming, he started gaining more and more confidence in the water. By the end of our week long trip, he was excited about swimming.
4. When everything is new, keep some things the same.
When out in a new situation, we can help our child adjust by keeping a few things familiar. Allowing him to wear his favorite jacket or take his favorite toy along helps immensely. We can also offer to stay nearby until your child adjusts and warms to the new environment.
I often try to stay nearby without holding my son in the beginning…just until he starts to warm to the new environment. After we are at a new house for a short while, I will start trying to increase the distance between my son and myself. I want him to feel confident and independent so I try my best to offer him the opportunity to process the new environment on his own while keeping his security or comfort item (e.g. favorite toy, blanket, or clothing item) with him.
5. Why a parent’s positive attitude is so important…
Looking happy, excited, and confident yourself may be the best thing you can do to help your child feel more confident. Our children are looking to us to help them determine if they should feel confident or not. Smile as much as possible. Look happy. It might surprise you how quickly your child starts to feel confident in a new situation with your influence.
Other ways to demonstrate a positive attitude may be talking positively about the new situation, hugging or embracing new people, or demonstrating how your child could act confident. All of these ways help show your child the situation is safe.
6. Cheer, encourage, repeat.
When you encourage your child, you are literally placing courage in your child. I absolutely love that idea. When you think of teaching your child to gain confidence, think about developing a courageous spirit within your child. Young children are incredibly impressionable. They are looking for our approval. When we serve as a positive cheerleader to our young children, we grow their confidence immensely.
Every time my son Jameson makes an effort to try something new, I cheer him on and let him know he’s making a good effort. I’m definitely not for over-praising, but when he acts confident, I encourage him. When he reaches out to new people or explores something new, I encourage him. Don’t fear the effects of over-praising. Up until about 36 months, encouragement helps young babies and toddlers gain confidence without experiencing negative effects of over-praising.
So what is the big picture when it comes to confidence and small children? I think we all have a valuable opportunity to help our children gain confidence. It’s an important skill that isn’t just for older kids or adults. Using reassurance, encouragement, and a positive attitude, parents can teach their kids to become their most confident selves.
Don’t miss these Early Obedience posts…
- Can you teach pre-toddler to develop a positive attitude?
- Teaching Early Obedience Series