Confidence and self-esteem is often a topic more commonly associated with teenagers and adults. In truth, though, confidence and self-esteem are established early in life. While a person who lacks confidence or self-esteem in their teenage or young adult lives can undoubtedly learn to build it, that task is monumentally taller than if parents focused on nurturing these attributes from their earliest days.
The Need for a Safe and Secure Environment
The moment a baby is born, she starts crying. She will cry for food if she’s cold, for comfort when she’s wet, or when she’s soiled or scared. Letting a baby cry herself out may teach her that crying doesn’t get her what’s needed all the time, but it also does something many parents never expect: it diminishes their perceived value.
In other words, when you pick your baby up when she’s crying, offer comfort, food, or a clean diaper, you necessarily tell your baby she’s worth it. You help to foster the earliest foundations of self-confidence.
Another single aspect of parenting that helps to establish these things is smiling, hugging, and showing acts of love to your little one.
As your child begins to crawl, walk, and discover new things around him or her, showing interest in those milestones, supporting their curiosity, and helping them understand the world around them is another way to foster improved confidence and esteem.
Offer Hands-On Support
It is vital that children be empowered, to be encouraged to solve problems on their own, but the younger they are, the more hands-on support they require.
Young brains are not yet fully developed and, therefore, don’t have the same problem-solving capacities that we — as parents — possess. When your child is struggling to complete a task like slipping a round block into a circular hole, just a little nudge, your hand over theirs to show them how it’s done, can not only teach them but help build self-esteem.
They realize they can do it and seek out and relying on help is not a terrible thing.
Not Every Child Learns the Same Way
While almost every child depends on and relishes in a parent’s support, encouragement, and love, not every child will learn the same way. That’s why it’s crucial that parents, other family members, and any caregivers that are helping raise this child to identify ways to bolster a sense of self for infants and toddlers.
If one child is not responding as a parent or guardian or caregiver expects, some adjustment may need to be made. If changes aren’t made because people don’t recognize the challenges these lessons or strategies are posing, it can cause more frustration for that infant or toddler.
Nurturing adults and caregivers have a direct and significant influence on how a young child brain will develop. Ninety percent of a child’s brain will fully develop by the time he or she is five.
The experiences they have, the caregivers they’re exposed to, how they’re supported, cared for, and encouraged all impact brain development throughout these initial years. And it will all influence whether they are confident or timid in specific environments.
Simple Ways to Encourage Positive Nurturing
There is no shortage of things parents and caregivers can do to bolster confidence and positive nurturing in young children. As mentioned, some of the earliest and most profound involve touches, hugs, smiles, and attention.
As children get older, move from the infant stage to toddler and then to a young child, their needs will also change. As that happens, parents and caregivers need to adjust how they approach and deal with their child.
For example, a caregiver who comes to the home to support or “babysit” a young child should be aware of their surroundings and, where possible, use the child’s home (native) language within that care setting.
When infants or toddlers are lying down for a nap, placing photographs of mom and dad or other family members near that sleeping area can provide a level of comfort, especially for children who become distressed when separated from their parents.
There will likely be numerous differences from one child to the next, and when experiences are tailored to these nuances, these unique patterns of each child, it shows how important they are.
It’s a good idea to limit structure and expectations, especially for younger minds. Children don’t understand abstract concepts the way older children, teenagers, and adults do. Trying to establish firm expectations or complicated structures onto a young mind can cause frustration, confusion, and ultimately doubt.
Look at That Reflection!
Another aspect of helping to build improved confidence in young children is through the use of mirrors and reflective surfaces. There’s a reason why many infant and toddler toys have a reflective coating on them.
Babies have no idea what they are. The first time an infant sees her reflection in the mirror is quite an experience. Providing mirrors lower to the ground or other reflective surfaces allows children to see who and what they are, as well as how they fit into the space around them.
As they become self-aware, help them identify body parts. You can point to them, name them, and touch them so they can begin connecting those words to the body parts they have.
Celebrate the Monumental Moments
For adults, being able to hold a sippy cup or take the first step isn’t a big deal, but for an infant or toddler, it can be one of the most monumental moments in their young lives. Celebrate them.
Make a big deal out of them. Help encourage the delight they experience with these new skills, and that will encourage them to continue striving to master them.
As they grow and learn more complicated things, like getting dressed, reading, or even riding a bike, these are all wonderful opportunities to help bolster their self-confidence and get them ready to tackle the next challenge they will face.
While your child is learning and growing, pay attention to what they enjoy most. Foster a love of different activities, but avoid the temptation to push them in the direction you want them to go; instead, step back and observe, notice what sparks their interest the most, and then support that as well.
Set the Example
During everyday activities, you have opportunities to impact confidence levels and self-esteem in your children, often without realizing it. Whether you’re preparing a meal, cleaning up the house, washing the car, or even raking the leaves in autumn, put the right level of effort into those tasks to have them done well.
You’re establishing an example for your children to follow. When they see you putting your best effort forward, even for what might be perceived as everyday, mundane tasks, they will likely put forth a better effort in their homework, cleaning their room, or doing household chores as they age.
Oh, and Let Them Fail
We can’t solve every problem for our children, no matter how much we want to. A child who has everything is done for him, whose parents always swoop in and “save the day” is a child who is lacking in self-development.
Your child will fail. She will fall. He will get hurt. They will struggle to solve problems. Avoid the temptation to “rescue” them and instead support them, encourage them, and when needed provide some tips, strategies, or minimal assistance after they’ve given it their best effort.
When children fail, make mistakes, and through trial and error learning, it feels great. Just observe how a young child relishes the moment she solves a problem that had confounded her for minutes, hours, or even days.
She’ll be so excited she can’t wait to tell you, her grandparents, or even her friends and teachers.
Parents and caregivers who focus on providing a safe, stable and predictable environment for infants and toddlers help them as they grow and begin establishing independence.
Positive communication, loving support, physical contact in the appropriate manner, and merely listening with a smile when your child tells you about her day builds a level of confidence that can be established for life.