What Builds Confidence in Kids?

Is confidence the same as self-esteem? Often, they’re used interchangeably, but are they the same? We don’t think so.

In our last post, we defined self-esteem as a person’s sense of value and worth. Self-esteem, based on our definition, can be improved (or damaged) over time, but in the short-run, it’s consistent, regardless of any one situation.

Confidence, on the other hand, is a person’s belief in his or her abilities. I may have a healthy self esteem, but there are many things I’m not confident in. If I had to get on stage to sing for a packed auditorium, I would have no confidence in myself.  Put me on the same stage to talk about finding purpose, and I’m like a fish in water.

Just because I’m not confident to sing in public, doesn’t in any way hinder my sense of value or worth; especially since I know that singing is not my life’s work. Now my daughter, on the other hand, is passionate about singing. She’s confident that she can perform on any stage, in front of any crowd. If she suddenly lost confidence in her ability to do that, it might come as a slight blow to her self-esteem because singing is a part of her purpose.

When it comes to our kids, we hope they’ll be confident in their ability to live and thrive independently, to interact well with people, to serve the body of Christ and their community, and to fulfill their calling in life. It’s entirely possible to deliver our kids into adulthood with a healthy self-esteem but with little to no confidence in a few of these critical areas.

The Hovering Helicopter (the latest fad in Western parenting) is lethal to confidence because Helicopters tend to prevent the very thing that builds it – experience. Confidence is born of doing things and (eventually) doing them well.

Here are some ideas for giving our kids opportunities to build confidence. The key is to let them do it (mistakes and all) again and again so they can improve. We need to talk to them after they’ve tried something and evaluate what went well and how they can improve. Honest feedback nurtures mastery.

Have them plan meals, write a shopping list, go with you to the store and select the best deals on the items they need, pay the cashier, check to make sure the change is correct, unpack the groceries, and cook the meal.

Coach them through household tasks so they can eventually do them with excellence:  laundry, changing bed sheets, vacuuming, dusting, scouring the tub, organizing the pantry, changing the oil in the car – anything we do at home, they should be able to do…with excellence.

Role-play with your kids and have them practice talking to adults in a variety of situations: making dinner reservations, planning a vacation, asking the librarian a question, sending back a meal that’s too cold, and so on. As they successfully problem-solve and plan and question, they’ll become confident communicators.

Role-play different ways to handle sticky situations with self-control and without dishonoring the other person: turning down an invitation, being the recipient of an inappropriate joke, being lied to (or about), and so on.

Get your kids involved in a ministry at church: sound board, lights, music, hospitality, nursery, children’s ministry, etc. Partner your child with a veteran in that ministry willing to mentor her, and insist your child stick it out until she masters it. Do the same thing with a volunteer position in the community.

Mentorship and apprenticeship are also great ways to build confidence in a future career. Let them work with a pro and find out whether or not it’s really what they’re called to do.

With practice and persistence, our kids can become confident in almost anything.

Share your ideas for building confident kids…

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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2 thoughts on “What Builds Confidence in Kids?

  1. Wow, I love this post and had a thought that helping our children gain confidence takes a bit of our own confidence as well! To allow our children to stumble over their words, say something confusing or just go blank while talking to that impatient store clerk or server ~ without embarrassing or shaming the learning child ~ takes a very confidant mom or dad! This is where the rubber meets the road. Are we willing to allow ourselves and our children be less than perfect in public, while they grow and learn how to interact with the outside world? In the long run, these awkward moments are what make the journey into adulthood so rewarding. It’s like watching a one year old learn how to walk ~ we have to be willing to let them fall, get a little bruise here and there, pick themselves up, brush themselves off and keep on trying. We as parent-teachers set the tone ~ I believe that our positive reaction to their failure will show them that its okay to try again!

    • You are so right on, Erica. And we think the key to this kind of thinking is recognizing that our kids are their own people who belong to God and not to us. Our kids are not an extension of us. They don’t belong to us. We are just stewards of their lives for a very short, albeit critically important, time.

      Thank you for your feedback and interaction. Not only is it encouraging, it’s valuable to our readers!

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