Children take pride in showing what they can do, and they gain confidence when they learn that they can master a skill. This is evident when a baby grabs a toy he covets or uses his hands to grab a spoonful of food to feed himself. When a child follows directions to complete a block structure, he becomes an expert who can explain all the details. He can find satisfaction in following directions and achieving a successful result. And later, when he shows someone else how to build, he gains even more confidence in his skills and abilities.
Confidence also comes from accomplishment. That accomplishment could be answering a question, solving a problem, or working hard to get something right. When a child takes on a task, she’ll discover, through trial and error, a number of ways to solve the problem. As she does this, she realizes that with a little patience and persistence, she can find a solution—and she learns more with each try. That helps build confidence.
What’s important to note is that both process and product build confidence. The process develops the child’s determination, and the product reflects his abilities. Open-ended activities provide opportunities for exploring both process and product. When there’s more than one way to solve a problem, there are even more ways to experiment to find the answer.
Confidence doesn’t grow only out of success, however. A small challenge can teach a child that an unsuccessful try isn’t necessarily a failure, and that it’s OK to learn from others and keep trying. Each time a child takes on a new challenge, he learns about planning, preparing, and persisting. It tells him that he can do more than he thought. This, too, helps build confidence.
There is immense value in a child being able to see herself and people like her in the world around her. A child’s confidence grows when she can recognize herself in others. This can mean reading about a character like herself in a book or seeing the work of another kid her age on the pages of a magazine or website. This recognition validates and connects her to others like her. When she can see herself in what her peers are doing, she grows in confidence, self-awareness, and acceptance. She can be inspired to be herself.
Children have a natural desire and urge to feel and act grown up. Part of being an adult—or simply being more mature—is about making decisions for yourself. Kids take pride when they make decisions on their own. Their confidence grows when they make choices and determine what they like or want. But it’s important to remember that parents help kids make these decisions by responding to their independence and by offering appropriate challenges and questions.
The child who grows in confidence is the child who tries hard, whether he succeeds or not. He’s the one who will bounce back from failure, the one who knows his parents believe in him. And he’s the one who will grow to be his best self.