Raising your kiddo’s self-esteem is more than just heaping on praise. Here are ways to boost junior’s confidence.


Confidence is one of the greatest gifts parents can give their children as a sense of self-assurance will lay a strong foundation for their future.

“Children who have healthy self-esteem tend to overcome obstacles life may throw at them more easily, perform at optimal levels and be more successful than unconfident children,” notes Dr Vanessa von Auer, a clinical psychologist and director of VA Psychology Center. “They also tend to integrate into social [situations] with ease, and are also able to entertain themselves because their secure belief in themselves is not dependant on others’ approval.”

Because of this strong sense of self, such children are also more satisfied with their lives as they mature. Happy and emotionally strong adults, they can bounce back from adversity as they are able to roll with the punches of living in a less-than-perfect world.

Seeing you display self-assurance will give your kids the courage to do the same.

Confident children have good social skills, express their thoughts and needs easily and are willing to explore things beyond their comfort zone, notes family therapist Anoushka Beh. Some kids are naturally more self-assured than others, which could be due to the environment they are raised in or their genes. “Some of our personality is genetically predisposed, so parents who are anxious and suffer from poor self-esteem may very likely have children who have similar traits,” Dr von Auer explains.

By the way, telling your child he’s excellent in everything he does sends the wrong message that he no longer needs to push himself. So, don’t over-praise — confidence comes from trying, failing and then trying again harder. And whatever the child’s personality or character traits, he can develop a strong sense of self if his parents are well-adjusted, provide a safe and stable environment and are sensitive to his needs.

Incidentally, your kiddo will need to be resilient and adaptable, especially in the future, since they must expect change to be a part of their lives, including their work lives. They’ll also be working alongside colleagues from around the globe, doing multidisciplinary jobs that feature intelligent systems and involve new forms of collaboration. Therefore, having self-confidence will be an important part of his ability to face challenges and respond to an uncertain environment.

Here’s how to set your child up to succeed in life.

1. Be a good role model

A parent’s own sense of security and confidence is vital to raising confident, happy and well-adjusted kids, Beh notes. Seeing you display self-assurance will give your kids the courage to do the same. If you suffer from low confidence or are always anxious, curb your behaviour in front of your child. “If not, your child will receive the message that his world isn’t safe and this will influence his self-esteem,” Dr von Auer warns.


2. Value their opinion

Even if you disagree with your offspring, it’s important to let them know that you’re always ready to listen to their thoughts, feelings and opinions. Knowing that they have a strong support system to fall back on gives children the confidence to navigate a big, scary world independently.

3. Allow him to mess up

Letting children make mistakes is one of the best and most impactful ways for them to learn quickly, says Dr von Auer. She adds, “However, make sure you don’t emphasise the failure.” While it’s natural to shield little ones from the harsh realities of life, mistakes act as building blocks for learning and offer an opportunity for growth. So, help junior figure out the key takeaways from that experience and how to handle the situation successfully when the next obstacle comes along. If he isn’t afraid of failing, he won’t be afraid to try something new.

4. Encourage him to try new experiences

An ability to be flexible, such as an interest in trying a new activity or challenging task, is a skill kids with low-esteem don’t possess, notes Dr von Auer. Broaden your kids’ exposure to the world — travel, so they can see how others live, and dine out, so that they’ll develop their taste buds. Nudge them to try something they’ve shown an interest in ― stepping out of the comfort zone to try new experiences will boost junior’s belief in his own abilities. But don’t push him into doing something he doesn’t want to — guide him instead and let him try it in his own time and pace.

One future-ready skill you can prepare him for is to sign him up for coding classes, since future jobs are becoming increasingly digital and driven by computing technology. Such exposure will teach him to tackle large problems by breaking them down into a sequence of smaller, more manageable ones.

SMARTgen Asia has workshops on coding, digital filming, web designing and more! Check them out here.

Letting children make mistakes is one of the best and most impactful ways for them to learn quickly.

5. Give him responsibilities

Allow your munchkin to help with minor tasks like setting the table or putting the toys away. A kid who feels his contributions are valued will feel confident.

6. Praise with details

This is especially important when they’ve completed a challenging task or overcome a setback. Children should learn to celebrate and be thankful for any adversity. Don’t praise broadly, like “good idea” and “good girl”, give specific and relevant praise instead. Dr von Auer suggests using phrases like “I love that you shared your cookie with your sister, you are a kind sister”, or “Thank you for sitting patiently”.

7. Don’t criticise, don’t compare

Constant criticism and comparisons are detrimental to a child’s self-esteem, while constructive criticism (such as “Sweetie, I need you to be more thoughtful by cleaning up after yourself, so mummy does not always have to do it”) is very helpful. Nor should you keep comparing your offspring, which could create bad blood and rivalry between them. “Stop telling your child that his marks aren’t good enough, that he is ‘lazy’ or ‘spoilt’ and focus on what he is doing well,” advises Dr von Auer. Be vocal when you catch them doing something praiseworthy. “Even attempts should be noticed and mentioned,” Dr von Auer adds.

Photos: iStock

Clinical psychologist Dr Vanessa von Auer is the director of VA Psychology Center.
Psychologist, marriage and family therapist and life coach Anoushka Beh is the director of Abehpsych Counselling Services Singapore.

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