We should build self confidence in young children

Research has shown that most kids develop a sense of self-esteem as early as five years of age. [iStockphoto]

Self-confidence simply means being able to trust and love yourself and put your best foot forward. Children who are confident are not afraid to take risks, have a positive view of themselves and believe that they can overcome many challenges. All this makes them stronger.

Research has shown that most kids develop a sense of self-esteem as early as five years of age. Because self-esteem tends to remain relatively stable across one’s lifespan, its early establishment could potentially provide a lifelong emotional buffer in the face of everyday failures and challenges.

Most children will have dips in self-esteem as they go through various stages, or challenges in life, and there are different pressures that may affect them - including social media, bullying, exams, family problems and abuse. Here are some ways to ensure they develop self-confidence. Help children focus on their positive qualities, not just their flaws. The difference between confident and insecure people is that one focuses on the positive, the other on the negative.

No human being is perfect and everyone has flaws. Ask them to identify what they consider attractive in themselves, or ask a friend to help. Then focus on the positive traits not their flaws. Remind them often not to be too hard on themselves and to allow room for mistakes. Self-confident people are often not critical and judgmental of themselves. When they make mistakes, they will take them as learning experiences, or make a comment like “everyone makes mistakes.” They do not give up trying and are more compassionate towards themselves.

Teach children not to compare themselves with others and instead focus on the milestones and the improvements they have made. If your child compares him/herself to others, they will feel incomplete because someone else will always seem better than them. Confident kids are not afraid to take risks. They raise their hand even if unsure of the answer to a question in class; they join a sports team even if they don’t know how to play the game very well. Encourage your child to take risks and to try out new things even if they are not very good at them.

Help the child discover themselves and their talents by joining a club, group or activity. Finding something they are good at and realising that they can do new things can provide a huge boost to their feelings of self-worth. Expressing themselves creatively through art, or music, or doing voluntary work, or a community project will help them to develop a more positive opinion of themselves.

Spend quality time with your child doing things they like and having fun. This could be a game they enjoy, or even chores. This shows the child that they are valued by you. As a parent it is important to attend school meetings, sports days, games, drama or music performances. Making time for your child is an indirect way to show them they are a priority in your life and this gives them a lot of confidence.

Encourage your child to hang out or make friends with children who boost their morale, who appreciate them and comment on their positive qualities, not the negative, as this will help your child feel more confident. People who insult, or bully children whether they are adults, or kids destroy their self- confidence and should be avoided where possible.

-Ms Shitolwa is a teacher at Crawford International School