My child is getting bullied at school (even though he is only 4 years old). What can I do to help him be more self-confident and sure of himself now and in his future?
I am so glad you asked this question because self-confidence is the most precious gift we can give our children. It is also the most important thing you can work on in yourself. A person’s self-worth drastically affects the quality of their marriage, their career and the happiness in their life.
So, my question to you is, how is your self-esteem?
The most powerful way to encourage healthy self-esteem in children is by example, but you can’t give what you don’t have. So if you struggle with fear around not being good enough yourself, I strongly recommend you to get some help with it. Working with a counselor or coach who knows how to change the way you value yourself, can make a huge difference for your whole family.
You must remember life is a classroom (a place of learning and growing), not a test, where your value is constantly on the line. You are “good enough” as you are right now (even though you are imperfect and struggling), because your value is not based in your performance, appearance, property or anything else around you. Your value comes from the fact that you are a one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable human soul made of love, for love and by love. You are like an irreplaceable diamond that has the same value no matter where it is. No matter what you are currently experiencing, you have the same infinite value.
You must also remember that what other people think of you is irrelevant too, because you are the same you, no matter what they think. When you embrace these principles of truth and start living them, your children will follow your lead.
Here are a couple other suggestions for raising confident kids:
- Give smart praise. What I mean is, focused more on who they are (their character, qualities and attributes) than on how they perform or look. When you praise appearance, it gives children the idea that their values are based there. Praise them for being kind or honest instead. Look for opportunities to help them equate who they are with their goodness on the inside.
- Don’t give so much praise that they become dependent on hearing validation to feel valued. Say “You should be proud of yourself” more than “I’m proud of you.” This demonstrates that it is what they think of themself that matters. When they ask “Does this look good on me?” Say “What do you think of it?”
- Give children lots of encouragement in their abilities. Tell them they can do hard things, make good choices and handle tough situations. Tell them they are capable and wise. Build them up and help them to see the amazing person you see in them.
- Always encourage them to ask for help when needed. It doesn’t mean they aren’t capable — it means they are smart. Smart people ask for help often. Let them know that we all need help at times and there is no shame in doing something badly while they learn to do it better. That is how we learn.
- Instead of solving problems for kids, teach problem-solving skills and show them how to find solutions on their own. This builds confidence and gives them the skills they need to survive in life.
- Ask lots of questions and listen to what they think and feel. This makes children feel important and valued. Imagine how important I am, if adults actually listen to what I think. This is one of the most powerful ways to instill confidence and validate people. Make asking questions and listening a daily habit.
- Set boundaries, rules and consequences in your home. A lack of structure makes children feel unloved and unsafe, but don’t go overboard. Children also need to learn how to make decisions on their own and be responsible for their choices. Give them as much freedom as possible and empower them to make good decisions.
- Remind them often that life is a classroom, not a testing center. This means there are no mistakes, only lessons and chances to grow. When children make mistakes, focus more on correcting the error in thinking that created the problem, than on punishing them for the behavior. They need to understand why the choice was wrong and what happened inside them when they made that choice. Correcting thinking and helping children to understand themselves is the goal.
- Remind them that every experience shows up to teach us something. If they are bullied at school, why could that experience be happening? How could it give them a chance to grow?
- Remind them that what other people think of them doesn’t matter, but you must model this behavior if you want them to believe it. Show by example that you are bulletproof to put-downs.
I also have a confidence program for children we are rolling out to elementary schools this year. It includes 10 “claritypoints,” which teach principles of truth and self-esteem. You can download them here and are welcome to use them with your son.
Hope this helps.
Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of ldslifecoaching.com and claritypointcoaching.com. She is a sought-after life coach and popular speaker who specializes in repairing and building self-esteem.