It’s not hard to guess why parents and caregivers want their little ones to have a healthy dose of self-confidence. When children feel confident in themselves, they’re proud of who they are, they’re more accepting of their mistakes, and they know they’re loved and valued. Self-confidence doesn’t only affect how we see ourselves, but also how we see the world. Confidence helps us stay inspired, hopeful, and gives us the strength to tackle life’s challenges.
Some believe that building self-confidence is something to focus on with older, school-age children. They may feel that toddlers don’t need to worry about self-confidence because they’re not constantly comparing themselves to peers, dealing with major failures, or losing sleep over flaws or shortcomings. However, the actions we take now can determine how our children feel about themselves later on in life. That’s why it’s important to include confidence-building measures into a toddler’s daily life.
Here are a few tips to help your little one build self-confidence!
Shift Your Words
Toddlers may not understand everything we say, but if we say something often enough, it sinks in. This is especially true when children know adults are talking about them. Dr. Tina Payne Bryson, psychotherapist and co-author of The Whole-Brain Child, explains that we need to be careful with the words we choose to describe our children. The key is to focus on what is happening with the child, rather than the child him or herself. For instance, if a toddler has a slow-to-warm-up temperament, instead of saying: “Sara is shy,” try: “Sara is feeling shy right now.” This simple shift can help a child understand that what they are experiencing can change, and is not a defining characteristic of who they are.
Recognize Their Contributions and Accomplishments
It’s important for toddlers to know when they’re being helpful and when they’ve accomplished something. When we show them appreciation, they feel valued, which boosts self-esteem and self-worth. Remember to applaud them for picking up toys or putting their socks on by themselves. Be sure to be specific with your praise! Instead of just saying: “Wow, you cleaned up your room!” Try: “Wow, you put your toys in the toy box and you put your shoes in the closet! Thank you!” Being specific helps to emphasize their efforts, which in turn builds confidence.
Encourage Their Interests
A big part of building self-confidence is discovering our strengths. This can be a bit difficult with toddlers because they love everything! Running, jumping, dancing, drawing, and singing…it’s all fun for a 2-year old. But when they exhibit a significant interest in something, give it special attention. For instance, if a child is smitten with the family dog, read books about dogs, teach them how to give the dog simple commands, or ask them to help brush the dog after a bath. In this example, the encouragement helps them feel like an “expert” when it comes to dogs. And who knows, you may have a tiny veterinarian on your hands!
Help Them Make Sense of the World
As your toddler develops language and communication skills, you’ll start to hear “why?” a lot more. While their constant questions will be delightfully frustrating on some days, it’s still important to respond to them and explain how the world works. When we take the time to answer their questions, we’re not only showing them love (which builds confidence), we’re also helping them understand their realities. Learning about all the weird and wonderful things in their lives provides a sense of security and safety, which are foundations of self-confidence.
Remember that completing activities together can also build a toddler’s self-confidence. Our BabySparks program is an easy way to spend more quality time together each day.