- Self-confidence is an emotion that comes from the belief: I can do it.
- Depending on where a child is at developmentally, the approach to instilling self-confidence is going to differ. The early years is more about developing it through the body (sensations like touch, movement) rather than the mind.
- Giving children the space to get to know their body, without aiding them, gradually builds the feeling, “I can do it”, before language and cognition skills are developed.
That’s one of the most common things I hear from other parents after becoming one myself.
And the next question: How can I effectively do this?
First, know that self-confidence is an emotion. It comes from that very simple thought: I can do it. And you believe it to be true.
When it comes to children, especially young children, they don’t yet have the language skills and wiring to generate the belief: I can do it! and therefore the subsequent emotion of self-confidence.
Yet, kids, without language skills, can still develop self-confidence because of how children initially experience their emotions: through their body.
The Early Years (newborn to roughly 9 years)
During the early years, the body trumps the mind. Yes, their mind is developing but it’s not yet fully there for language and cognition – they have the equipment but it isn’t fully online with Wi-Fi. So, their body teaches them emotions. Through sensations.
Sensations are feeling hungry, tired, cold and include physical pain, sound (decibels, tone), movement/muscle, smell, taste, sight/light, touch.
Kids feel angry when hungry, sad when they don’t see their parents, disgust when they smell something foul. Fear from a raised voice.
In the beginning a baby/child is learning about the world more through their body and its sensations rather than their mind and language.
Spending time with little ones explaining emotions like anger (i.e. tantrums) often is futile. It’s too overwhelming for them because their brain isn’t fully online yet to understand it through words.
But language isn’t necessary for children to build self-confidence. Which means a huge relief, no explaining is necessary.
How to Instill Self-confidence in babies and young children
Self-confidence is built through allowing a baby/little one to get to know their body at their own pace.
Newborns have no idea what to do with their body. So they spend the first year getting to know it. They have to first realise they have a head, an arm and practice lifting it, legs for crawling and walking. Each of those movements need to be gradually learned so that they know how to use their body.
We can help grow their self-confidence by creating space. Allowing the child to discover their body at their pace and do the discovery themselves – without much help.
Letting a child play freely on the floor on its back and tummy with you next to them is all they need. Not much else. We don’t need to push them to roll over, in fact we don’t even need to hold their hand to help them walk.
When a baby can discover this with you by its side without us doing, they grow in self-confidence. Each movement becomes familiar and they can literally see that they can do it themselves – even if they don’t yet have the language to think and say: I can do it!
As their movements and use of the their body increase in confidence, they’ll feel more in control and be able to control a lot of involuntary movements like hitting, kicking and throwing. This ultimately helps a child be able to better manage big emotions like anger.
They’ll know their body and feel comfortable in it and be able to gauge their safety and what’s appropriate for them.
You can apply this to all the other learnings that happen early on. Like learning how to eat for themselves, zipping up a jacket, dressing themselves. All these tasks, that may seem easier if we helped, will actually help develop the emotion of self-confidence.
When given the space to figure it out, a child’s self-confidence can be built.
It requires us as parents to understand what’s happening with our child and resist the urge to jump in and help. We want to help them so much and we absolutely can in different ways.
If this wasn’t the case for your child(ren), there’s no need to worry. Self-confidence can still be built later on – it can even be worked on in adulthood. Read on for the post about instilling self-confidence in the later years and in adults.
On the Way to Walking: The Essential Guide to Natural Movement Development by Lenore Grubinger, RSMT, IDME, CST; Lenore Grubinger is the founder and director of Amajoy Developmental Movement and Bodywork.
Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Play Makes for Strong, Confident and Capable Children by Angela J. Hanscom and Richard Louv; Published by New Harbinger Publications.
One response to “Kids and Self-confidence – Part One”
[…] No matter what stage your child is at, you can guide their self-confidence. Even as an adult you can build your own self-confidence with the information in this article (for younger kids read Part One). […]