Building children’s confidence

Children need constant support and encouragement to develop self-worth and self-belief in their skills.


Children who are neglected, abused or raised in toxic environments are at risk of growing up with little or no self-worth.

This is manifested in the fear of taking risks and ultimately the fear of failure. Low self worth is also manifested in people-pleasing and sensitivity to criticisms. Confident adults do not need other people to validate them and also do not spend energy comparing themselves with others.

While some people try to cover up their low self worth with a form of superficial humility that turns down compliments, others can end up as bullies pretending to be lovers of discipline.

There is a risk of being depressed or suffering anxiety due to the relationship problems associated with low self-worth as a result of the breaches in the rules of engagement in social interactions.

This is why it is important that parents, teachers and other care-givers dealing with children-at-risk make intentional efforts to build the confidence of such children. We must assist children to develop a positive self-image by highlighting their strengths and abilities, using positive affirmations and discouraging them from using self-defeating words such as ‘I can’t’. 


Kindness and showing care goes a long way to make children feel supported and encouraged. These should be unconditional rather than tied in strictly with behaviour deemed appropriate by the adults around them.

This boosts their morale as the brain feeds on the good cheer and warmth. Rather than shaming and mocking children who struggle to, for instance, speak good English, we must consider how to motivate them to keep going.

By this, we will be contributing to the development of grit which is a key component of resilience. This is important for succeeding in life as we need to sometimes persist and remain committed to our goals even when facing challenges and setbacks to reach desired outcomes.

Rather than dominating and making children feel they are not capable of making good decisions, they should be entrusted with opportunities to make age-appropriate decisions.

Adults must take advantage of life occurrences to sensitise children to the need to celebrate their own uniqueness and that of others. Some children do not have the space to fail as parents are hard on them, always coming at them with criticisms, pessimistic comments and retributive judgment.

It is important to recognise that children are being shaped by how we treat them and are likely to also raise their children in this way, creating a cycle of negativity throughout generations.

Having a strong sense of self-worth makes it easy for individuals to have healthy relationships. People who know their worth are less likely to accept abuse and mistreatment.

Though they may be perceived to be difficult because of their sense of self worth, they are secretly admired for their strong personality, and their ability to set healthy boundaries and to communicate effectively.

No doubt they have relatively healthier and more fulfilling relationships. People who believe in themselves position themselves to have many feathers in their cap because they are more likely to take risks and pursue their goals.

Lifelong learning actually becomes another exciting adventure to embark on. This can lead to fulfillment and greater success in both personal and professional life, making the statement so true - that true abundance is not based on our net worth, but on our self-worth.

A strong sense of self-worth invariably helps us to handle stress and negative feedback more effectively, allowing us to bounce back and continue moving forward.  

The writer is a Child Development Expert/ Fellow at Zero-to-three Academy, USA.

E-mail: [email protected]

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