9 Ways To Teach Kids To Be Confident (Without Teaching Them To Be Cocky)

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It’s true that all kids have their own unique personalities. When I was younger, I was often seen clinging to my mom’s leg during social events.

Big family gatherings were intimidating to me (and still can be to this day). My daughter, however, is a confident little social butterfly. She can stride into a room with vigor, even if she’s the youngest person there. I envy her for that — confidence is such an important trait that can often take years to build up.

But sometimes when you’re confident, you cross a line or two without realizing it. Confidence can very easily turn into cockiness, which is a turn-off.

While it’s essential to be sure of your own capabilities, bragging about them — or coming off as a know-it-all — won’t win you many friends. So it’s important to start your kids off on the right foot if you want them to be well-rounded individuals.

That’s why there are certain methods I’m hoping to take when my daughter’s confidence wavers — which it will. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to teach kids that won’t tear them down in the process. Confidence can often be pretty fragile. But if children learn how to rebuild their pride and stay self-assured at an early age, they’ll be able to conquer anything. Here are nine methods to try.

When it comes to sports, don’t focus on winning or losing

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Your child might be interested in playing a sport, which is a great way to stay active. But the second they focus on the topic of winners and losers, their confidence in their skill may turn to cockiness — especially toward the other kids. You need to reiterate that the game is about having fun, being outside, and making friends. Congratulate them on improving, not for winning.

Be open about your own imperfections

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If you’re not so great at tennis, cooking, or math, tell your child about it. That will show them that even adults aren’t good at everything. Author Laura Markham, PhD, of Psychology Today states it’s healthy for parents, in general, to toss the idea of perfection out the window. She says that “perfection is the lowest standard a parent can have.” Your children need to learn that you don’t have to be perfect to be happy and successful.

Use the “sandwich” method when it comes to criticism

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Not everything needs to be criticized. But if your child is trying hard to practice and perfect a skill, it’s important for you to sandwich any criticism with two things about their efforts that are positive. Start nice, add in something they can work on, and end on a positive note. That will encourage them to keep going but also remind them that there’s always room for improvement.

Allow your child to figure out problems for themselves

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It’s still unknown as to where the phrase “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime” originated. But it’s the truth. Giving someone a fish might quickly and temporarily solve a problem, but expanding their knowledge is more of a long-term win. Ask your child to investigate the question they’re looking for the answer to. This will build confidence while also teach that growth, and knowledge, often takes hard work.

Remind children that even the professionals need practice

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Sure, some celebrities are naturally gifted. But it’s hard to be successful without putting in the work. If your child feels insecure about not measuring up to JoJo Siwa or Millie Bobby Brown, remind them that the kids in the spotlight practiced hard to be at the top of their game. They shouldn’t set out to compete with them, but they should figure out if their envy comes from a desire to learn more about acting and singing.

Teach children that everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses

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One of the beautiful things about the world is that nobody’s the same. We aren’t all set up to be scientists, nor can everyone be a good teacher. Childhood is all about learning your strengths and weaknesses. Remind your child that they may be better at math and science than the other kids, but those traits should be explored — not bragged about. What they excel in makes them special, but it doesn’t make them more important than someone else.

Practice kindness

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Kindness always goes a long way, and it’s a great way to stay humble and make new friends. Those who are kind learn how to approach people more successfully, which improves their socialization skills. Kindness also has a lot of health benefits, from reducing anxiety to providing energy. When you’re kind to everybody, the world opens up more opportunities.

Teach children to be good listeners

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Make sure you’re also listening to them. Children need to know that their voice matters — and in doing so, they build confidence and know that they can come to you with anything. It also shows them how important it is to listen. By lending an ear, they learn more about the world and the people around them. They’re less likely to become arrogant or selfish when they develop a strong understanding of others.

Remind them to be proud of their peers

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An “I could have done it better” attitude isn’t a healthy one. If someone in your child’s school gets recognized for good grades or a special accomplishment, teach your kid to be proud — not envious. It’s possible that the recognition may push your child to practice something more, which is healthy. But acting jealous means that they may get cocky about their own achievements when their time comes.

This story originally appeared at LittleThings.

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