Teach Your Kid Confidence -- from Birth

Every parent wants to raise a confident child who tackles challenges with gusto, who will try new things even if it means risking failure. While these qualities don't come automatically, parents lay the groundwork for a can-do attitude in a child's first few months and years. "Some of our kids come out as tumbleweeds and some of them come out like African violets, but from day one we love them for who they are," says child development expert Michele Borba, EdD, author of Esteem Builders. "Unconditional love and acceptance are the roots of self-esteem."

Even Babies Can Be Confident

mom and son

Frank Heckers

What can you do when your child is an infant to help him develop the confidence to "try, try again"?

Create a predictable routine. When your baby knows that after having his bath he'll be fed and then go to bed, he doesn't have to worry about what's going to happen next. Instead, his mind is free to focus on mastering new skills, such as how to get his belly up off the floor so he can crawl.

Respond to baby's needs. Of course you're already doing this. Every time you pick him up when he's crying or kiss a boo-boo, you're not just soothing him so he'll be less upset. You're showing that you're listening, and that you understand what he needs, which makes him feel important.

Present small challenges. The rush that accompanies "I did it!" is a powerful tool when it comes to building self-confidence. A 5-month-old who tries to grab at the toys dangling from his play gym is going to feel a burst of excitement when he finally does it. The next time you put him down on the play gym, position him so that grabbing the toy is not as easy as it was before but is still doable. Your baby might be frustrated at first, but he'll be all smiles once he learns to overcome this challenge. "This is how you build confidence," says Borba. "You are guiding him so he feels he is getting better and better at something."

Encourage persistence. When a child can't quite get the right piece into the shape sorter or he topples over as he's trying to stand up, say, "You've almost got it. Let's try again. You can do it!" This lets him know he's safe, and it gives him the confidence that he needs to pull himself up again. Add a hug, and your child will feel worthy of acceptance even though he didn't succeed this time.

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