Parents' actions can help children build self-confidence, even shortly after birth

There are many things parents and caregivers can do to help establish a child's confidence during the early stages of life.

Soon after a child is born they begin their journey into a future filled with all types of possibilities. Very early in life parents can take steps to encourage self-confidence in their young child. From the very beginning, holding, stroking, talking softly and responding to their infant's needs will promote bonding. Secure bonding will encourage the child to coo more, look at caretakers’ faces more, reach more often, smile more and as they get more mobile, explore more. According to ZERO TO THREE, the National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families, there are other steps a parent can take that will help develop self-confidence.

The parent can remain in close proximity while the child explores. The child will be aware that the parent is nearby and feel safe to explore. Such exploring opportunities help motor development, enrich learning opportunities and build self-confidence. Displaying excitement at the child’s accomplishments will encourage the child to repeat activities. Repeated attempts are important for learning. Using encouraging words and emotional support, rather than the parent taking over, will also help a child develop an "I can do it" attitude. Providing age-appropriate toys and age-appropriate activities is important. Mastering how a toy functions will give a sense accomplishment. Toys and activities that are too challenging will have the reverse affect and discourage a child from trying, bringing on frustration.

Other steps parents can take include modeling: what lesson can be taught by our behavior? Children are very observant of parents. How adults respond to challenging situations can be opportunities to teach. The child may ponder – what else can mom try? The parent's actions can demonstrate persistence or other qualities they want their child to acquire.

Parents can also establish a daily routine for a child to give them a sense of predictability. Knowing what to expect helps young children feel secure, confident and in control. Finally, parents should be flexible and prepared for the unexpected, because children will sometimes fall out of routine.

With daily interaction and loving patience, children will develop the self-confidence needed to meet new challenges.

For additional articles related to child development and parenting, please visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

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