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One of the most important qualities a child can possess is feeling capable, or having confidence. Confidence is what gives us the courage to seek out new information and try new things. Confidence is giving a new skill the best we have, even if we need more practice. Confidence gives us the reserve to keep trying, because we know we can do it. These qualities help develop other aspects of our nature like self-esteem and self-respect. The primary reason for nurturing the development of confidence is to give our children the skill to learn more skills.

One way to teach confidence is through basic survival training. We usually start this very early in the child’s life, as soon as he has acquired some language skills. We show him how to cross a street, what the traffic lights mean, and when conditions are safe or dangerous. If children are taught this, usually through repetition, they will eventually be able to show YOU how to cross the street in a safe manner. It is important to note here that it is not necessary to scare children when teaching them safety. Do not push the child to perform if he is not emotionally ready. Find other alternatives instead for learning confidence.

Teach your child his home telephone number. If you are out together and you need to phone home let him push the numbers for you. Teach him how to answer the telephone. Don’t just make him talk into it, but teach him that there is a live person on the other end. Practice conversation skills together on a toy telephone. Compliment him when he does a good job. If he makes an error, correct gently without making a big fuss about it. When he is ready, allow him to call his grandparents or other relatives who know him well. Practice what he will talk about first, and then be there for him in case he needs a little help. Later on, he will be able to make the recording on your answering machine! What a confidence booster this would be, to hear his own voice greeting callers. Practice what he will say, then record it until it is acceptable.

When your child does a job or chore for you, find something to compliment about it. Positive feedback automatically nurtures confidence. Be sure to be specific and avoid negative statements. Do not use the word, but, in your statements. “I like the way you’re dusting the table, BUT you missed a spot.” The word but cancels out everything said in the first part of the statement. “I like the way you’re dusting. Wow! You’re really working hard,” is a much better alternative.

Whenever possible, give your child the freedom to make a choice. If you have three options for dessert, let him make a selection. Comment positively like, “That’s what I would have chosen.” Don’t give your child too many choices or you’ll be standing there forever while he decides. Also, don’t include choices you cannot provide or don’t want him to have. Once he makes his selection, he is free to keep it. Later on, he’ll be making choices for his behaviors that can be potentially damaging. You will want him to have the confidence to choose against using drugs and alcohol.

Sharing your own past experiences shows your child that you went through the same dilemmas as he is. This will reveal to him your vulnerabilities as a child. Not only will he enjoy hearing stories of your past, but he will also be able to learn from them. Discuss your situations with him, including the negative ones with the positive ones. Ask him what happened that was undesirable, and what other choices would have been better. Be age-specific with your anecdotes. Stories about your behavior at Woodstock would be better saved for an older teenager (or young adult) than your 8-year old. Use common sense when sharing your past.

Confidence building is an ongoing pursuit. So many other characteristics spring from confidence. When children have confidence, they feel safe to be courageous. They can demonstrate boldness in a positive way without being overbearing. Confidence feeds a child’s determination and motivation, two very important qualities in the modern work force. Mostly, confidence begets faith—faith in oneself and faith in others. No one alive can exist without some kind of faith.