As children grow, so too does their self-awareness and their social skills. Toddlers tend to play by themselves, or alongside others, but by the time they reach pre-school, they have learned to interact and play together (and fight, but that’s another story!).
While all this social interaction is great, it also has its downsides. People naturally gravitate towards the people they like, and sometimes this results in groups of friends being formed. This becomes more noticeable at school-going age. Sharing and inclusion should be emphasised at this age – include everyone in a game – but it’s also important for us parents to raise our children to be as confident as possible, so they can successfully and independently navigate social situations as they get older.
Parents can encourage confidence in their children from a very early age – and it will pay off in spades when it comes to school. Here are five ways to help your child gain confidence:
Encourage independence from an early age
This tip can be started from the very moment your child starts looking to do things herself. Wants to make her own sandwich? Show her, then let her try it. It might be messy, but encourage and praise her independence. Give her tasks to do around the house. Let her pick from a choice of two outfits or activities. If your child feels she can accomplish tasks from an early age, there is more chance of her having an “I can do it” attitude.
Try not to step in
It can be tempting to step in and do things for your child – try to avoid this temptation. This can make her hesitant to try things herself and more reliant on others. Let your child learn through trial and error; mastering something she finds difficult at first will encourage confidence and a healthy sense of self-esteem.
Don’t dismiss worries or shyness
Most children go through a shy stage – we’re not talking about the clingy baby stage, but more the stage around three or four when they might be reluctant to go into a social situation. Ask her how she is feeling and why. Explain that everyone feels like that sometimes, and that it’s perfectly normal. If possible, give a situation where your child felt shy but then overcame it and went on to have a great time. If it continues, find some stories about overcoming shyness in situations to read together, or do a little role play with your child’s teddies. Normalise the feelings and they won’t feel so daunting anymore.
Set an example
Your child is watching and learning from your social interactions constantly, so be aware of this and set an example. Talk warmly to people you don’t know, ask people for help, compliment others and say thank you – your child will be watching all the time.
Praise, encourage and love
If you know your child is nervous or shy about a situation but manages to overcome it, praise her afterwards and put a positive spin upon her action – tell her she was brave to do what she did. If you see your child helping another child who is less confident to join in a game, praise this too. And, needless to say, tell your child regularly how much she is loved and how proud you are of her. Fostering a warm, affectionate and playful relationship with your child will encourage confidence like nothing else.