Looking for confidence building activities for kids?
More and more kids these days struggle with self-esteem, confidence, and self-image.
Bullying is rampant and more and more kids are expected to compare themselves against others instead of just focusing on being their best.
The society we live in today is the most challenged generation in terms of self-esteem. Between print and TV media and the ever-dominating social media, the whole world seemingly conspires against our kids.
Thus as parents, it’s crucial that we find confidence building activities for kids we can implement in our parenting practices!
In this post, we’re diving deep into the world of parenting challenges of today and all the troubles facing our kids.
We’ll explore the facts and statistics, we’ll talk to experts and really dive into all the biggest challenges our kids are facing today.
More importantly, though, we’ll look at some confidence building activities for kids you can easily put into place. That way you, and your kids can rest a little easier.
The struggle to build our kids self-esteem
Self-esteem can be a challenging issue with kids.
In my day job at Life Ki-do Martial Arts, the company owners, Sensei Jonathan and his wife Lana address the ideas of validation and the failures of what they call the “American Happiness Formula”. (Look Good + Perform Well + Get Approval = Happiness).
They detail this in their outstanding book Life Ki-do Parenting; Tools to Raise Happy, Confident Kids from the Inside Out.
Since they have already spoken so eloquently, I don’t want to repeat their thoughts.
I will, however, encourage you to read the book. I also want to speak about my own feelings of validation, praise & confidence building activities for kids from observations both at home as a parent, at work and in the world at large.
If you’re looking for confidence building activities for kids you can use at home, this book is a great place to start!
The dangers of looking to others for approval
Everywhere we go, we see examples of society encouraging validation through some sort of external approval system.
We’re literally bombarded from a young age with a reward/punishment system. We feel good when we meet someone else’s expectations and feel poorly about ourselves when we fall short of someone else’s expectations.
Thus, our feelings of self-worth and our self-esteem are based on their opinion (based on their criteria) of how or what we should be doing.
In my daughter’s previous school, for instance, they had a daily color-coded system to acknowledge good or poor behavior.
Thus my girls were constantly bragging when they got on pink or orange (the best).
But they also felt bad when they only got to green or a lower color.
It also instilled feeling competitive about beating each other or other students. Thus it’s crucial for finding confidence building activities for kids that we aren’t encouraging our kids to compare themselves to others.
The deadly result of teaching comparison and envy
Going back to my girl’s old school, they also had a “rock star of the week” profile hanging in the hallway. One student out of each class was singled out each week as the best.
In truth, I suspect they rotated through all children for the rock star so that no child felt left out.
This still means, however, that kids are not only encouraged to feel good about themselves due to some external recognition, but by default, often feel superior to those who didn’t make the cut that week.
Thus those not chosen feel varying levels of disappointment when, in fact, they may have been trying just as hard, or harder, than the chosen student.
Have this happen daily from kindergarten through 12th grade, and you have the exact scenario literally programmed into our children’s heads that describe the “American Happiness Formula”.
In a nutshell, we’re talking about Intrinsic Motivation vs. Extrinsic
That’s the difference between being motivated by our own internal feelings and experiences or being motivated by external experiences and other people.
— Faige Meller (@dubioseducator) October 7, 2016
Where I work, and in our home, it’s not that we don’t encourage kids to feel good about themselves or their accomplishments; we do very much so.
But we want them to seek that approval from themselves.
We want them to take pride in their own feelings of accomplishment based on how they feel about their effort. Not by how they did compared to someone else. Not because a teacher or parent said so, or by some rating system.
True, in our martial arts school, we do have belt color levels as most martial arts schools do, and that is a rating by which students could compare themselves to one another.
However, we encourage students to view the belt as a symbol of their own merits and the effort and focus they put in every week in working towards that belt level, and not as a means of comparing themselves to someone else. That is the best type of confidence building activities for kids.
In our society today, it’s all too common for us, but especially kids and teens, to seek approval or validation from external sources.
The horrible impact of (anti) social media on our kids
The advent of the internet and social media has only made that worse.
While it increases awareness, it can diminish genuine human interaction and desensitize us to how we relate and communicate with each other. Thus the need for confidence building activities for kids only increases.
For example how often have you seen someone comment harshly on someone else’s post saying things they would likely never say in a face to face conversation?
A recent study by the National Institutes of Health concluded that “young people . . . may tend to feel more depressed following social networking interactions.” They were specifically studying the effects of social media and how it impacts the rates of depression among teenage girls.
Thus one of the best confidence building activities for kids is to limit social media access for your kids.
How many kids, through movies, TV, internet, and media, see examples of:
- How they think they are supposed to look?
- How other think they should dress?
- How others say they should style their hair?
- What is an “acceptable” weight?
The perils of looking to the media for self-worth
Is it any wonder we see incident rates of teen anxiety and panic attacks, anorexia or even suicide climb as kid’s feelings of self-worth plummet.
They struggle daily to feel like they measure up to their peers or society’s message of who and what they should be.
Thus finding confidence building activities for kids has to be a parent’s top priority!
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, who did a study in 2015, roughly 12% of the younger population between the ages 12-17 experienced at least 1 major issue of depression in the prior 12 months.
While it impacts all kids, it does have the greatest impact (according to this survey) in ages 15 & 16, in multi-racial kids and by far more with young women than young men (19.5% vs 5.8%).
As the father of 3 daughters, I can tell you that news is frightening!
The most effective way to teach kids to feel good about themselves
What if kids could simply feel confident in who and what they are and not seek validation from external sources?
And what if we as parents could support our kid’s efforts knowing that one child’s “very best” might be very different from another?
What if we simply encouraged them to feel good no matter where they fall compared to others?
What if rather than scold, ridicule or belittle failure, we simply encouraged them to learn from their mistakes.
The ultimate of the confidence building activities for kids is letting kids learn from their failures!
And while I know most parents don’t ever intend to “scold, ridicule or belittle failure”, are we doing things (consciously or unconsciously) that instill or promote those feelings of positive self-esteem in our kids?
For instance, say our kid strikes out at their baseball game.
Are we yelling at them, stamping our feet, or (worse) simply looking away in disgust? Or maybe they don’t nail that gymnastic move or they lose a tournament.
How WE respond to that, verbally or non-verbally is CRUCIAL to the building (or destroying) of their self-esteem.
— The Conversation (@ConversationUK) October 7, 2016
The terrible truth about saying “good job” to your kids
I first began to think about this topic and formulate my ideas for a blog about it, after overhearing noted author, parenting expert and martial artist Jonathan Hewitt discuss the downside of saying “good job” to children.
He was being interviewed for a TV show. As he explained, this was teaching children to place value on themselves by someone else’s standards; external validation.
I began to realize I had been saying that phrase to my (then) 5 and 6-year old daughters their entire life. Without knowing it, I had been programming them to feel good about themselves when I said it and programming them to feel bad when I didn’t.
I realized this gave no emphasis on how they felt about their own effort; it was 100% tied up in the value they placed on my opinion.
Thus, based on how this fits in with tips & confidence building activities for kids, I began to really focus on my words to my children.
How to compliment your kids without them relying on you for their feelings of self-worth
When I would catch myself offering them validation, I did my best to turn it around to where they simply describe to me how they felt about their own effort.
Instead of saying “good job” every time they do something well (or just follow directions), I try to ask them how doing something well made them feel about themselves.
Or I ask them to describe what they did and how they felt about accomplishing it.
It’s not a perfect science and having been programmed myself to say “good job” on a regular basis, it will take time to break myself of the habit. But I strive every day to put my best effort towards that goal.
Now, don’t take any of this to mean that I never compliment my kids.
I do, and I hope they never doubt my love, faith, and belief in them as people.
But I don’t want the entirety of their own feelings of self-worth to be wrapped up in my remembering to compliment them, or my failure to do so.
I also don’t want their feelings of worth to be tied up in ANYONE’s opinion of them other than their own.
They are strong, beautiful, loving, intelligent young women. I want them to realize that for themselves and never doubt it. A tall order amidst a sea of bombardment trying to force them to seek validation outside themselves.
How to offer love and support the right way
We can and we should always strive to love and support our kids.
But there’s a difference between offering those things for and our kids being dependent on them for feelings of self-worth.
There’s a key difference between feeling worse about ourselves without the others approval and simply trying our best because we feel good about our own effort.
So we know this is an issue many, if not most of us parents will face.
But what do we do? How do we find tips & confidence building activities for kids so they can weather the storm of the teen years, media bombardment and criticisms from their peers?
Fear not! The situation is serious, but it doesn’t have to be dire, there ARE actions we as parents can take to find confidence building activities for kids, and even if we’re starting late, that is better than not starting at all.
Another way of developing confidence in your children is getting them to help with pet-related chores. Caring for another being, looking after its needs such as providing food and water to the furry companion will provide your kids with a sense of fulfillment and boost their self-esteem.
So what are my . . .
21 Best Confidence Building Activities for Kids You Should Know?
1. LISTEN TO YOUR KIDS
When we take the time to stop vegging out, Facebooking or engaging in other tasks when they approach us it lets them know we value them more than the other activities.
It sends a clear message that they are important. On the flip side, if we treat them like a bother or like they don’t matter, they will come to believe that.
1. LEAD BY EXAMPLE
If we struggle with body image issues or are constantly seeking the approval of a spouse or loved one, they will come to believe that is how to get what they want in this world.
2. FOCUS ON THE LESSON, NOT THE FAILURE
Everyone who has ever lived has made mistakes and our kids are no different than us.
They WILL make mistakes. How we respond to those mistakes can make all the difference; whether they learn from that mistake or repeat that mistake.
Even worse is if they simply learn to hide future mistakes from you or learn to blame others for their mistakes.
3. FOCUS ON LESS COMPARATIVE SPORTS
Sports are great! They teach great hand/eye coordination, can foster teamwork, build core strength. They are also a great way to stay or get in shape.
However, some sports focus HEAVILY on competition. And losing that volleyball game or that soccer goal can DEVASTATE a fragile ego.
If you follow my blogs at all you know I’m big on martial arts. While some schools are big on tournaments and sparring, many are not. In addition to instilling focus and confidence, strength & agility and excellent self-defense skills, martial arts are also great confidence building activities for kids.
There’s a key difference between wanting to do well and only feeling good about yourself by beating another person. Find a sport that resonates with the former.
5. ENCOURAGE THEM TO FOLLOW THEIR DREAMS
I have one daughter who has dreamed of being a spy since she was about 3. Should I tell her that was a silly dream? Or an unattainable goal, or (worse) something that’s not appropriate for girls (which I don’t think, btw)?
NO! If I did, I would literally CRUSH her dream along with her spirit and self-esteem. She may well grow out of this or she may join the CIA, but I’m damn sure not going to tell her she can’t.
6. SUPPORT YOUR CHILD’S APPEARANCE
This is a dangerous place.
My oldest daughter came to me some time back complaining about her weight. Instead of commenting about her weight (which could have caused damage), I simply asked her why she felt that way.
Then I asked what she wanted to do about it. I then let her know I was there to help her and support her in achieving those goals.
7. JOIN BOY/GIRL SCOUTS
Scouting can foster the same feelings of confidence & teamwork that sports can, without the competition factor.
The Girl Scout mission is “of building girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.” Likewise, Boy Scouts “builds character, trains them in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and develops personal fitness.”
Don’t have a troop in your area? You can start your own!
8. CELEBRATE WINS BY FOCUSING ON THE EFFORT
In other words, when they achieve something, don’t focus as much on what they got (the external). Instead, place most of the importance of what they did to achieve that (the internal).
Maybe they won a prize at school, got 3 goals in soccer or got a pass to wear pajamas because they aced a quiz.
Whatever it is, focus on their feelings about what they did.
9. LET THEM FIND THEIR OWN WAY
Allow our kids to figure out their own way of doing an assigned task.
It builds great critical thinking skills, but more importantly, it shows us that we TRUST them enough to let them do it their way.
If their way doesn’t achieve the desired end result, see #3 above.
10. PUT THE TABLET DOWN
Technology can be a great thing. After all, you’re likely reading this on a computer or smartphone.
But for our kids (and even adults), it can become addicting. It’s easy to spend hours a day doing nothing but surfing the web. If you’re using it for useful information, that’s one thing. But for kids, it’s rarely providing much useful information. Set strict limits on days and lengths for your child to be on a device.
Learn more at one of my most shared posts about Screen Time Limits.
11. NO CELL PHONES UNTIL THE TEEN YEARS
Your kids will protest, but I recommend that you not get your child a (so-called) smartphone until they are a teenager (or even wait until high school).
Trust me, it’s no phone to be that parent who doesn’t let their kid have a phone when all their friends do. But that’s the role my wife and I have chosen and you should too.
After all, it’s our job to be the parent and to do what we think is best; not to be the coolest or most liked. They will thank you later.
12. NO SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS UNTIL HIGH SCHOOL
Social media can also be a great thing.
But for kids, it’s also been linked to cyber-bullying and can decimate your girl’s self-esteem. Many kids also focus on what their life looks like on Instagram instead of just enjoying reality.
So in my house (and I hope yours), we have a strict policy that our girls will not get any social media accounts until High School. And even then only if we’re convinced it’s benefiting and not detracting from their lives.
13. SPEND TIME OUTDOORS
Being outside, especially in nature, has amazing transformative effects.
Vitamin D from the sun and the fresh air can help transform even the worst day. To say nothing of the benefits of adding in physical exercise.
14. MONITOR WHO THEY SPEND TIME WITH
Keep your friends close and your enemies closer the saying goes.
Trust me, no matter how well you’ve raised your kids, they will have that one friend who’s not the best influence. Take the time to get to know your kid’s closest friends and their parents.
Don’t be afraid to limit time with those who send up red flags.
15. SPEND TIME AS A FAMILY
For most kids, the family unit is who provides the best influence, the most love and support and who will be there for them no matter what.
So as kids get older and naturally start spending more time with friends, don’t forget the importance of family.
Continue to have dinners at the table, family movie nights and family vacations. Find ways to stay connected with your kids!
16. HEALTHY EATING HABITS
If we put watered down or polluted gas in our car, guess what happens? It doesn’t run well (or maybe not at all). The same is true for our bodies.
Thus if we want to find confidence building activities for kids, you might be surprised that I’m suggesting nutrition as a solution. But it’s of vital importance.
Our foods today are overly processed, full of sugars and artificial ingredients. These can damage adult bodies and mental health. But for our kids, they can be downright devastating.
I go into this topic in great detail over at Healthy Eating Habits Children Will Love. So I highly recommend you take a moment and review that post.
17. DRINK ENOUGH WATER
Along the same lines as the above, water is the lifeblood of our bodies. Most of us are chronically dehydrated. This affects our digestion, circulation and energy levels. But for kids, it’s also affecting brain development.
Combine that with sugar frosted flakes and a Sunny D at lunch and mac n’ cheese for dinner with yellow dyes and are we really surprised it leads to obesity, hyperactivity, diabetes or maybe ADHD?
So don’t send your kids to school with soda. If you insist on juice at least make sure it’s 100% juice. But focus on making sure your kids drink enough water each and every day.
I personally drink about a gallon a day.
18. LAUGH AT YOUR MISTAKES
When we, as adults make a mistake, we tend to get angry with ourselves. Or worse, we find a way to shift the blame on to others.
It’s totally OK to feel disappointed when we mess up. But guess what? It’s not likely the first mistake, nor will it be the last.
So learn from the mistake but then laugh at it. When we show our kids that it’s OK to make a mistake, they won’t beat themselves up when they make them.
19. HELP THE LESS FORTUNATE
Nothing quite has the positive impact of making us feel better about ourselves than when we are in the service of others.
So set up a day when your whole family goes and works at the local food bank. Or maybe your church has days where they help the homeless or does other charitable work.
Trust me; there are likely dozens of agencies in your area that would love even a little bit of assistance. And you’re providing great confidence building activities for kids while you do it!
20. FIND A MENTOR
For both of my older daughters (ages 9 and 11 as of this writing), my wife and I have found mentors for them.
In one instance it was a teacher from our school who would meet with my daughter weekly on a Saturday.
Teachers make great mentors and trust me; most hardly earn even close to their worth so a little extra income means a lot.
In the other case, we utilized a family friend getting her masters in children’s education.
The only rule we had was that they would share any information with us that involved our daughter being in harm’s way (from themselves or someone else). Otherwise, we didn’t ask what was discussed and it gave our daughters the comfort of having someone to talk to about their stresses or life that was completely impartial.
This was one of the best confidence building activities for kids we found.
21. HAVE YOUR KIDS DEVELOP HOBBIES
There has to be more to a child’s life than school and sleep and playing with friends.
Thus whether it’s a sport, scouting or an artistic outlet such as drawing, painting, theatre or a musical instrument, help them find a hobby. It’s crucial, however, that you let them be in the driver’s seat for selecting the hobby.
Having said that, in my day job, I tend to see a bunch of over-scheduled kids and frazzled parents. So it’s NOT a great idea to have a bunch of hobbies. Better to have 1 or 2 they truly love than 4 or 5 they barely scratch the surface of.
Have you struggled with finding confidence building activities for kids?
In this post, we took an in-depth look into the world our kids live in today.
We explored the challenges of school, peers, social media and the ever-increasing use of technology and the terrible impact that can have on our kid’s self-esteem. Specifically, though, we looked at some of the best confidence building activities for kids we, as parents, can use to help our kids navigate childhood and come out on top.
With 3 kids, my wife and I have been there! How can I help?
Feel free to comment here or email me with any questions!
For more great content, make sure and follow my parenting board on Pinterest for all the top tips and advice from my site and many others!
Of course I have to add that while I am a parent and work with kids in a professional capacity, I am not a mental health professional, therapist or doctor. Thus I am offering my opinion based on my own experiences and research and what I say should not be taken as medical, professional or mental health advice. If you need medical or mental health advice, you should seek out a qualified professional in your area.
Photo credits (that aren’t mine):
Confident Girl – https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevendepolo/
Sneakers – https://www.flickr.com/photos/photohunny/
Baby in Hand – https://www.flickr.com/photos/makelessnoise/