More and more kids these days struggle with self-esteem, confidence, and self-image. So, as parents, we must find confidence building activities for kids!
Here’s what I’ve learned as a parent of 3:
Look for after-school activities that encourage kids to work through challenging situations without giving up. These can be martial arts, team sports, dance, theatre, or other things. But most importantly, look for a teacher or coach who inspires & motivates the children rather than belittling them when they fail.
But there’s a lot more to know about kids, low self-esteem, and building confidence. In this post, we’re diving deep into the world of parenting challenges of today and all the troubles facing our kids.
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.
We’ll explore the facts and statistics, we’ll talk to experts and 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.
How do you build a child’s confidence?
Self-esteem and confidence can be a challenging issue with kids. 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.
So, 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. So 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 a competitive feeling about beating each other or other students; giving kids bragging rights. So, we mustn’t be encouraging our kids to compare themselves to others.
In truth, to really build confidence, we need to encourage them to feel good about their own accomplishments.
I’m not saying they shouldn’t appreciate a kind word from a parent or a teacher. But ultimately, we want them to feel that sense of accomplishment in themselves when they know they’ve done something right or achieved something great.
If all their feelings of self-worth are tied up in the opinions of others, they will always struggle to find true self-confidence.
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.
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.
So the best way to start this process is by asking questions of your child after an event, accomplishment, or failure. Questions such as:
- How did that make you feel?
- Is there anything you would do differently next time?
- If you wish you could have done better, how do you think you could improve?
What are the best activities to help boost self-confidence?
Self-confidence comes from a child figuring out how to work through a challenging situation and accomplishing a goal.
The good news is there are lots of ways to do that. Some of the best things also involve teamwork, a skill they can keep improving, and something with a clear goal in mind.
While that can be sports related, it doesn’t have to be.
Here are some of my top picks for confidence-boosting afterschool activities:
- Martial arts
- Learning a musical instrument
- Team sports
No matter which activity you try, the coach or teacher is crucial for boosting self-esteem rather than destroying it.
Look for a coach or teacher that measure’s a child success against that same child’s starting point rather than comparing them to others. Also, look for ones that encourage the kids, ask them questions about their performance or failure, and don’t just use fear or anger as their means of motivating them.
Since my day job is running a large multi-location martial arts school, this is something I know a bit about.
While it’s specific to martial arts, a recent article I wrote walks you through the steps for selecting a good school. And there’s no reason much of it couldn’t apply to other activities too. Just click the link to read it on my site.
How do I build my child’s self esteem?
The other key to really building self-confidence is encouraging them to not give up.
All too often, parents, these days coddle their kids in an attempt to keep them from ever feeling disappointment.
In truth, we have to feel the sting of disappointment to know what it feels like to push through and really succeed. So I don’t think you should force your kids to do something. But they do need to learn how to work through a challenging situation without giving up or getting angry and frustrated.
One of the most common things I see as a parent and an educator who works with kids in my day job is kids constantly starting and then quitting different after-school activities.
Parents, desperate for a quick break, are quick to sign them up for activities they think they will love.
But then at the first challenge or struggle in that activity, the child wants to quit. Parents, desperate to avoid a meltdown or to shield their kid from obstacles, allow them to quit. Then they find a new activity and that cycle repeats.
I’m not suggesting you force your kid to do something they hate.
That will become a huge burden for both of you. But I am suggesting you’re not helping your child learn resilience and the value of working through a challenge if you let them quit every time they hit a road bump.
So this is what I recommend:
- Research 3 different after-school options that look good to you
- Allow them to select one that appeals to them
- Go check it out or do a free trial
- If you both still agree after watching/trying, then let your child know they have to commit to doing this for 6 months
- At the end of the 6 months, if they don’t like it, they can try one of the other 2 activities
Every activity they try will have challenging moments and moments of failure or setback. If we allow them to quit every time that happens, we’re really setting them up for failure in the real world. And preparing them for the real world is our ultimate job.
Another way of developing confidence in your children is by 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.
What causes low self esteem in a child?
In truth, there are several things that can cause low self-esteem.
Probably the number one challenge kids face these days are absent or negligent parents. So many households these days are split with kids shuttling between 2 parent’s houses. Even worse is when one parent isn’t in the picture at all.
Ultimately, this often makes the child blame themselves for the split or why one parent isn’t around. “Why aren’t I worth loving?” or “Maybe if I was a better kid this wouldn’t have happened” are common thoughts and statements from kids (and into adulthood) who experience this.
Now if you are divorced from the other parent of your child, I’m not trying to make you feel bad.
I am the product of divorce and I’ve been divorced myself. I don’t, however, want you to hide your head in the sand and pretend the split didn’t have an impact on your child.
To address a problem or issue, we first have to identify it and acknowledge it.
If you have not yet divorced, but are struggling, I highly recommend you check out a recent article where I detail all the top reasons for divorce AND how to avoid them. Just click that link to read it on my site.
If you are already split then, I recommend the following steps:
- Talk about it with your child (in an age-appropriate way)
- Make sure they know that the split had NOTHING to do with them (but don’t badmouth your ex)
- Work on building the best possible relationship with your ex
- Never prioritize getting back at your ex over the best interests of your child
- Consider having the child go to therapy
- Continue to check in repeatedly and keep working these steps
How does social media affect self esteem?
The advent of the internet and social media has only worsened self-confidence and self-esteem.
While social media can increase awareness of social issues and news, it can also diminish genuine human interaction. It can also desensitize us to how we relate and communicate with each other.
For example how often have you seen someone comment harshly on someone else’s post online 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.
So one of the best confidence-building techniques is to limit social media access for your kids.
Every day, through movies, TV, internet, and media, kids see examples of:
- How they think they are supposed to look?
- What others think they should wear?
- 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 (click to read more on my site), 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.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, who did a study in 2015, roughly 12% of the younger population between the ages of 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!
Why is it so important to build a child’s self esteem?
If a child enters adulthood with low confidence and low self-esteem, they will always struggle.
They will struggle to build meaningful and lucrative careers. But they will also struggle to maintain successful relationships. If they become a parent themselves, they will also struggle to be a good one.
In truth, being confident and knowing how to work through life’s challenges is CRUCIAL for a child.
So, what if kids could simply feel confident in who and what they are and not seek validation from others?
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 about their accomplishments no matter where they fall compared to others?
What if rather than scold, ridicule or belittle their failure, we simply encouraged them to learn from their mistakes.
Nothing builds confidence quite like 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 make our kids feel that way?
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 karate tournament?
How WE respond to that, verbally or non-verbally is CRUCIAL to the building (or destroying) of their self-esteem.
What are the signs of low self esteem in a child?
I won’t lie. My wife and I have struggled with our middle daughter in the areas of self-esteem and depression.
In fact, so much so that we are currently considering therapy for her. She’s in middle school, and while she’s doing great at school and dance after school, she has always struggled for attention.
That struggle is because she has a much louder older sister and a toddler younger sister all of whom compete for our attention.
Some of the signs we’ve seen to indicate low self-esteem are:
- Being self-critical
- She’s unsure of her abilities
- Has unhealthy ways of seeking attention (not eating)
- Wild mood swings
- Wanting to be alone in her room for long periods
- Being overly sensitive
- She is easily and strongly affected by the negative behavior of other kids
But those are hardly the only signs of low self-esteem.
Another key thing to look for is are radical changes in appearance, attitude, friends, etc. While that doesn’t always indicate a problem, it should be a clue for you to ask your child about the changes and what they are feeling.
21 Best Confidence Building Activities for Kids?
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 it 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 on 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 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. Just click that link to read it on my site.
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.
So you might be surprised that I’m suggesting nutrition as a solution to low self-esteem. 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 (click to read on my site). 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?
Speaking of ADHD, I have a recent article that breaks down all the proven ways of treating it naturally. So if that’s been a struggle in your house, and you aren’t quite ready to commit to medication (which is sometimes necessary), click that link to read those solutions on my site.
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 do 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.
21. HAVE YOUR KIDS DEVELOP HOBBIES
There has to be more to a child’s life than school and sleep and playing with friends.
So, 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.
Did I cover all the confidence building activities for kids you wanted to see?
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, on top of my working with hundreds of kids each week in my day job! How can I help?