Self-confidence is described as the aggregate set of thoughts that we have about ourselves.

We pick up these thoughts when we are small. Certainly we add other thoughts over the years, but that initial set is still likely to be hanging around and influencing our actions and choices in life.

What ten thoughts do you have about yourself?

Here are a few of mine:

  • I like to figure things out.
  • I can’t dance.
  • I don’t say as much as other people do.
  • I’m scared of people.
  • I’m good at playing cards and other games.

Where did these thoughts come from?

With some reflection, you’ll be able to identify why you have these thoughts about yourself. For example, if I look at my list:

  • I loved chess and Sherlock Holmes when I was a kid.
  • I remember feeling awkward dancing in elementary school.
  • My mother frequently described me to others as being shy.
  • Our family avoided confrontation at all costs.
  • I got to play cards with adults when I was very young.

You might note that I’ve replaced the “shy” label with “not speaking as often as others,” which is what is actually so. We can change these thoughts and stories about ourselves if we are willing to identify them and update the ones that don’t serve us well.

But life is definitely easier if we have a positive set of thoughts about ourselves from the beginning.

Here are my five suggestions for how you might enhance your children’s natural self-confidence. These specific suggestions are less important than simply being conscious and intentional about your interactions with your children. Still, it’s useful to know where to start.

  1. Since words shape how we think, be very conscious of what attributes or characteristics you ascribe to your kids. Delete the limiting comments and keep identifying new, positive attributes. Comments said in anger or frustration are especially memorable, so do find a way not to say things in haste.
  2. Converse with your kids often in a thoughtful way so they develop their ability to talk with anyone. Whenever they talk, slow down and devote yourself to what they are saying.
  3. Ask them, “What do you think?” often so they both get a chance to express themselves and to learn from your attention that you value what they think. Whenever possible, let their thinking visibly influence your actions.
  4. Teach them how to do as many things as you can. With your supervision, they can replace smoke alarm batteries, cook from recipes, build birdhouses, or balance checkbooks long before you think they might be able to handle it.
  5. Play games with them.

I like number five because games were a part of my upbringing, and  some new research says there is a correlation between playing games and success.

“Play is one of the most cognitively stimulating things a child can do,” Megan McClelland, an early-childhood-development researcher at Oregon State University, told the New York Times recently.

The article concludes: “It turns out that a child’s ability at age 4 to pay attention and complete a task, the very skills learned in game play, were the greatest predictors of whether he or she finished college by age 25.” (see the full article here)

There you go. Good luck, and thanks for reading.