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How to Raise Confident Kids

In my opinion (and observation) kids gain confidence when they are given real work and are able to have real accomplishments not from being told how great they are or receiving pats on the back for simply existing. There is simply no motivation to “work harder” when everyone receives the same award. I hate to break it to you, but if Chuck doesn’t do his job at work his boss isn’t going to congratulate him for showing up and sitting around. He works construction and guess who is the first to go when work runs out? The lazy guys and the guys with lousy attitudes. That’s just not how the world works.

So here are my 5 Steps to Raising Confident Kids5 Steps to Raising Confident Kids

1. Let your toddlers and preschoolers help.

One practical tip is to always allow your toddler or preschooler to help. They can “help” with the laundry, the dishes, dusting, cooking. At this age, they just want to be near you anyway.

So what if you three year old makes a huge mess while “helping” you bake muffins? Let him mix and pour…the mess can be cleaned up during nap time. He wants to be part of what you are doing, and trust me you want to  harness this energy and enthusiasm now. This will pay huge dividends in the future. Not only will they be confident in the kitchen, but they will feel valued for contributing to the household. Cooking is especially great, because the child gets to enjoy the (tasty) fruit of their labor!

2.  Give Them Real Work: Kids gain confidence by doing difficult tasks.

Kids are smart. They know the difference between real work and busy work. Give them the opportunity to really help. Teach your five-year-old to vacuum and your six year old to sweep. Let your twelve-year-old mow the law. Give your kid their own little patch of garden to tend. If you don’t have a yard, give them their own potted plant to care for.

A few months ago Chuck gave the job of recycling all of our formula cans to Hezekiah (10) and Tucker (8). He told him if they took care of the recycling, they could have all of the money from them. Recycling Apollo’s formula cans is a two-step job. The cans have a plastic wrapper that must first be stripped off, then the cans can be crushed. The boys have been working diligently dreaming of the riches to come as the pile of cans grows higher and higher. They have taken on this job because there is a tangible reward at the end. It is real work and they know it.

3. Let Them Fail

Oh how hard this one is as a mom. I want my kids to be happy…but you know what? I can’t make them happy and it’s not my job to try. Don’t step in at their first sign (or second or third) of distress. They them seek solutions. Be sensitive and help when you feel necessary, but take a good look at the situation first. Do they need you to intervene? Will they learn a bigger lesson by failing?

I remember several years ago when we planning a swim day at a friend’s house. We had a few tasks to accomplish before we left and I gave the children specific instructions, including to make their beds. The kids were ready to go and assured me their beds were made and rooms tidy. I went and checked on and found one child’s bed unmade and chores unfinished. Chuck was home that day, so I had the option of leaving the sobbing  child home. It was hard for me…believe me the easy route would have been to bring that child along, but this had been an ongoing issue, and I knew the lesson needed to be learned. So much better to miss out on a swim day now, than something so much bigger later on. It has been three or four years and that child still remembers that day.

When your does child fail, hug them. Talk to them. Tell them you love them. And help them to move on.

4. Let Them Out in the World

Let your kids order their own food at restaurants, ask the librarian for help them find books, collect  the mail. Let them practice asking for help from adults while you are with them. Teach them to make phone calls (to adults and businesses, not just their friends). We live in a world full of media stories of kids being kidnapped, injured or worse. Don’t let this fear rule you. Train your children and make wise choices, but let them out of your sight once in a while.

{For more on this read my post: Protecting the Gift of Fear.}

Remember the story of Hezekiah and Tucker and the recycling? Last Friday Chuck loaded up the two boys (ages 8 & 10) and drove them to the recycling center. There he allowed the boys to take care of their transaction. The man working was delighted to see the boys bring in their cans. Chuck had them both sign the receipt and the man went the extra mile to divide the money (just over $12) evenly between the two boys. They each walked out with six bucks in their pockets and a whole lot of confidence. They earned every penny and we proud of it.

5. Don’t be Afraid to Brag About Their accomplishments

Tell grandma what a great job they did vacuuming. Tell the mail man your daughter mowed the lawn. Take a picture of their LEGO creation and post in on your fridge. Take the muffins your son baked to the neighbors to sample. Tell them how proud you are of the A they got on their spelling test.

How about you? How to you help your children to grow and be confident?




  1. northofdelaware

    I struggle with this sometimes, because her “help” so often leads to an even bigger mess. However, I do see how much she enjoys helping in various ways. She always puts her clothes in the laundry. Rolls up her Montessori mat at the end of our school time. When she was still napping we had “clean up time” in her room after her nap. I let her load the cutlery into the dishwasher. She climbs into her carseat—she loves doing this and given her motor delays I am happy that she does….but it does take a long time. And she puts things in the trash or recycling when asked. She helps fold laundry (she’s actually great at folding cloth diapers).

    I do think its really important. My mother didn’t let us do ANYTHING for ourselves growing up and that just left us feeling impotent and lost in certain areas. I was often criticized as a young child for being “too independent.”

  2. vivian

    also, they are working for the Lord to bring Him glory, to honor God and as adults we need to do our best for God, not only our worldly boss.
    To set an example as Christians we are good workers, dependable and honest.
    Kids see their parents are hard workers, kids learn from us. Don’t disrespect your boss in front of your children.

  3. Tara Bergeron


    I would just add let the child speak for himself! How many times I am speaking with a child and the mother answers for them. Never allowing the child to form their own thoughts. I ask a question. There is a pause (probably as the child formulates their answer) then the mom jumps in and answers. I see the child’s face. They go from happily engaged to face down, retreat. Sad.

  4. Réka

    Agree with every single word, Renee! I think having children do real work, and letting them fail and experience (and stretch!) their own limits are both amazingly important, and so often children are “protected” from these important lessons by misguided parents!

  5. Amber

    Love this post. The worst for me is when I’m at a park and letting my pre-schoolers do something slightly out of their comfort zone. I count the (physical) cost of them failing and then allow them to try, but sometimes another parent will swoop in and help them. ARGH!

  6. Kathryn

    I love this so much! We nowhere close to being ready to add kids to our little family, but your blog is such an inspiration to how I want to raise them one day. I love reading about your awesome family.

  7. Inga

    Great post! I would also add that it is much easier to teach a child indpependant skills from the beginning, than it is to break a habit of learned helplessness, My 8 yo son has special needs. There is doubt as to whether he will ever live inpependantly. I adopted him when he was almost 6, and we were his 5th family! His last home before mine had him 2 yrs, and did everything for him so he wouldn’t tantrum. When he came home, he wouldn’t dress himself. He regularly screamed for 20 minutes before even attempting to do up his seatbelt. He screamed for 30 minutes before even trying to peel a banana! All these things had been done for him. His needs are not physical- all limbs function well! I very quickly decided that I was not doing him any favours if I let this continue. The first 6 months were awful. It took a long time to teach him to do everything. Now, three years later, he is a much happier kid! He dresses himself makes his own sandwiches, and contributes to the family with age- appropriate jobs. Will he live on his own? I don’t know that yet. But I know I will have given him every opportunity to try, and that’s what matters.

  8. Inga

    I have a question about letting toddlers help. Right now, I have 4 littles: 5,2,2,&1. They all LOVE to help in the kitchen, and they all want to help at once! I know at one time, you had more toddlers than that. How did you take turns? Was there a schedule? A limit? I don’t feel I can safely cook with more than one munchkin beside me. What have you done?

  9. Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom

    These are such wonderful suggestions. As a former early childhood professional, I’ve witnessed many people underestimate the abilities of a toddler and preschooler! They will astound you if you give them the opportunity to try!

    Love giving children “real” work… and they value it too.

    Thanks so much for sharing (and for linking up to the #SHINEbloghop).

    Wishing you a lovely weekend.

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      Thanks, Jennifer. It is so true, Apollo does some amazing “real” work. Sometimes to the point that I think strangers may think he’s neglected, being the youngest of such a large crew! I hope you have a great weekend too.

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