8 Ways to Instill Confidence in Your Toddler

Mighty Mommy shares eight things you can teach your toddler and young children now to help his or her confidence soar over time.   

Cheryl Butler
7-minute read
Episode #402

My youngest of 8 is turning 11 years old this weekend. I’m really not one for clichés but honestly—where does the time go? At one point I had four babies and toddlers in diapers all at once. I barely blinked and now I have nearly 4 out of college. Raising so many kids close in age, there were many days that were a total whirlwind. Changing diapers and getting kids fed and bathed each day were usually the only goal on my daily to-do list (other than not losing my mind). But even among the daily chaos, I did strive to reach another goal on a regular basis and that was to start instilling confidence in my kids at a young age, as early as their toddler days, so they would hopefully grow into well-rounded older kids and and have a secure sense of self.

Well known pediatrician Dr. William Sears raised 8 children of his own as well as practiced pediatrics for over 30 years. In his article 12 Ways to Raise a Confident Child, he writes, “Self-esteem is your child’s passport to a lifetime of mental health and social happiness. It’s the foundation of a child’s well-being and the key to success as an adult.” 

I couldn’t agree more with Dr. Sears’ philosophy on self-esteem and a child’s overall strong mental well- being, so today Mighty Mommy shares 8 things you can teach your toddler and young children now to help his confidence soar over time.  

See Also:  5 Ways to Connect with Your Pre-Schooler

Tip #1:  Establish Good Communication Skills

Establishing strong communication skills is one of the key elements to laying a strong foundation for your child’s future. One way to do this is to let younger kids speak for themselves as often as they can without intervening and speaking for them. So when a question is asked of them, even when they are young, let them take the lead. For example, if an adult from church or school asks your 3-year-old how they like having a brand new baby sibling, don’t jump in and say something like “Henry, you love having a baby sister don’t you? She’s so cute, right?” Instead, let him be as honest as he needs to be “My baby sister cries too much.” At least he’s being allowed to express himself without any fluff.  In addition, let your kids do things like order their own choices at a restaurant. The more opportunities they can be exposed to communicating with other adults and children, the better. They learn they have their own voice.

Tip #2:  Be Realistic with Praise Early

It’s normal to want to praise your child for all of her accomplishments, small and large. Whether it be praising them for a drawing, a strong kick with the soccer ball, or an itty bitty role in the school play it’s not unusual to be a bit over exuberant because you want your kid to know he or she is the best there is. What we don’t want is to be too over the top so that our compliment and praise don’t sound genuine.

It’s also not necessary to heap praise for something she’s supposed to do like brushing her teeth or feeding the cat. 

This also applies to a situation that involves you being worried about something your child is doing. For example, if your child is learning to climb up the large set of stairs on the playground slide, don’t carry on about how worried you are about him as he makes the big climb. Instead, stand by so you can make sure he’s taking the steps as safely as he can and proudly watch him get to the top step.  Once he achieves this, you can say something like “Terrific job. I knew you could do it.”  See Also  5 Things Parents Shouldn't Worry About

Tip #3:  Be a Positive Role Model 

Toddlers and young children are like little sponges. They soak up everything they hear their parents and caregivers saying, even when you least suspect they are paying attention. Ever catch yourself saying something disparaging aloud like this: “I’m so stupid. I can’t believe I forgot to take the chicken out of the freezer to thaw for dinner. It’s all my fault that dinner will be so late tonight"?

Negative self-talk doesn’t offer any type of benefit to your children or to yourself.  Whatever you model, your child will soak it in and most likely emulate it. Instead of making critical comments about some mistake, turn it around with positive self-talk instead. "Well, I forgot to take the chicken out of the freezer this morning, but I did have a chance to sit and have a nice breakfast with you kids instead so tonight, we'll grab a pizza or something." Parents generally set the tone for the atmosphere in their home. If you tend to be stressed out and cranky by nature, that only ripples down to your children. If they interact with a calm and steady mom and dad, it in turn shows them you are enjoying life and makes them act more joyful too which in turns builds self-esteem and self-confidence. 

Tip #4:  Help them Visualize the Future

We all have access to a very powerful tool that can help shape a positive outlook on life—the power of visualization. The daily practice of visualizing your dreams and goals as already complete can rapidly accelerate your achievement of those dreams, goals, and ambitions.

If kids can envision themselves doing something important or fulfilling when they grow up, they're bound to feel more confident now. Take advantage of any one-on-one time that you spend with your young child helping him visualize a career or talent he might like to see come to fruition in the future.  For example, maybe your young daughter absolutely loves taking care of her stuffed animals and dolls.  You could say “You really are so caring and it’s obvious you like to make your Teddy Bear and your dolls feel better when they are sick.  Can you picture yourself as a doctor some day?”  Maybe she doesn’t want to be a doctor but instead says “I want to be a mommy and take care of my own kids when I get older.” Regardless of what her dreams are, focus on the fact she is thinking of some goals and go from there.  We used to do this instead of bedtime stories many nights.  It made my kids feel excited and hopeful about the future and got them asking questions about different careers and artistic talents.


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Cheryl Butler Project Parenthood

Cheryl L. Butler was the host of the Mighty Mommy podcast for nine years from 2012 to 2021. She is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. You can reach her by email.