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Teaching self-confidence to your toddler

Simple things parents do on a daily basis can help toddlers learn to feel loved, important and confident.

Every parent would like his or her child to have smooth sailing through life. And it's almost never too early to head your child in the right direction for success in school and beyond.

Children can learn things that make them feel strong, smart and confident as early as age 2, according to Zero to Three.

Building confidence is especially crucial, notes the American Academy of Pediatrics. Confident kids feel more in control of their environment and will try to complete tasks, even in the face of obstacles. They are likely to feel optimistic instead of passive or powerless.

Where to start, what to do

Something as simple as self-care—like brushing hair or getting dressed without help—can make kids feel confident. Support from parents helps too. Zero to Three recommends the following confidence builders:

Show that you enjoy your child's company. Give lots of hugs and kisses. And talk, sing and laugh together. This helps your child feel loved and fun to be with.

Find ways for your child to help with family chores. Doing something valuable for the family can encourage confidence and self-worth, even at an early age.

Manage your own expectations about how the task is completed. Mistakes are part of the learning process.

Show interest in discoveries your child makes while exploring new things. This allows your child to feel interesting, important and loved.

If your child wants to try something new, provide support. This lets your child know you think he or she is smart and capable.

Talk to your child about accomplishments in specific ways. For example, "You counted out all four napkins and put them on the table. Good job. Now we can eat." This shows what an important contribution your child is making.

Show your child how to think through challenges. Talk out loud about a task you are preparing to do, such as repairing a toy. Explain your plan to do it. And encourage your child to offer "advice" that will help you complete the task together.

Support your child's efforts to work out problems. Instead of jumping in to solve a problem, encourage your child to find a solution. Offer suggestions and ask if you can help. Then step back and let your child work on the problem. If it can't be done, let your child know it's OK to ask for help. Point out times you've needed help too, like with carrying groceries in from the car.

Help your child understand and react appropriately to complex situations. For example, you might say: "I know you're sad that Jimmy didn't play with you at the park today. He was already playing with someone else. But I know he still likes you and is your friend. How about if we invite him over to play this weekend?"

Be a role model

One of the most important things a parent can do is to model good behavior. Even a young child can see how you react to certain people and situations. Look for chances to show your child appropriate responses to difficult situations.

Reviewed 2/7/2023

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This information is provided for educational purposes only. Individuals should always consult with their healthcare providers regarding medical care or treatment, as recommendations, services or resources are not a substitute for the advice or recommendation of an individual's physician or healthcare provider. Services or treatment options may not be covered under an individual's particular health plan.