Parenting: What does confidence look like for children by Livvy Gormally, Let’s Ask Livvy (part 1)

On Lucky Things blog, we talk a fair bit about confidence. It’s something that comes and goes and impacts all of us. So what about confidence for our children? I met Livvy Gormally a few months ago when she shared her top tips on managing routines. Livvy is a children’s behaviour expert, applied behaviour analysis (ABA) consultant and parenting coach. I asked her to share some top tips on how we can help our kids to feel confident. Over to Livvy for part 1 of her guest post…

Building confidence in our children

When Sunita asked me to write a guest post on how we build confidence in our kids it made me really think about the concept of confidence. People see confidence as something to aspire to, a very positive trait that we usually all want more of. But that got me thinking because confidence can depend on our surroundings, our experiences, our environment. We can have our confidence knocked and we can have it boosted. Some people can have confidence in one environment or situation and lack it in others.

Confidence is seen as a positive trait until you show too much of it and then this tips the balance to over confidence or arrogance. An over confident child might be described as precocious-a negative trait. People who have too little confidence are often seen as shy or not as “go-getty as others. So, with confidence being such a tricky thing to describe-how can we instill it in our little ones?

I see confidence as a behaviour, a learned behaviour in the same way as walking and talking. It is something that needs to be taught, learnt and nurtured, it needs to be modeled and reinforced, it needs to be taught across environments and in different situations. 

But most of all I think that our children’s confidence comes from those closest to them; their parents, their friends, their family. Confidence builds when you are feeling comfortable, but confidence can also grow when you are a little out of your comfort zone-getting this balance can be tricky.

Do our babies go from crawling to standing to cruising to those first few steps totally un-aided? No, our kids move through their developmental milestones because we are helping them every step of the way, praising them, guiding them, modelling new things

Would the cruising toddler take that first step if we were not a couple of metres away with our arms outstretched and a smile that nearly cracks our faces ready to catch them if they tumble? Possibly, but not as quickly or with as much confidence as the child who knows you’ve got their back. In behavioural terms, we praise the behaviours we want to see more of, and confidence builds in exactly the same way.

Our kids need to be reinforced and praised for their confident decisions. Whether this is taking their first steps, trying a new food, making a new friend, starting something new or facing the bully who is making school tricky

Confidence can come from trying to break down a situation that your child is finding challenging, sometimes the mountain might seem too high so not trying becomes the default position. Breaking big goals down into bite size pieces can boost confidence more than trying to tackle something head on.

Many behaviours come about from not knowing how to do something, not wanting to fail at something, avoidance behaviours, distraction tactics, not knowing how to or when to ask for help, not wanting to ask for help for fear of being teased or judged. I always try and help parents work out the function of any behaviour, as this lets them work out why something might be happening. It also lets you put the necessary strategies in place to support your little ones.

Just because the other kids happily trot into nursery, love playdates, are happy to try new things does not mean your child lacks the confidence that all the other kids seem to have, if they do not approach these things with the same gusto. The wobble at the school gates or feeling shy on playdates can happen for a number of reasons such as not understanding the new activity, separation anxiety or attention seeking. Starting something new can be daunting. But with the correct strategies in place to support you and your children you can address these issues helping your child make more confident choices and gain the confidence to try something new.

How confidence grows and develops can change as our kids grow older. Teaching them something and then standing back to watch them practise, supporting our kids while also letting them learn that failing at something can be a good way to learn. This can be a difficult balance to strike because the child that fails and fails can lose confidence. Every child is different and it is important to remember this when our children are growing and developing.  

Part 2 of Livvy’s guest blog for Lucky Things will appear next week where she shares top tips for encouraging confidence in our little ones

Photographs for this blog post have been published with permission from You can also check out her work over at Instagram

In the meantime, you may also like these Lucky Things blog posts on confidence…

Seven confidence energisers

What does confidence mean to you?
Confidence tips from a 3-year old

What do you think confidence looks like for children? What does is mean for younger ones? Any top tips for encouraging toddlers and children to feel more confident? Let us know what you think and leave a comment below…

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