What Makes Kids Confident and How Can Parents Help?

Ask any parent what they want most for their children and self-confidence will be at the top of the list. Qualities such as academic or athletic success are notable characteristics that most parents appreciate their children having, but above all, parents know that self-confidence is the most important trait that a child can possess. Without self-confidence it is harder for children to accomplish goals, resist peer pressure, or deal with adversity. Confidence in oneself is extremely important and parents understand it may hold the key to a child’s happiness and career success.

What Makes Kids Confident?
Certainly love and affection by parents, guardians and other family members plays a vital role in the development of a child. Love and affection serves as foundation or base from which their confidence can grow. As a child grows though, they begin to encounter social situations in which their self-confidence will be tested. Will the love and affection they receive at home sustain their self-confidence in school and society at large?

In most cases the answer is “No”; Love and affection is not enough to help a child attain a certain level of confidence. To become successful in their interpersonal relationships and careers, kids need additional skills and techniques to aid them in challenging social situations.

There are two important categories of skills/traits often overlooked in our fast paced and complex society. Without both these skills/traits it is impossible for children to reach their peak level of confidence and success.

People Skills
People Skills are basic techniques that many of us take for granted. The ability to greet people properly, look them in the eye and use a firm handshake are all basic people skills we need. The ability to listen and ask questions are components children can learn to become more successful. There have been studies that show People Skills account for about 70 percent of an individual’s career success versus 30 percent for technical knowledge. We should not diminish the importance of learning to read and do basic math in academic settings, yet when such a high percent of career success is based upon People Skills, clearly we need to place a greater emphasis on these skills with our children.

Character Development
Character Development deals with developing a child’s personal integrity and internal compass of acceptable behavior. Honesty, resisting peer pressure, respecting others are examples that fall into Character Development. Some children may appear supremely confident, but not have strong character to resist temptation and peer pressure. Not having strong character will end up limiting the depth of their interpersonal relationship and potentially affect their career success.

It is through development of People Skills and Character Development that a child’s self-confidence is built in the real world whether at school or with friends. These skills will be the key to sustaining that confidence in their future careers and interpersonal relationships.

The more knowledgeable and equipped a child is in dealing with other people, the more confident they can be in those situations. However, today’s children seem to be less knowledgeable in these important areas, than kids in years past.

Why are People Skills and Character Development Skills Declining with Today’s Youth?
There are many reasons for the steady decline of People Skills and Character Development skills in today’s kids. Many of these reasons make it harder on parents to instill these important characteristics in their children. Here are a few contributing factors:

Technological advances have provided kids with devices that increasingly isolate them from each other and decrease social interaction. With the growth of emailing, text messaging, cell phones and video games, kids today have fewer opportunities for social interactions than in years past.

Pop Culture
Whether it is cartoons, movies, or music videos disrespectfulness, defiance, and rejection of common courtesy gestures have become the mainstream. Today’s generation is growing up in a world of ESPN highlights and American Idol where it is acceptable to be rude and self-promoting.

Academic Emphasis
With increased pressure on schools by the standardized testing regulations, most school programs dedicated to developing People Skills and Character Development are simply not the priority as much as in years past.

What Can Parents Do To Help?

There are three big things parents can do to help their children develop People Skills and Build Character.

Emphasize These Skills on a Daily Basis With Your Kids
Emphasizing the importance of these skills to your children is the biggest key. Parents, be aware of opportunities to stress these skills on a daily basis. When your child is interacting with another person emphasize the importance of people skills to them before and after the interaction. For example, when greeting someone with them make sure to point out the eye contact and the use of a firm handshake. This will help your child remember to use People Skills when they are in different social situations and also make them familiar with using them.

Be a Good Role-Model When It Comes to These Skills
An effective way parents can emphasize People Skills and Character Development is to be a good role model for their children. You may not think they notice how you handle certain situations, but all kids notice how their parents conduct themselves in various circumstances. If you don’t show patience with the clerk at the checkout line in a grocery store, how can you expect your child to show patience with younger siblings? This emphasis will make a huge difference. It will teach your child about these types of skills and also show them real life applications.

Introduce a Third Party or Independent Voice to Help
Another important ingredient to help parents emphasize the importance people skills and character development is to introduce a third party or an independent voice. Look for materials that help teach children about People Skills and Character Development. Kids, particularly teenagers, can tune out adults and by having a third party source it can help take the pressure off of you and give you a tool to discuss these issues. These materials will not only reinforce what you are teaching them but also give the kids a chance to learn these key skills on their own. So seek out materials that cover the skills you want to emphasize most with your children.

In today’s fast-paced competitive world, kids are not learning People Skills and Character Development the way they did in years past. This is leading us to a generation of children that may not have the skills to cope with adversity, challenges and competition needed to feel good about themselves and to advance their careers. We do not hesitate to provide our kids with tutoring, private lessons, specialized instructors or other tools they need to achieve their academic, athletic or artistic potential. Our kids deserve equal access to the tools that can help them achieve the highest level of confidence. By teaching kids People Skills and Character Development they will stand a much greater chance to grow into adults who respect and are respected by others, who set and accomplish goals, and are comfortable with themselves.

Robert D. Heller is founder/president and Charlie Copp is the executive director of Boost Program.