Building Confidence in Sensitive Child

How to Build Confidence in a Sensitive Child

Published On: February 23, 2024

Parents often acknowledge the importance of raising healthy, resilient children. However, many parents feel lost when trying to build confidence their sensitive child. Parents tend to resort to fixing, coddling, or overprotecting their sensitive children in order to avoid their feelings getting hurt. This is understandable, as it is incredibly challenging to witness children become upset or experience hardship, and there are more effective ways to parent your sensitive child to promote self-confidence. Here’s exactly how you can build confidence in a sensitive child.

Seven Tips to Empower your Sensitive Child

1. Allow Failure

Allowing failure is tough for parents. It is difficult to watch children struggle, and it often creates discomfort in parents. It is important that parents withstand this discomfort in order to allow their child to make mistakes and have learning opportunities. Experiencing a challenge or running into a problem allows your child to problem-solve, which leads to self-efficacy, healthy self-esteem, and resiliency.

Here are a few examples I recommend:

  • “I trust in your decision-making.”
  • “What did you learn from this?”
  • “Is there anything you’d do differently next time?”

2. Problem Solve Together

Rather than stepping in to resolve a problem for your child, collaborate with your child on finding a solution. You may ask them for their ideas, what they’ve tried so far, and explore options they have available. This will increase your child’s confidence much more than simply telling them what to do. Next time they are presented with a conflict, they will feel much more equipped to manage the conflict independently. 

Here are a few examples I recommend:

  • “How do you think we should handle this?”
  • “I trust that you and your brother can resolve this issue.”
  • “What options do you have?”

3. Embrace Uniqueness

Children shut down whenever they’re feeling judged. When children shut down, they’re less likely to thrive and more likely to struggle with self-confidence issues. It is important that parents are tolerant and welcoming of their child’s individuality, quirks, and differences without trying to change them. 

Parents are encouraged to appreciate and support their child’s distinctiveness and encourage them to express themselves and pursue their passions. When you embrace your child’s uniqueness, you foster a sense of self-confidence and belonging that allows your child to thrive. 

Here are a few examples I recommend:

  • “I love you no matter what.”
  • “I’m proud of you for standing up for what you believe in.”
  • “I love seeing you explore your passions!”

4. Acknowledge and Validate Emotions 

People (adults and parents included!) often attempt to escape challenging emotions. We do this by forcing down (or denying) our emotions or shaming ourselves for feeling a particular way. This creates problems in children because they struggle to accept their emotions and often engage in undesirable behavior, such as projecting difficult feelings onto others, experiencing increased levels of anxiety or depression, and difficulty attuning to their emotional needs.

Parents may support their children in navigating difficult emotions by validate the emotions and allowing children space to process their feelings. You can do this by naming the emotion, allowing the emotion to exist without shame or attempts to rid of it, and then engaging the child in a discussion about different ways to address this emotion.

Here are a few examples I recommend:

  • “I see you’re feeling frustrated.”
  • “I get it – I would feel left out, too.”
  • “How do you feel about it?”

5. Focus on Effort Rather than Outcomes

Outcomes are often out of our control; However, we determine how much effort we put into a project or a task. If parents focus too strongly on the outcome, children will tend to be perfectionistic or have difficulty trying something new for fear they may fail. This also creates self-worth challenges as children age.

Rather, parents should focus on the amount of effort the child is putting into a task or activity. This encourages children to continue trying, even if their efforts are not immediately fruitful. By taking this approach, parents reinforce grittiness, perseverance, and resilience. Children who are encouraged by effort rather than outcome tend to not give up as easily and do not attach their worthiness on outcomes.

Here are a few examples I recommend:

  • “You worked so hard – You deserve it!”
  • “How do you feel about this outcome?”
  • “You put in so much effort!”

6. Challenge Avoidance

Children often tend to avoid situations in which they may feel anxious. It is important for parents to consciously overcome avoidance. This is often difficult, as parents may also be tempted to avoid situations that they believe may negatively impact their child’s emotions.

Although this avoidance may reduce anxiety short-term, it actually creates more significant anxiety in the future. For example, if a child is feeling anxious about going to school, and the parent allows the child to stay home from school, the child will experience more anxiety when they have to go to school the following day. Avoidance is not a solution and often results in additional anxiety long-term. A better parenting approach would be to encourage your child to attend school, even if they’re feeling anxious about it. 

You can also give them some positive affirmations that may help adjust their mindset.

Here are a few examples I recommend:

  • “I know it feels scary to go in here, and I trust that you’re brave enough to do this.”
  • “I understand you’re worried, and I’ll be right here.”
  • “I believe in you.”

7. Seek Professional Support 

Sometimes, children need professional support in gaining self-confidence. If you are worried that your child may be struggling in this area, I highly encourage you to seek out professional mental health support. A therapist can work with you and your child by providing psychoeducation on parenting strategies, engaging in play therapy or relational therapy with your child, and supporting your family as your child learns new skills. 

Final Thoughts

It’s important that parents foster a sense of self-confidence in their sensitive children. Parents may do this by allowing failure, attending to efforts over outcomes, overcoming avoidance, and seeking professional support when needed.