Author: Lea Zweig, Psy.D.

Topics in Child and Adolescent Psychology: Promoting self-confidence and autonomyAs we get older, it can be challenging to remember what it feels like to be in grade school.  While in school, children and adolescents, often feel pressure to fit in with their peers and to follow the group’s trends.  As a parent, your job is to protect your child from danger, but also allow your child to find his or her own identity.  Striking a balance is not easy.  You want your child to feel empowered to make autonomous decisions, but you also want to guide your child in the right direction.  This process of give and take can be difficult, at best.  Here are five things you can do to help build your child’s autonomy and self-confidence to make healthy positive choices.

Give your child unconditional love.

Even if it seems impossible some days, every child deserves unconditional love from parents and/or other family members.  Unconditional love will help your child feel secure and accepted, which is important in building self-confidence and making good safe choices.

Celebrate achievements and positive behavior.

Children need to know when they have done something well.  This will help them develop an idea of what they are good at, what behaviors warrant positive attention from others, and what behaviors feel negative or disappointing.

Get involved in your child’s life.

Get interested and ask your child questions about what is going on in his or her life.  Help out at your child’s school and get involved in their interests.  When children feel like their interests are important, they feel more empowered.

Focus on your child’s strengths.

Focus on your child’s positive behavior, strengths, and the effort your child makes in completing a task.

Teach winning and losing.

You cannot let your child win 100% of the time.  Children need to learn how to lose as much as they need to learn how to win. Losing allows your child to learn other important skills such as perseverance, tenacity, and drive.

During the tween and teen years, it can be challenging to connect with your child. It is important that your child feels a sense of independence, but they must also know that you will always be there to protect them.  If you want support in developing a strategy for creating a healthy relationship with your child during this important phase of their life, contact a child or adolescent psychologist to work with your family.  A child psychologist will help you identify your parenting style, develop your parenting skills, and help you build your relationship and interaction with your child.