To lay the groundwork for kids to build their confidence, you have to show that you have faith in them. This involves giving age-appropriate responsibilities, and letting kids make -- and figure out how to recover from -- mistakes. Of course, children need your guidance along the way, so here's how you can create a nurturing environment that allows kids to discover and test their abilities.
Accept your children for who they are, and don't compare them to other kids. If your child says "I'm not good at …", emphasize that we're all better at some things than others, and the more you practice, the easier it gets. As I tell my girls, a world in which everyone were perfect would be pretty boring. Also, remind kids to enjoy the process of learning, rather than just homing in on the win or "getting it." When my daughter gets frustrated trying to figure out a math problem, I help her focus on the fun of the challenge, which takes some of the pressure off and enables her to persevere.
Mind Your P's and Q's
Kids pay close attention to what you say -- about them, about friends and family, even about yourself. Beware of labels, and making pronouncements like "You're just shy" or "Sports aren't your thing." This can damage a child's sense of self, discourage healthy risk-taking, and even become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Also make a real effort not to put yourself down in front of your child. If you do make a mistake, frame the situation empathetically and proactively ("I messed up; next time I will …") rather than judgmentally ("I'm so stupid").
Encouraging children to convey both positive and negative feelings helps them tap into and control their emotions, which enables them to be articulate and to feel secure in their own thoughts and opinions -- and that's what confidence is all about.