Self-Awareness & Self-Confidence in Young Children
Adults tend to focus more on teaching young children how to acquire soft and hard skills, like communication and self-care skills, which will help them function in society as social individuals. As a result, not enough attention is paid to the concept of self-awareness which is equally necessary.
This article is our attempt at highlighting why it’s vital to teach children self-awareness; how self-awareness naturally leads to self-confidence (or self-esteem), a very important trait; how you can promote the development of self-awareness and self-confidence in young children; and why you’d want your child to grow up being self-confident.
What is self-awareness? When one is able to recognise and understand their feelings, thoughts, emotions, interests, needs, desires, triggers, and values, in addition to how these affect their behaviour, they can be said to be self-aware.
Self-awareness, a social-emotional skill, is also the ability to recognise one’s strengths and weaknesses.
But it’s not a goal to be achieved all at once: self-awareness is more like a process – an ongoing understanding of oneself.
It’s important for young children to begin this process as early as possible due to the following reasons.
Self-confidence is a natural outcome of self-awareness
When a child is able to realise their strengths and limitations; when they know what they’re good at and what they’re not very good at, and why, it makes them more self-accepting and confident in their abilities.
As a child develops an active sense of self, and understands how they fit into the variety of social groupings they encounter on a daily basis, they’ll naturally become more self-confident.
A child who knows their interests, desires, and needs, tends to be more assertive and decisive, and both of these traits can be attributed to self-confidence.
Children also become more confident in their ability to regulate their emotions positively when they’re more aware of them, and are able to understand why they feel how/what they feel.
In short, understanding and accepting who we are is the first step towards achieving self-confidence.
Self-awareness is necessary for self-improvement
A self-aware person knows their strengths and weaknesses, and is more likely to commit to self-improvement.
Likewise, a young child that recognises they’re not very good at something – for example, counting – will be more eager to work towards becoming better at it. So, while the knowledge of our strengths gives us confidence, a good understanding of our limitations puts us in the mindset and enables us to set goals that will help us improve.
Self-awareness builds empathy
The more self-aware a young child is, the more they’re able to empathise/sympathise with others.
A child who can see things from another person’s perspective, who considers how they’re perceived by other people, and how their actions may impact others, is in a better position to build positive relationships and minimize conflicts.
Self-awareness supports decision-making
We get to make decisions every day, and some of these decisions can be life-changing. When a child is self-aware to a reasonable level, they’re empowered to make better decisions to positively influence their growth, development, comfort and well-being.
How to encourage self-awareness in young children
Here are some ways you can help your child increase their self-awareness daily:
Be a good role model
Children learn by observation, and as a parent you have to be conscious of the example you set, as that is what your child will most likely follow. If, for instance, you always act in ways that show you love, value and care for yourself, they’ll pick up on this self-awareness attitude and treat themselves the same way.
Have in-depth conversations
During such open conversations with your older children you can talk about, for example, what they find easy or difficult, or what they like/dislike and why, making them think about themselves more, and understand themselves better.
Support experimentation & exploration
Create play activities that involve experiments; take your kids on trips and adventures; guide them to try out new things; and as you do these you’ll be helping them discover what they previously didn’t know about themselves, conquer their fear of the unknown, and become more self-confident.
Recognize & encourage strengths/passions
If you notice your child is good at, or likes doing something, let them know, and do whatever you can to help them get better at it, or have a better time doing it. As you acknowledge your child’s strengths, they’ll become more self-aware, and value themselves better.
Help them see the bigger picture
One way to help your child see things from a bigger perspective is by making them understand that what they may have identified as their weaknesses do not define them, but are just a small part of who they are, and can be overcome through effort and determination.
As we’ve seen, self-confidence goes hand in hand with self-awareness, as one cannot possibly become self-confident without having first understood themselves to a reasonable extent.
Indeed, self-esteem is entirely based on the perceptions an individual has about their physical appearance, abilities, social competence, and other qualities.
It’s very important for young children to build self-confidence as early as possible because it’s a key life skill that supports other qualities. A self-confident child is able/more likely to:
- communicate in a clear and direct way;
- express their feelings, thoughts and desires appropriately;
- build and maintain a positive outlook on life;
- take responsibility for their actions;
- accept their mistakes and look for solutions to problems;
- play and socialise freely with others;
- engage in teamwork with their peers;
- try out new things, explore, and take risks;
- work harder towards achieving set goals; and
- resolve conflicts through dialogue and negotiation.
How you can positively influence your child’s self-confidence
As a parent you can contribute to the development of self-confidence in your young children by:
- showing them affection;
- showing them acceptance regardless of their flaws or shortcomings;
- treating them with respect;
- giving them some freedom of choice or control over their lives, for example by allowing them pick the toys they want to play with;
- creating activities or situations that help them experience success;
- assigning age-appropriate responsibilities to them; and
- making them understand they’re capable of doing better when they make a mistake or fail at something.
The takeaway remains that the development of self-awareness is absolutely important in a child’s early years, and adults who want to make their children ready for society have to teach and guide them to become as self-aware as possible. A child with low self-awareness will lack self-confidence and people skills; they’ll also find it harder to manage their behaviour, socialise, or resolve conflicts.