What is Self-Confidence, Anyway? (Dr. Frank Sileo)

BTSpotlightWe are featuring the work of psychologist Dr. Frank Sileo of Ridgewood, New Jersey in this post. His latest book, a children’s picture book entitled, Don’t Put Yourself Down in Circus Town: A Story About Self-Confidence touches on a very important topic regarding many children and teens today. For more information about the book, click on the photo of the cover in this post.


FSileophoto2Parents and other caregivers in the life of a child play an important role in developing self-confidence in that youngster and others. When parents and others accept their children, even when they make mistakes, it provides the groundwork for children to develop positive feelings and thoughts about themselves. When parents do this, they are providing the foundation for self-confidence.

As a parent or caregiver, it is very rewarding to see children exhibit self-confidence in various areas of their lives, from academics to sports to playing a musical instrument, to name just a few. Children who possess self-confidence tend to do well in school, take on challenges, do their best, persist in activities, and have an overall more positive view of themselves.


Self-confidence can be defined as our beliefs or thoughts about our skills and abilities. Examples of self-confident thoughts might be, “I am good at math,” “I am a good singer” or “I do well in school.” Children with self-confidence trust in their abilities, have realistic expectations, know their strengths and weaknesses, and are able to adjust to difficult or challenging situations. Children who possess self-confidence tend to jump into new situations with realistic thoughts about being successful at a task.

Self-confidence is built through repeated practice over time. When children practice in small steps, they build self-confidence. Persistence in a task, even when mistakes and mishaps happen, builds self-confidence. Confidence builds through action.

CircusTown_72dpiWhen There’s Difficulty

Children who lack self-confidence typically rely on the approval of others, such as parents, teachers and coaches, in order to feel good about themselves. They may avoid things or be reluctant to try new things. They may engage in self-deprecating statements or negative self-talk like, “I’m stupid,” “I’m no good at anything,” or “I’ll never succeed,” which results in feelings of anxiety, depression or despair. Children with low self-confidence often compare themselves to others constantly because they believe they do not measure up. Moreover, less confident children may be more prone to acting-out behaviors such as temper tantrums, crying, avoidance, and withdrawal from others and from tasks.

It should be noted that self-confidence is not a universal experience. For instance, children may feel confident in certain areas of their lives, while feeling less confident in other domains. An example of this might be a child that is confident as a reader, but has lower self-confidence in his or her math skills.

Building Self-Confidence

How can parents and other caregivers build self-confidence in children and teens? Here are several suggestions.

Communicate with your children. When children engage in self-deprecating statements, don’t be too quick to counteract them. Teach them coping and solutions to their problems. Problem-solve with them.

Model self-confidence for your children. Be mindful how you handle your own disappointments, obstacles and failure.

Focus on effort, not on results. When we focus on the effort, we are praising the steps needed to reach a goal, ultimately building on self-confidence.

Encourage kids to practice. The more they practice, the greater their chances of success and greater confidence. When kids don’t do this, they give up, act out, feel anxious and consequently display low self-confidence.

If you find that your child continues to struggle with confidence issues to the point that it interferes with academics, activities or relationships, it is recommended you consult with a mental health professional for further help. ###

 Dr. Frank Sileo, founder and Executive Director of The Center for Psychological Enhancement, LLC, in Ridgewood, New Jersey, is a licensed psychologist specializing in work with children and adolescents. He has written five books for children on topics including lactose intolerance, Crohn’s Disease, winning and losing, homesickness and self-confidence. His most recent book is entitled, Don’t Put Yourself Down in Circus Town: A Story About Self-Confidence. [Dr. Sileo’s website]



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