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How to Build Confidence and Self-Esteem in Preschoolers (3 to 5 Years Old)

Saakshi Kapoor Kumar Saakshi Kapoor Kumar 10 Mins Read

Saakshi Kapoor Kumar Saakshi Kapoor Kumar


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Confidence empowers children to drive toward success. As a parent, you play a vital role in building confidence in your preschooler. Read on to know what you can do to boost your child's confidence.

How to Build Confidence and Self-Esteem in Preschoolers (3 to 5 Years Old)

Naisha, a 3-year-old, watched as all the other children climbed the monkey ladder at the park. She too tried to climb the ladder, but she kept slipping and falling. She soon gave up in frustration. Back at home, her father, Nithin, noticed Naisha sulking in a corner. "What happened? Is something bothering you?" he asked in concern. "Papa, I want to climb the monkey ladder. My friends can climb it, I can't," Naisha replied with tears in her eyes. "How about we go to the park tomorrow and try climbing the ladder again? I'll be there to help you," her father said. Naisha's eyes lit up as she nodded yes.

The next day, Nithin took Naisha to the park to help her practice. After a few days, she was able to climb the ladder on her own. But she was still too scared to climb down without holding on to her father's hand. One day, after she had climbed the ladder, as her father reached out to help her climb down, his phone slipped out from his pocket and fell to the ground. As he bent down to pick up his phone, Naisha climbed down the ladder-all by herself! When Nithin looked up, he saw his little girl beaming with smiles as she exclaimed, "Papa, Papa, look ... I can climb up and down all by myself!"

How did Naisha manage to overcome her fear? What was her inner voice telling her? How did she gain self-confidence? With a little support, a little encouragement and lots of love and care!

We've all heard, read or watched stories of triumph against all odds. Besides one's abilities, hard work and grit, there's another secret ingredient that completes the recipe for success: CONFIDENCE. It's the key to building a healthy mindset that drives a child toward success in school and, later, in career and in life.

Read on to understand why raising a confident child matters and what you can do to help build confidence in your young child.


According to the Oxford Dictionary, confidence is "the feeling or belief that one can have faith in or rely on someone or something."

A child who is confident feels C.A.R.E.

Capable - I can (I'm learning to do many things on my own. I know my parents will always help me learn.)

Accepted - I feel safe (I like myself because my parents and my teachers like me, and I like them. They take care of me. They help me.)

Resilient - I try, I learn (I couldn't do it now, but I can learn and try again.)

Effective - I did it! (Good things happen when I work hard at something. I learn how it works. I feel good.)

A study titled "Self-Confidence and Academic Achievements in Primary-School Children," published in 2010 by Sabina Kleitman and Tanya Moscrop, found that self-confidence in children promotes higher achievement at school, irrespective of cognitive ability, age and gender. A confident child:

  • is sure of himself
  • performs better at school
  • is more receptive to changes and transitions
  • responds to situations proactively
  • expresses and regulates emotions better
  • isn't afraid to learn something new
  • is better at everyday decision-making


Your child's self-confidence is rooted in self-belief-the thoughts she has about herself. Her experiences and interactions with the people and the world around her shape these self-beliefs, which are greatly influenced by:

  • What she thinks and feels about herself.
  • What you think and say about her.
  • Your attitude toward others and the comparisons you make.
  • Her experiences with family members.
  • Her experiences with adults at school and in the community.
  • Her experiences with peers.

At this age, your child is still developing the ability to think and reason. So, she's more likely to believe and accept what others think and say about her. When your child has positive experiences, filled with words of encouragement and appreciation, she develops a positive self-belief. On the other hand, if her world is filled with criticism and negativity, she's likely to have a negative self-belief, which leads to low self-esteem and low self-confidence. So, for your child to build confidence, it's important to create an environment where she feels supported, safe and secure.


As parents, we have a crucial role to play in developing our child's confidence. Here are some practical tips for building your preschooler's confidence:

1. Show your appreciation

When your child displays positive behavior, puts in an effort toward accomplishing a task, or tries something new and challenging, show your appreciation. Appreciation here doesn't mean "praise" for everything your child does or praising his talent and ability. Such praise can actually do more harm than good. Be sure to appreciate the effort and be specific in your praise. This will motivate your child to repeat positive behaviors and help him feel capable and effective.

The table below shows how to effectively praise your child.

How to Build Confidence and Self-Esteem in Preschoolers (3 to 5 Years Old)

2. Allow for mistakes

Your child is developing a lot of new skills every day. As a part of her learning journey, she will be experimenting and trying new things. Along the way she's bound to make mistakes and sometimes even fail. How you react to these failures can impact the way she feels about herself.

For example, let's say your child messes up and makes a mistake while writing the letters of the alphabet.

Instead of saying: "You're so clumsy!" or "How many times do I have to show you how to do it?"

Say: "I can see how you've been trying to write your letters. I know you're having a hard time with the curved lines. Let's practice drawing curves on paper. Soon you'll be able to write your C's and D's better."

Instead of criticizing your child for her mistakes, if you appreciate the effort that she's putting into her work and then guide her on how she could improve, it will build resilience in your child. She'll be ready to take on new challenges to learn and grow.

3. Help your child feel a sense of accomplishment

Children develop self-confidence by learning new skills and having successful experiences. Research by Linda K Bunker published in The Elementary School Journal shows that children greatly benefit from exploratory activities that enhance their fine motor and gross motor skills. These activities help them develop a sense of competency and become more confident. Challenge your preschooler with movement activities that can help boost his self-confidence.

How to Build Confidence and Self-Esteem in Preschoolers (3 to 5 Years Old)

Remember, every child is different. Some children take longer to reach a milestone, compared with others. The first step is to determine what your child can do. Then help him practice that skill and master it before he progresses to the next level. Make a game out of it. Show your appreciation when you see him try, or when he succeeds at his task. If he's struggling with a particular skill, remind him that though he can't do it yet, with practice he soon can. Your child will feel capable, resilient, and effective.

4. Encourage your child to solve her own problems

When you see your child struggling to do something, you may be tempted to step in and do it for her. However, it's best not to interfere with your child's work. Allow your child to finish the task to the best of her ability. When she's able to solve her own problems, she'll feel more confident.

For example, if your child is trying to put together a puzzle, give her the time and space to solve it on her own. If you sense she is struggling too much or is getting frustrated, you could offer some tips by saying, "See this blue piece? Where do you think it goes? Which part of the puzzle is blue like this piece?"

When you allow your child to solve her own problems, you help her feel capable, accepted, and effective.

5. Challenge your child to learn something new

Young children learn something new almost every day. Set little challenges for your child to get him out of his comfort zone. For example:

  • If your preschooler can stack blocks, challenge him to stack the blocks according to a specific color pattern.
  • If he can jump for two minutes, challenge him to hop on one leg.
  • If he can sing a song well, challenge him to snap his fingers along with it.

Make sure that the goals you set can be achieved by him with a little bit of effort and practice. Avoid giving challenges that are beyond his capability. When your child tries something new and succeeds, he feels capable and effective.

6. Give your child unconditional love

Accept your child for who she is. Even if you do not approve of her behavior, let her know you still love her-it's her behavior that is upsetting you, not her.

For instance,

Instead of saying:"Don't talk to me like that. You're upsetting me."

Say: "I don't like the way you're talking to me."

Instead of saying:"Stop hitting me. You're a bad girl. You're hurting me."

Say: "Hitting is not okay. Hitting hurts me."

Instead of saying:"You never listen to what I say. You upset me."

Say:"When you don't listen to what I tell you, it makes me upset. I'd like you to put on your listening ears."

When you show your respect and unconditional love, your child feels loved, accepted, and resilient.

When your child believes in herself and has self-confidence, she feels she can achieve anything she sets her mind to and puts in the necessary effort. She feels empowered and is ready to take on the world. So, go ahead and give your child a boost of confidence and watch her soar toward her dreams where even the sky is not the limit.

In a nutshell

  1. Self-confidence is about self-belief. Confidence makes your child feel capable, accepted, resilient, and effective.
  2. Self-confidence has been linked to better academic performance as well as enhanced social and communication skills in childhood.
  3. To help your child build self-confidence, use specific praise, accept mistakes and give her unconditional love.

What you can do right away

  1. Ask your child about one thing he thinks he's good at and would like to learn more of. It could be painting or singing a rhyme. Provide him with opportunities and resources to hone his skills.
  2. Similarly, ask him about the one thing he would like to get better at, like catching the ball or eating by himself. Help him take small steps to achieve his goal.
  3. You can do the same for yourself. Partner with your child on this goal-attaining journey. It will help your child feel supported.
  4. Read books and stories like Emily's Quills and I Like Myself! to introduce the concept of self-confidence to your child.

Also read:

Raising confident children

How to raise confident girls

Building self-confidence in children

About the author:

Written by Saakshi Kapoor Kumar on March 2, 2021

Saakshi Kapoor Kumar holds a Master's degree in Psychology from Ambedkar University, Delhi and is working as a Senior Associate-Special Projects (Content Solutions Zone) at ParentCircle.

Reviewed by Meghna Singhal, PhD, on March 18, 2021.

Dr Singhal is a Clinical Psychologist and currently heads the Content Solutions Zone at ParentCircle. She has a doctorate degree from NIMHANS (Bengaluru) and holds a postdoctorate in parenting from the University of Queensland (Australia).

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