Reasons for a Lack of Self-Confidence in Children

Below View of Parent's Scolding Their Daughter
A couple of parents berate their daughter as she holds her head in her lap while sitting cross-legged on the kitchen counter. (Image: Buccina Studios/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Strong self-confidence can give kids the energy and courage necessary to reach for the stars. A child who lacks self-confidence might arrive at this unpleasant struggle as a result of several different situations. Once you realize the root of your youngster’s difficulties, you have the information you need to give his self-confidence a positive boost.

Encouragement Shortfall

For a child to internalize a belief that he has real talents and abilities, he needs strong encouragement from loving adults. If a youngster doesn’t receive adequate encouragement throughout childhood, he may internalize this ongoing message and struggle with a lack of self-confidence, warn psychologists Bruce Narramore and Clyde Narramore in an article for "Psychology for Living Magazine." Self-confidence embodies a person’s self-esteem, self-worth, and a feeling of being loved and cherished by others.

Ongoing Criticism

A positive self-concept has a direct tie to self-confidence. If parents raise a child with inordinate criticism, the youngster might receive a negative message about herself, warns the University of Illinois Counseling Center. The result of excessive criticism might be a youngster who doesn’t think she’s capable, strong, or smart enough to tackle challenges and achieve goals. The child might not develop the persistence she needs to keep trying.

Overprotection or Parental Anxiety

Some parents inadvertently stifle a child’s self-confidence by overprotecting or steering him away from independence. This child may come to believe his thoughts and abilities have flaws and he needs help to make decisions and try new things. Parents can also project their own anxieties onto the child, which the child might assume over time. Eventually, the child might become timid and fearful due to a continual exposure to parental anxiety.

Negative Comparisons

Although comparing children can be tempting, comparisons can send a negative message, warns author and speaker Maureen Healy, writing for "Psychology Today." Comparisons tend to erode a child’s sense of self-confidence and self-worth because he doesn't get the message that he's capable and smart. When you place two children beside each other and highlight the strengths of one child against weaknesses of the other child, the youngster on the short end usually feels devalued and hurt.

Unrealistic Expectations

Everyone needs goals, and children are no different. However, if parents impose unrealistic expectations on a child, he will probably struggle with meeting these expectations. As failure ensues, self-confidence often takes a severe hit because the youngster feels he’s not measuring up and he can’t make desired progress.

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