At every phase, a kid is asking a question. Well, I mean, they’re always asking a ton of questions.
What’s faster—fire or dust? Where do thoughts come from? What’s for dinner? Can I borrow the car?
Those aren’t the kind of questions I’m talking about.
Developmentally, kids are wired to subconsciously wrestle with a specific tension. And how we resolve (or don’t resolve) that tension has the power to build or erode a kid’s confidence. There are few universal truths when it comes to parenting, but I think we can all agree that we want our kids to grow up to be confident, self-assured adults. But not in the I’m-bigger-and-better-than-you way—more like confidence in the I-know-who-I-am-and-what-I-stand-for way.
Confidence that puts others at ease and gives them permission to feel confident too.
So, what does this look like for each phase of your kid’s life?
In the newborn phase, your baby is asking: Am I safe?
In the one- and two-year-old phase, your kid is asking: Am I able?
In the three- and four-year-old phase, your kid is asking: Am I okay?
You resolve the tension of the preschool phases by embracing their physical needs. Any time you feed your baby, cut the crust off your toddler’s PB&J, or doctor yet another one of your preschooler’s boo-boos, you are building their confidence.
In the kindergarten and first grade phase, your kid is asking: Do I have your attention?
In the second and third grade phase, your kid is asking: Do I have what it takes?
In the fourth and fifth grade phase, your kid is asking: Do I have friends?
You resolve the tension of the elementary phases by engaging their interests. When you make eye contact the entire length of your kindergartener’s long daily recaps, give your kid a high-five after their first soccer match, or set up a playdate for your fifth grader, you’re fueling up their confidence tank.
In the sixth grade, your middle schooler is asking: Who do I like?
In the seventh and eighth grade, your preteen is asking: Who am I?
You resolve the tension of the middle school phases by affirming their personal journey. When you joyfully allow your middle schooler to experiment with their hairstyle for the sixth time in a month, only for them to circle back to the exact same cut they started with, you’re increasing their confidence (while decreasing your bank account).
In the ninth grade phase, your freshman is asking: Where do I belong?
In the tenth grade phase, your sophomore is asking: Why should I believe?
In the eleventh grade phase, your junior is asking: How can I matter?
In the twelve grade phase, your senior is asking: What will I do?
You resolve the tension of the high school phases by mobilizing their potential. When you encourage your high schooler to try a new hobby, allow them to voice their opinions, help them make signs for their newest cause, or bring home a stack of college brochures to look at together, you’re creating a confident young adult.
Maybe this sounds complicated to you. Maybe you’re already doing these things in your home right now. The truth is, the biggest way we can help our kids gain genuine confidence in every phase is by reminding them consistently they were created by a loving God who has a specific and meaningful purpose for their incredible, unique lives.
If you would like help in the journey of building your kid’s confidence, check out our newest devotional journal, Press Play. In Press Play, author and speaker Carlos Whitaker will take your kid on a journey of discovering who God says they are, so they can root their confidence in His steady truth instead of the unpredictability of life around them.