Power is a human attribute that comes in a number of forms. Confidence is a kind of power that if pinpointed on a negative-positive spectrum would tip toward the positive end. Examples of confidence include standing up for what is right, a willingness to be safely adventurous, attunement to an inner strength, striving persistently to reach a goal, and even engaging in happily playful activities.
Developmentally, children often experience and internalize this healthy kind of power. The first confidence-building experience comes from an infant’s power to have his or her needs met. A baby reveals vulnerability, loves unconditionally, and exposes an endearing nature that encourages a caregiver to respond with food, shelter, love, and warmth.
The second developmental milestone in confidence building occurs during toddlerhood when a child gains the power to say no. This “power of no” allows a child to assert himself or herself as a separate person. If this power is respected by the adults in the child’s life but also safely contained within limits infused with love, the child will learn that he or she can be assertive without hurting anyone.
A child has a third opportunity to build confidence when he or she enters the social world of other children. From preschool on, children learn to play games, make friends, and read and write. These experiences offer opportunities to feel either powerful or powerless.
We prepare our children advantageously by both nurturing and challenging them. When we treat our children with respect and a tender hand as they tackle increasingly difficult challenges, they are more prepared for dealing with the world.
Opportunities for confidence building can be fostered through play and playfulness. Encouraging a child to learn to ride a two-wheel bicycle while offering to hold the bike steady comes to mind.