Family Resources
Session Five: Fostering Confidence

“Session Five: Fostering Confidence,” Strengthening the Family: Instructor’s Guide (2006), 44–53

“Session Five,” Strengthening the Family, 44–53

Session Five

Fostering Confidence

Children view themselves by how they are treated by others, especially parents and siblings. When they are loved and accepted, they tend to feel loveable and acceptable.

Session Objectives

During this session, help parents:

  • Understand why it is important for children to have confidence.

  • Understand how children develop confidence.

  • Know how they can help their children develop greater confidence.

The Need for Instilling Confidence

Confident children do better in life. They are healthier, more optimistic, more socially comfortable, and more emotionally secure than children who lack confidence. Children who lack confidence tend to be more anxious, self-conscious, socially inhibited, frustrated, fearful, and prone to failure.

A successfully employed 24-year-old was reared in a loving home by parents who recognized her accomplishments and abilities. She did well in school, had many friends, and was involved in many school and church activities. Looking back on her life, she said: “I wasn’t afraid to try new things because I knew where I stood with God, my parents, and my close friends. They all encouraged me to do my best. The recognition I received at home was very important when I was young, but it became less important as I grew older because I came to know that God knows and loves me. I know that if I live righteously, according to His plan, the things that matter most will work out for me.”

Most parents would like their children to develop a high level of confidence, as this young woman enjoyed. Children usually have confidence in some areas but lack confidence in others. A child may excel at school but feel extremely insecure socially or physically. Another child may excel at sports but lack academic skills. Parents need to help children gain confidence in areas that are important to the children’s well-being. Parents should recognize and respect their children’s interests, talents, and abilities.

Helping Children Develop Confidence

Parents can do many things to help their children gain confidence. They can treat their children with love and respect. They can help them gain faith in God and develop personal integrity. They can help them develop competence in areas that are important to their well-being. They can involve them in serving others.

Treat Children with Love and Respect

Children often view themselves according to how they are treated by others, especially by parents and siblings. When they are loved and accepted, they tend to feel lovable and acceptable. If they are loved conditionally, they often feel valued only when they please others. If they are mistreated, they tend to feel insecure and worthless.

Parents sometimes underestimate the impact of their actions upon their children. Some otherwise loving parents make thoughtless remarks that deeply undermine their children’s feeling of confidence and sense of self-worth. One mother who was prone to criticize said to her preschool-age son, “You sure have a funny-looking nose.” Nearly half a century later, the son disclosed to his siblings at a family gathering that he had felt self-conscious about his nose all his life because of that remark. His siblings were surprised, seeing nothing that was funny or even unusual about his facial appearance.

Elder H. Burke Peterson of the Seventy affirmed the power of love in altering the lives of individuals: “Impossible mountains are climbed by those who have the self-confidence that comes from truly being loved. Prisons and other institutions, even some of our own homes, are filled with those who have been starved for affection.”1

Disrespectful children are sometimes difficult to love. They tend to say and do things that trigger their parents’ anger and feelings of failure. Parents, in response, often say and do things that deepen the child’s sense of worthlessness and desire to rebel.

Jesus Christ effectively influenced others because He wisely chose His response to them (see John 8:11). Church leaders and professionals are often able to help troubled individuals by listening without reacting, giving direction without preaching, and conveying love and support without rejecting. Parents too can convey love and respect, even when children disobey. They can treat a disrespectful child with kindness, softening hearts and helping the child find peace and confidence in a troubled world.

Negative relationships can be repaired when at least one person is willing to break the cycle and return anger with kindness and an intelligent response. The following are some suggestions for parents.

Find ways to convey love and respect. Parents should find ways to convey love and respect for their children, even when the children are disrespectful and disobedient. Parents can do this without condoning inappropriate behavior. In fact, when they love their children, parents care enough to intervene when children are disobedient. Other sessions focus on ways parents can love and discipline their children—by listening and talking to them, nurturing them, helping them solve problems, sharing expectations, giving them choices, and imposing natural and logical consequences. All these things should be done out of love, not anger. Love is the governing principle that should motivate and guide all parental interaction with children. Parents can convey love and respect to a disobedient child in many ways.

  • They can look for times when the child behaves appropriately and compliment him or her—“I really appreciate it when you pitch in and help with the chores”; “I’m proud of you for helping your little sister.” Parents should take care not to go overboard and say too much or they will sound insincere and diminish the effectiveness of the compliment.

  • They can express affection—“Spence, I want you to know I love you and I’m glad you’re a part of our family.”

  • They can give physical affection. Sometimes a touch on the shoulder or arm, accompanied by words of affection, such as “It’s good to see you– can be helpful. Parents should not be offended or react negatively if the child seems irritated by this show of affection. The touch and expression may mean more to the child than he or she is willing to acknowledge.

Never say anything negative about children. If parents have been saying negative things about their children, they should stop immediately and commit themselves never to do it again, no matter how angry they become or how justified they feel. Where reproof is needed, parents can chastise without using negative, demeaning words. The negative words parents say will tend to remain prominently embedded in their children’s memories, affecting the way they see themselves and the way they behave. Thoughtless statements, such as “Can’t you do anything right?” or “You’re so dense,” can have a lasting effect. Even well-meaning but negative comments can do damage, such as “Dan tries hard, but he’s not as gifted as Henry.”


By the time he reached high school, Colton was failing most of his classes. He frequently stayed home from school (both parents were employed and gone during the day), became involved in smoking and using drugs, and was arrested for shoplifting. He had stopped attending church during his first year of middle school. He often argued with his father, even to the point of threatening physical violence.

Colton’s bishop reached out to him in love and friendship, encouraging him to give up drugs and change his life. Colton began to respond positively. He stopped smoking, quit arguing with his parents, and started coming to sacrament meeting. One day his father, who was struggling with his own problems, said to him in a moment of anger, “Why don’t you cut out this act and quit pretending to be something you are not?” Although he said nothing in response, Colton was devastated. From that moment on, he reverted to his prior behavior. The bishop could no longer influence him to return for further visits.

Set a good example for children. Parents should make an effort to be happy. They should try to like themselves and, without boasting or pride, speak respectfully about their personal abilities and qualities. If parents have problems that make it difficult for them to do this, they need to work them out so these problems are not passed on to their children. They should get help if needed. A depressed teenager recalled that for as long as she could remember, her mother openly spoke of her own inadequacy and self-hatred: “I concluded that if Mother wasn’t good enough, I couldn’t ever be any better, because I’m a part of her.” Sometimes children who dislike their parents the most end up being the most like their parents. The example of parents will greatly influence children, even when children appear to reject their parents.

Show interest in children and care for them. Again, parents may have difficulty showing interest and care if their children are disobedient and rejecting. But it is worth the effort. One father with limited financial resources bought tickets to ice hockey games because his son, a school dropout with a history of drug use, loved the game and would go with him. The son had recently been released from a drug treatment facility and was struggling to stay off drugs. The experience brought new life to their relationship, enabling the father and son to talk about a common interest and develop good feelings toward each other.

Helping Children Gain Faith in God

Children gain great confidence when they feel secure in their relationship with Heavenly Father and their ability to receive spiritual blessings, promises, and direction for their lives. Jesus Christ taught, “All things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark 9:23). Without faith, no one can have confidence. Confidence also comes from living a clean, virtuous life.

President Gordon B. Hinckley cited virtue as “the only way to freedom from regret. The peace of conscience which flows therefrom is the only personal peace that is not counterfeit.” He also observed:

“The voice of modern revelation speaks a promise—an unmatched promise that follows a simple commandment:

“Here is the commandment: ‘ … let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly.’ And here is the promise ‘ … Then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God. …

“‘The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, … and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.’ (D&C 121:45–46.) …

“It has been my privilege on various occasions to converse with Presidents of the United States and important men in other governments. At the close of each such occasion I have reflected on the rewarding experience of standing with confidence in the presence of an acknowledged leader. And then I have thought, what a wonderful thing, what a marvelous thing it would be to stand with confidence—unafraid and unashamed and unembarrassed—in the presence of God. This is the promise held out to every virtuous man and woman.”2

Children will grow toward such confidence as they learn to live faithful, virtuous lives. To help children develop confidence in the Lord, parents should strive to live faithful, virtuous lives, demonstrating their own faith. Children learn best when their parents live exemplary lives. Parents should “bring up [their] children in light and truth” (D&C 93:40), making spiritual activities a part of everyday life (family prayer, scripture study, gospel discussion, and Church participation).

Help Children Develop Personal Integrity

Children have been given the Light of Christ (see John 1:9; Moroni 7:16; D&C 93:2) and, upon reaching the age of accountability, are able to discern right from wrong. As children listen to their consciences and follow their own best judgment, they become less dependent on others and more confident in themselves and their ability to make good decisions. While children must be taught to heed the wise counsel of parents and Church leaders, they must also learn to think for themselves and develop confidence in their own ability to manage their lives. This ability grows as children mature and learn to heed inner promptings. Parents can encourage growth by helping their children listen to their self-evaluative thoughts and live in harmony with the Light of Christ within them.

On one occasion, the scribes and Pharisees brought an adulterous woman to Jesus, asking if she should be stoned as the law specified. Jesus invoked their own self-judgment: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8:7). When these scribes and Pharisees evaluated their own behavior, they were speechless and, “convicted by their own conscience,” departed “one by one” (v. 9).

When a person engages in behavior that he or she deems to be acceptable, self-evaluative thoughts are positive, leading to self-approval and confidence. When a person engages in unacceptable behavior, the outcome is generally self-disapproval and loss of self-regard.

These case examples illustrate how the self-evaluative process works:

Ron, Rebekah, And Carlos

Ron solves a difficult math problem. His self-evaluation is positive: “I can do this. I can get good grades in this class.” His confidence increases.

Rebekah tells a lie. The lie makes her look good to her friends, who even give her a hug. She feels elated momentarily but suffers the remorse of a guilty conscience. Her self-evaluative thoughts are negative: “I lied. It was the wrong thing to do. It made me look good, but it was all a hoax.” Her confidence and self-regard decrease.

Carlos refuses to join his friends in making fun of Tom, a physically disabled classmate. Carlos’s friends begin to exclude him from their group. Carlos feels hurt, but he also knows he has done the right thing. His self-evaluative thoughts are positive.

When a child approaches a parent with a problem, the parent should encourage him or her, at a level the child understands, to consider personal convictions and spiritual promptings. The parent can ask appropriate questions, such as “How do you feel about it?” “Do you approve of the way that you’ve handled the problem?” “You’ve told me what your friends think is right, but I’m interested in what you think.” “What is the proper thing to do?”

When parents ask a child to evaluate his or her own behavior, they should do it in a calm, unaccusing, uncondemning way.

In the case example that follows, a mother helped her daughter consider personal convictions as a guide to the daughter’s behavior.


Ginger, age 14, and her friend Jenny began avoiding Alison and tried to exclude her from neighborhood and school activities. Alison felt hurt and rejected. Ginger’s mother observed what was happening and confronted her daughter.


I’m troubled about you and Alison. What’s going on?


She thinks she’s Miss Popularity. We’re just putting her in her place.


And how are you doing that?


Jenny and I avoid her. If she comes around, we don’t talk to her. That’s all.


She has offended you?


Not really. We just don’t like her. She can be Miss Haughty at school but not around here.


I’m curious, Ginger. How do you feel about yourself when you treat her that way?


(Defensively.) Well, she deserves it. Somebody needs to put her in her place.


But you said she’s done nothing to offend you. I’d like to know how you feel about treating another person badly just because you don’t happen to like her.


I feel just fine, and besides that, I don’t want to talk about it.


Okay, if you wish. I hope you’ll think about it some more. I love you a lot, but I’m having a hard time with what you’re saying.

The next evening, Ginger sought out her mother.


You were right. I don’t feel good about the way I’ve been acting. You helped me look at myself, and I didn’t like what I saw. To be honest, I’m jealous of Alison. She has a lot of friends at school. I wish I had half as many. I know that’s no reason to be cruel to her. I went to her and apologized. I feel a lot better. Thanks for helping me.

While not all children will respond this dramatically, asking them to evaluate their behavior can be a powerful way to help them live in harmony with personal beliefs and expectations. Helping them judge their own behavior is often effective because the judgment does not come from the parent.

When parents invoke self-evaluation in a harsh, judgmental, and condemning way, the child may lose sight of personal wrongdoing and focus instead on the excessive, inappropriate behavior of the parents. Or the child may respond with unnecessarily severe feelings of guilt and self-condemnation.

Parents should exercise caution in encouraging self-evaluation in children who are prone to berate themselves excessively. Parents will need to guide these children carefully in their self-evaluations. Self-assessments need to be accurate, not a product of a child’s distorted thinking that comes as a result of depression or unhealthy life experiences.

Help Children Develop Competence

When parents have high but realistic expectations, their children tend to develop confidence that they can do things successfully. This confidence especially comes when parents provide a loving, supportive environment in which children can learn through trial and error without being demeaned or condemned for failure. Children readily learn from setbacks when they feel love, support, and encouragement to try again. Children also need to know that Heavenly Father loves them even when they make mistakes.

Parents need to help their children develop competence in areas that are important for their future. Children must learn to work, study, achieve goals, live within rules, and get along with others. As they become competent in these areas, their confidence grows. Parents should teach them to work by working alongside them, especially when they are young. Parents should be pleasant and patient and try to make the work enjoyable for their children. They should encourage their children in activities in which the children can succeed and help them develop talents and natural abilities. Parents must not make their children pursue activities merely to fulfill the parents’ ambitions for their children, particularly when the activities are not essential to their children’s well-being. Parents and children will both become frustrated.

Parents should recognize their children’s accomplishments, praising them when they do something good and noteworthy.

The following are guidelines for giving praise. Parents should:

  • Be sincere. A child will detect and reject phony compliments.

  • Focus on the behavior and how it affects the parent. For example, “I really like it when you’re here with us and we can talk peacefully without contention. That means a lot to me.” Parents should avoid focusing on the child by saying such things as, “You’re such a good boy (or girl).” The child may not feel like a good person and will see the compliment as phony and manipulative.

  • Keep it brief. A few words are better than many. Parents who go on and on will embarrass the child and turn a potentially positive act into one that is negative.

  • Do it randomly. Praising a child for every act may diminish the significance of the parents’ words. Not giving praise at all will starve the child of much needed affection. Randomly given praise will have the greatest impact. Parents should make sure they recognize the significant things their children do.

Involve Children in Serving Others

Service projects teach unselfishness and help children to consider the welfare of others. President Spencer W. Kimball taught the value of service:

“In the midst of the miracle of serving, there is the promise of Jesus, that by losing ourselves, we find ourselves!

“Not only do we ‘find’ ourselves in terms of acknowledging guidance in our lives, but the more we serve our fellowmen in appropriate ways, the more substance there is to our soul. We become more significant individuals as we serve others. We become more substantive as we serve others—indeed, it is easier to find ourselves because there is more of us to find.”3

Confidence in the Lord

Children will gain confidence as they develop faith, virtue, and integrity. Parents can also instill confidence in their children by loving and respecting them, by helping them develop competence, and by giving them opportunities to serve others.

Regarding faith in the Lord, President Ezra Taft Benson stated: “My message and testimony is this: Only Jesus Christ is uniquely qualified to provide that hope, that confidence, and that strength to overcome the world and rise above our human failings. To do that, we must place our faith in Him and live by His laws and teachings.”4


  1. In Conference Report, Apr. 1977, 103; or Ensign, May 1977, 69.

  2. In Conference Report, Oct. 1970, 66; or Improvement Era, Dec. 1970, 72, 73.

  3. “There Is Purpose in Life,” New Era, Sept. 1974, 4.

  4. In Conference Report, Oct. 1983, 5; or Ensign, Nov. 1983, 6.