The 5 easiest ways to help kids find their confidence, according to an expert.

LEGO<span style="font-family: 'Playfair Display';">®</span> DUPLO<span style="font-family: 'Playfair Display';">®</span>
Thanks to our brand partner, LEGO® DUPLO®

A trio of boys run around my lounge room, building a tower of LEGO® DUPLO® high in the sky, climbing furniture, kicking balls and squealing. The youngest is one and a half and is keeping up with the eldest who is seven. He walks with confidence. He’s able to hold his own among his brothers. He knows his place in the world. And his smile is pure joy. 

As a parent these moments are the cherry on top. They make you breathe that little sigh of relief that they’re okay. Phew. You have a happy and confident kid. But there is also that lingering feeling that you want them to always feel that way, no matter what life throws at them. 

So how do you make sure they have this confidence throughout life? According to Dr Kristyn Sommer, PhD in Child Development and mother of two, building confidence starts the very day they’re born.  

Dr Sommer is in the camp that confidence is "a little bit nurture and a little bit nature". She highlights that children are born with distinct temperament traits, which significantly shape how they approach various situations. 

For example, some may naturally possess strong self-regulatory skills, making them more patient, while others who have a lower ability to self-regulate are more inclined to become frustrated. These temperamental traits weave a unique narrative for each child, influencing their perceptions of the world.

Where nurture comes into play is through interactions. How a parent responds to a child's actions, whether it reinforces their capabilities or undermines their efforts, plays a pivotal role in shaping their resilience. And as Dr Sommer explains it’s by tweaking how we respond in these micro moments that occur every day that we can help instil confidence.


1. Let your toddler fail.

Embracing your toddler's failures might seem counterintuitive, but it's an essential part of their growth. Babies born with self-regulation capabilities, Dr Sommer clarifies, are prone to getting a little mad. Take, for instance, a scenario where a toddler attempts to stack LEGO DUPLO bricks but struggles. "Instead of persisting, their emotions overwhelm them, causing them to get really upset," Dr Sommer adds.

In such instances, Dr Sommer outlines two parenting approaches. Some parents may rush to intervene, assembling the bricks to alleviate the crying. Others opt to soothe the baby first, then reintroduce the task. 

"The first toddler learns 'When I get frustrated, someone will do it for me'. While the other one learns, 'I can't do it. But my parents can help calm me down. And then I can try again.'"

Dr Sommer’s biggest takeaway is that when your child gets frustrated due to failure, make sure you stay calm before helping them calm down. "Once calm, revisit the challenging task and try to support the child to do it themselves rather than totally taking over." This trial and error which the LEGO DUPLO Buildable People with Big Emotions really encourages, allows opportunities to bolster their confidence.

2. Encourage role play and pretend play.

In role play, parents and children can act out tricky scenarios (like bath time, bed time and doctors visits) and practise different ways of approaching the experience. This makes the LEGO DUPLO Daily Routines: Bath Time and LEGO DUPLO Daily Routines: Eating & Bed Time sets the perfect toy to kick start this play. When a child is informed and somewhat experienced (even if through play) they are more confident going into that new task.


Image: Supplied. 

"For example, when my daughter was two, she needed an ultrasound on her belly. Instead of just waiting until we got there, we role-played what would happen," Dr Sommer explains. "We pretended to be the sonographer while she was the patient, we scanned her little belly with a toy that approximated an ultrasound probe and walked through the experience with her. We then swapped roles so that she could be the sonographer and we the patient. The result was a very confident two-year-old knowing exactly what to expect in a very strange new environment."


When playing the bath time and bed time sets with my own son I could see it created a fun opportunity for him play without barriers. "It is a low stress way for children to perform activities that they might be having trouble with or working on without the fear of failure. This pretend practice can translate into confidence when approaching a task or situation again," adds Dr Sommer.

Image: Supplied. 


3. Allow age-appropriate risk.

"The overprotective parent can limit a child’s confidence," says Dr Sommer. 

"It used to be that children shouldn't be seen or heard or that they should just be little adults. They were expected to meet a standard that wasn’t developmentally appropriate. Now, we have over-corrected and they're being coddled too much. It is integral that we balance the need for developmentally appropriate expectations of children while still allowing them freedom to explore the world, their own abilities and to take measured risks."

4. Avoid saying 'Good job'.

When it comes to giving praise, Dr Sommer advises prioritising the process over the outcome. She notes, "Saying 'Good job' is nonspecific and doesn’t tell the child what it is that was good or that only the end result of their efforts matters and not the effort itself. It's fine to say it every now and then. But praising the process is really good, because that's obviously endorsing what they are doing regardless of what the result is."

When playing with your toddler, Dr Sommer recommends phrases like, "Wow, you stayed focused for such a long time. I'm truly impressed," "How did you feel about that?" or "That was quite challenging. Did you feel proud?" 


She highlights the importance of acknowledging efforts, such as, "You struggled to put the bricks together, but you persevered without getting frustrated. That's really commendable."

This process-oriented approach, rather than solely focusing on the end goal, significantly contributes to boosting confidence.

5. Promote opportunities for independence and autonomy.

Scroll through TikTok and you’ll find dozens of cute kids making their own breakfast or dinner. Dr Sommer explains these are perfect examples of children being given age appropriate opportunities for independence. But don’t just throw a bowl, some eggs and flour at your toddler and expect a cake, it doesn't happen overnight, this will all take practice.

"It’s about growth mindset," she says. Getting the child to understand that you might not be good at it right now. But that's okay. The more we try, the better we get. As a parent, this is tricky. It’s often messy that’s where toys that mimic cooking can come into play.

Dr Sommer also suggests trying the following:

  • Ask them to help fold their washing (e.g. t-shirts).

  • Use crinkle cutters and child friendly cutlery and give them bits to prepare while you make dinner.

  • Place their crockery and toys where they can reach them and encourage them to get them themselves.

  • Give them a dustpan and brush or a little mop to help clean the floor after they have made a mess.

The key is to be patient and try not to interfere in the process, but be there to guide and support. "Leaving them alone to crash and burn without support will do the opposite of build confidence," says Dr Sommer. 

"Try not to stress the mess or expect them to actually do anything successfully for a long time. Here’s where that process praise will come in handy."

Shop LEGO DUPLO sets online or in-store to help nurture kids' confidence.  

Feature Image: Supplied.

Do you have kids aged 1-4 years? We want to hear from you - take our short survey to go in the running to win a $50 gift voucher!
LEGO<span style="font-family: 'Playfair Display';">®</span> DUPLO<span style="font-family: 'Playfair Display';">®</span>
LEGO®, LEGO® DUPLO® and the Minifigure are trademarks of The LEGO Group. ©2024 The LEGO Group.