On the surface, parenting seems simple enough: keep kids safe, feed them well and make sure they get to school. It’s the other part of parenting, the delicate sculpting of the psyche that requires dedication, wisdom and more than a touch of finesse.

Parenting trends come and go.

For a while, shaming one’s children into behaving well was considered a valid strategy for child-rearing. So was ridiculing them, demeaning them and even physical violence. We are so thankful times have changed!

These days, the focus is less on keeping children in line and more on social, intellectual and emotional development, learned through practising appropriate behaviours in given situations.

Not quite sure what we mean by that?

Let’s take a look at some of the books you can buy to understand these new concepts and why these new parenting skills are so vital.

Different Parenting Styles and Their Books

In the pivot away from the borderline abusive parenting techniques common until the mid-20th century, the pendulum swung too far the other way.

Children were treated to excess permissiveness and far too little discipline; the driving philosophy behind this ultra-liberal parenting style was: “s/he’s just a kid! S/he’ll grow out of it soon enough.”

Tantrums were a common feature of permissive parenting
This little girl wants to get her way and thinks that having a tantrum is the way to do it! Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

This was called New-Age Parenting, an organic approach to teaching kids about themselves and how to behave.

In its early days, new-age parents suffered a lot of ridicule for permitting their children tantrums and other misbehaviours but, over time, this parenting style has refined itself into one of the most harmonious methods of child-rearing.

Nurture Your Child’s Gift – Inspired Parenting, authored by Caron B. Goode places emphasis on children uncovering and nurturing their innate gifts and talents. It discusses how children create meaning in their lives through empowerment derived from self-esteem.

Another new-age parenting book is titled Intuitive Parenting: Listening to the Wisdom of Your Heart. In it, Dr Debra Snyder advocates for establishing an intuitive connection with your child and using intuition to better understand your children.

She encourages parents to cultivate their child’s intuition and, through intuition, confidence.

While the term ‘new-age’ has fallen out of vogue, this parenting style has not. It has been renamed ‘permissive parenting’, the direct opposite of the ‘authoritarian parenting’ style mentioned at the start of this segment.

Authoritative parenting, on the other hand, sets up the perfect conditions for children to build self-esteem: parents have expectations of their children while providing them with the necessary support to meet those expectations.

This parenting style relies on the adults having a strong sense of self and the ability to tailor their strengths to the needs of their children. For them, building self-esteem in their kids is as vital a preparing meals or cuddling them.

Such parents are considered the gold standard; their few negative thoughts and weaknesses (if any) acknowledged and put into perspective. It is to these parents that the lion’s share of books on how to boost self-esteem in children is marketed.

Your turn to chime in: how would you help your child build self-esteem?

The How-To Section of the Bookshelf

The books listed in the previous section take a more holistic approach to parenting. The authors had struggled through particularly difficult situations confidently, came out well and wrote a book to share their experience.

The books featured in this section are more like manuals, full of professional guidance on how to improve confidence in children. If you want your children to be more confident, you might want to have a read of these titles.

Teens tend to be most vulnerable and lack self-esteem
If you're the parent of a teenaged girl, especially one uncertain of her body image, reading a few 'how-to' books is a good idea Image by Mircea Iancu from Pixabay

Building Confidence in Your Child

Dr James Dobson avers that children with a strong sense of self-worth make good choices and develop healthy relationships. He breaks down parenting theories to help parents cut through negative self-talk and grow their children into successful, self-assured adults.

Building Authentic Confidence in Children

American doctor Spencer Taintor reflects on experiences youths in the US are subjected to in school that perpetuate the cycle of low self-esteem, low confidence and negative feelings. He first outlines the problem and projects it’s future, and then paves the way to emotionally resilient, competent adolescents.

His theory that individuals’ confidence and self-esteem impact society is echoed by many other mental health professionals.

Self-Esteem: Simple Ways to Increase Your Child’s Confidence During Adolescence

Many child guidance professionals focus on early child development; Dr Judy Kuransky’s work targets the age when most children are at the threshold of adulthood. Even at that late stage of development, it is still possible to positively impact your child’s well-being!

Peer pressure and unhealthy social situations can affect even the best built confidence but, through assertiveness, accomplishment and positive affirmations, even teens lacking confidence can make it through the teenage years.

This book will show you how you can help your teens cultivate high self-esteem and a healthy self-image so that they can cope with any situation they may face, from exams to bullying.

Kid Confidence: Help Your Child Make Friends, Build Resilience, and Develop Real Self-Esteem

Dr Eileen Kennedy-Moore raises an excellent point: studies show that a child’s self-esteem peaks around age five, and takes a sharp downturn in the ‘tween years, just as social competition is the greatest.

If your tween or teen has a negative self-image, this is the book for you.

If you want more for your child than for them to be just good enough; if you want them to feel good about themselves as they head into adolescence, teaching them to embrace a compassionate view of themselves and others is key.

31 Ways to Champion Children to Develop High Self-Esteem: An Empowerment Guidebook for Parents, Teachers and Others

In an interesting takeoff from the other books listed here, author Joseph Rubino makes a clear distinction between high self-esteem and high ego, which is sometimes mistaken for believing in yourself.

Another great feature of this book is that it details the origins of low self-esteem and shows how to overcome early childhood difficulties such as sibling rivalry and separation anxiety. It then goes on to give daily exercises – affirmations to reinforce self-belief.

Finally, it discusses the lasting impact of negative thoughts and feelings, and how they overcome them.

These are but a few of the books that you can buy (on Amazon or elsewhere) to help your children build their self-esteem; there are lots of others. If you are concerned about your child’s lack of self-confidence, you might ask their teacher or doctor if they can recommend a few more.

They might even suggest some you could read for free from the library!

Do you know of some good ways to build your child’s self-esteem? Let us know in the comments below!

Reading to your girl or boy child is a great way to empower them
Reading a story of a confident girl or boy, even to a baby has wonderful, positive effects on them! Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Bonus Section: Children’s Books to Build Confidence

As you’ve already read, there are plenty of how-to tomes, advice compilations, instruction manuals and even books on what not to do when teaching your child how to be their best, most confident self.

What about books that your child can draw inspiration from?

From their earliest days, kids love to hear stories. Even as babies, the rhythms of speech and the sound of your voice bring them comfort and help them relax – maybe even lull them to sleep.

Stories told (or heard) in a safe, comfortable environment permit deep thought and foster ideas. That’s why kids like to hear the same stories over and over again, because something in that particular narrative resonates with them.

There is no recommended age to stop reading to/with your children. If you and s/he were open to it, you may read out loud together well into adulthood!

However, at some point, your child will want to go on literary adventures on their own. Or perhaps you feel that s/he needs to discover the pleasure of reading for themselves, rather than reading in tandem with you or only being read to.

Aside from any Roald Dahl or Beatrix Potter story that might come to mind as recommended reading for your child, you might want to sprinkle in a few stories that will help him/her build self-confidence as well as entertain them.

If so, consider these titles:

  • Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell
  • I’m Gonna Like Me by Jamie Lee Curtis
  • Louder, Lili by Gennifer Choldenko
  • Willow’s Whispers by Lana Button
  • Only One You by Linda Kranz
    • Also by Ms Kranz: You Be You
  • What I like About Me by Allia Zobel Nolan
  • I Like Me! By Nancy Carlson

Each of these stories, available for purchase on Amazon or at your favourite bookseller, presents the protagonist facing a challenging circumstance common to young children: the first day at school and finding one’s voice in the classroom, learning that being unique is good and learning to like oneself even when others seem like they don’t.

Far from being gloomy cautionary tales, these books are bright and vibrant with an undertone of positive strength and courage. The heroes (mostly girls) are likeable and relatable; surely your child will find they have traits in common with them.

Getting kids to love reading means giving them a gift for life but helping them find self-confidence is arming them for every challenge life might throw at them.

If parenting came with a to-do checklist, those two tasks would surely be at the top of it!

Now discover confidence-building activities and games you and your child can enjoy…

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A student by trade, Daniel spends most of his time working on that essay that's due in a couple of days' time. When he's not working, he can be found working on his salsa steps, or in bed.