phrases that build confidence

Is there anything more heartbreaking than hearing your child say, "I'm so stupid"? It can feel very uncomfortable to hear our children talk badly about themselves. Children sense our discomfort and may interpret it to mean that their feelings are not normal or okay.

While your automatic response is likely to tell them that nothing could be further from the truth, that they're smart and perfect, there are specific things you can say to your child to help build their confidence when they're hurting.

Try these Montessori-inspired phrases to give your child a boost and help instill a growth mindset that will keep them from getting discouraged in the long run:

1. "You seem discouraged. Tell me about it."

While we understandably want to shut down any negative feelings our children are experiencing, we must create room to reflect on the situation. If you're too quick to jump in, you may miss out on an illuminating conversation.


If your child tells you they're stupid, take a breath and try to take a backseat, letting your child lead the conversation. You are much more likely to get a glimpse into how they're actually feeling if you focus more on listening than changing their feelings.

2. "I need your help."

To give your kid's confidence a boost, try asking them for help.

Think of something your kid is great at and let them know that you see their special talents and that they have value. Does your child know the name of every dinosaur ever discovered? Ask for their help in making a dino card for a cousin's birthday.

Do they love playing basketball? Ask them to show you how to shoot a layup. Let your child feel like the expert and experience the self-confidence that comes with the role.

3. "I remember when you learned to read.

"Children may feel unintelligent when they're working hard at a new skill and it isn't clicking. Help them remember something hard they mastered in the past, whether it's tying their shoes or learning to read. Remind them of how hard the skill used to be, and how easy it is for them now.

4. "I feel that way about myself sometimes too."

Be a little bit vulnerable and let them know that you don't always feel great about yourself either. Talk about how silly you felt when you realized your shirt was on backward or when you got lost and were late to meet your friends.

Our children see us as superheroes and knowing that we struggle with confidence too can make their feelings a little less scary.

5. "Some things take a lot of practice."

Let your child know that some of the most interesting, rewarding things in life take a lot of practice. Whether it's learning a new language or learning to play an instrument, new things are hard, and that's okay.

Talk to them about how their favorite musician had to start at the beginning and learn how to play the guitar, or how their favorite baseball player had to learn to pitch. Talk to them about how you had to practice a lot to get better at yoga and how your first class felt a little bit scary. That doesn't mean you're bad at yoga, you just had to practice.

Put the emphasis on hard work and practice, rather than talent and natural ability, to encourage your child to persevere and welcome the challenge that comes with learning something new.

6. "I love you just the way you are."

Whatever the reason your child is feeling down about themselves, there is nothing more comforting than hearing that you love them just as they are, without expectations or caveats.

Try to make time for a few extra snuggles and say, "I love you" while your child is working through their feelings.

7. "Good job! You kept trying and figured it out all by yourself."

While telling your child they're smart is a natural instinct, putting too much emphasis on their intelligence can actually make them afraid. Afraid to fail, let you down and try.

While there's no need to completely censor your natural inclination to praise your child's intelligence, try to focus on praising the process. Let them know that you see their perseverance, their focus and their tenacity. Let them know these are the things that matter.

Remember to offer encouragement, but try to stay calm and let them lead. Otherwise, they may become so fascinated by our strong reaction that they keep saying "I'm stupid" far longer than they otherwise would.

Build your child up, praise their hard work and process, and trust that their confidence will grow with time and encouragement.

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In This Article

    These challenges from Nike PLAYlist are exactly what my child needs to stay active

    Plus a fall family bucket list to keep everyone moving all season long.

    While it's hard to name anything that the pandemic hasn't affected, one thing that is constantly on my mind is how to keep my family active despite spending more time indoors. Normally, this time of year would be spent at dance and gymnastics lessons, meeting up with friends for games and field trips, and long afternoon playdates where we can all let off a little steam. Instead, we find ourselves inside more often than ever before—and facing down a long winter of a lot more of the same.

    I started to search for an outlet that would get my girls moving safely while we social distance, but at first I didn't find a lot of solutions. Online videos either weren't terribly engaging for my active kids, or the messaging wasn't as positive around the power of movement as I would like. Then I found the Nike PLAYlist.

    I always knew that Nike could get me moving, but I was so impressed to discover this simple resource for parents. PLAYlist is an episodic sports show on YouTube that's made for kids and designed to teach them the power of expressing themselves through movement. The enthusiastic kid hosts immediately captured my daughter's attention, and I love how the physical activity is organically incorporated in fun activities without ever being specifically called out as anything other than play. For example, this segment where the kids turn yoga into a game of Paper Scissors Rock? Totally genius. The challenges from #TheReplays even get my husband and me moving more when our daughter turns it into a friendly family competition. (Plus, I love the play-inspired sportswear made just for kids!)

    My daughter loves the simple Shake Ups at the beginning of the episode and is usually hopping off the couch to jump, dance and play within seconds. One of her favorites is this Sock Flinger Shake Up activity from the Nike PLAYlist that's easy for me to get in on too. Even after we've put away the tablet, the show inspires her to create her own challenges throughout the day.

    The best part? The episodes are all under 5 minutes, so they're easy to sprinkle throughout the day whenever we need to work out some wiggles (without adding a lot of screen time to our schedule).

    Whether you're looking for simple alternatives to P.E. and sports or simply need fun ways to help your child burn off energy after a day of socially distanced school, Nike's PLAYlist is a fun, kid-friendly way to get everyone moving.

    Need more movement inspiration for fall? Here are 5 ways my family is getting up and getting active this season:

    1. Go apple picking.

    Truly, it doesn't really feel like fall until we've picked our first apple. (Or had our first bite of apple cider donut!) Need to burn off that extra cinnamon-sugar energy? Declare a quick relay race up the orchard aisle—winner gets first to pick of apples at home.

    To wear: These Printed Training Tights are perfect for when even a casual walk turns into a race (and they help my daughter scurry up a branch for the big apples).

    2. Visit a pumpkin patch.

    We love to pick up a few locally grown pumpkins to decorate or cook with each year. Challenge your child to a "strongman" contest and see who can lift the heaviest pumpkin while you're there.

    To wear: Suit up your little one in comfort with this Baby Full Zip Coverall so you're ready for whatever adventures the day brings.

    3. Have a nature scavenger hunt.

    Scavenger hunts are one of my favorite ways to keep my daughter preoccupied all year long. We love to get outside and search for acorns, leaves and pinecones as part of our homeschool, but it's also just a great way to get her exercising those gross motor skills whenever the wiggles start to build up.

    To wear: It's not truly fall until you break out a hoodie. This cozy Therma Elite Kids Hoodie features a mesh overlay to release heat while your child plays.

    4. Have a touch-football game.

    Tip for parents with very little kids: It doesn't have to last as long as a real football game. 😂 In fact, staging our own mini-games is one of our favorite ways to get everyone up and moving in between quarters during Sunday football, and I promise we all sleep better that night.

    To wear: From impromptu games of tag to running through our favorite trails, these kids' Nike Air Zoom Speed running shoes are made to cover ground all season long.

    5. Create an indoor obstacle course.

    Pretending the floor is lava was just the beginning. See how elaborate your personal course can get, from jumping on the couch to rolling under the coffee table to hopping down the hallway on one foot.

    To wear: These ready-for-any-activity Dri-FIT Tempo Shorts are perfect for crawling, hopping and racing—and cuddling up when it's time to rest.

    This article was sponsored by Nike. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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