How to Raise a Child with Self-Confidence, Not Entitlement

Confident KidAs far as I can tell, most parents want their children to reach launch-age fully capable of conducting their lives with responsibility and respect. When they leave the safety of their nests with self-confidence, feeling competent and resilient, with the drive to contribute positively to the world, they are ready to greet whatever comes at them. We want our children to go out into the world capable of finding success yet able to weather the bumps and storms with a strong sense of self.

Most of all we want our children to feel inspired and fulfilled in their lives, doing what they love, able to reach their potential, and in mutually respectful relationships with others. 

Does this sound fairy-tale-ish?

Especially when right now you struggle with demanding kids who seem oblivious to your requests and inconsiderate of other’s needs? 

Even though your struggles today are very real and very exhausting, this is the time, no matter how young your child is, to focus on the journey of reaching the goal of 100% authority over themselves instead of being the entitled controller we fear.

You do not want your kids to leave home with the attitude that the world owes them, that rules pertain to others, and they shouldn’t have to work hard for what they want. We don’t want them afraid of taking risks or pushing others out of their way.

Your parent authority means it is your job to ensure that your child does what he must (use the toilet, brush his teeth, go to school, get to the doctor, go to bed, etc.) because he cannot nor should not be expected to want to—because he’s a kid. Until he can.

Confident KidAs your child grows, your job is to slowly and gradually hand over this authority as your child becomes capable of managing life’s tasks on her own. This is called letting go. By the time she’s ready to launch, she should have total authority over herself.

The question becomes:

How do I guide my child to self-authority? rather than, How do I control my child’s behavior? Now.

We get caught up in the minutia of everyday life. We rarely step back to see the big picture. Fears of future horror stories fuel our stress reactions and we hang on too tightly. 

It’s a hard but necessary task to stay in the moment and not project. This takes:

  • An understanding of child development to hold realistic expectations.
  • An understanding of individual children’s temperaments to keep expectations appropriate.
  • Your own work to maintain good boundaries and not take behavior personally.

When you are there you are better able to:

  • Stop taking behavior personally
  • Parent with connection instead of blaming and threatening
  • Empathize with the struggles your child is having
  • Interpret behaviors by understanding the emotions that provoke them
  • Hold individual expectations of each child 
  • Problem-solve situations rather than resort to punitive measures
  • Communicate to your child 100% unconditional acceptance

Confident KidSometimes acceptance looks to fearful parents like allowing anything they want. Not true. It is only with acceptance that behavior changes for the better and self-confidence develops.

Problems arise when you want kids to do what you want right now and use forceful measures to get what you want. Or you give in to demands to avoid emotional upheaval. The first undermines a strong development of self-worth and the second teaches your child that his wishes are more important than yours—entitlement. 

If you swing back and forth and blow up with impatience, you either give your child the power he needs to get what he wants—entitlement, or to repress emotional expression or desires—shame.

Authoritarian parents fear entitlement—letting kids get their way—often sending kids to the opposite end feeling shame—fertile for mental illness. Permissive parenting favors the needs and wants of the child, ignoring those of the parents—fertile for entitlement. Authoritative parenting creates balance in relationship, teaching respect and responsibility. 

Balance in relationship means saying:

  • This doesn’t work for me. We need to come up with something different. 
  • I don’t like it when…. I am not okay with….
  • You want x, I want y. We need to work this out to find agreement.

Confident KidFor a child to reach self-authority, she needs to feel heard, believed, trusted, and gotten. She must know what to expect and what is expected of her. She must have the opportunity to develop capability to handle problems and the natural consequences of those problems. Rather than the problem being solved for her, or the problem belittled or blamed on her. 

Parenting with the belief that kids must be prepared for the big, bad world by toughening them up now with criticism (“What’s wrong with you anyway? Why can’t you listen like your sister? Don’t be such a cry-baby. You do what I say or else.”) doesn’t toughen them up; it weakens them. These are kids who learn not to trust themselves or authority figures. These are kids who can be blown down by the storms of life.

Confident KidTo reach their potential and thrive:

A child needs to believe in himself and this means having strong self-confidence. This happens through trust in family as a base of encouragement, strength, and support, trust in the people they depend on to have their back—not to hold them up so they don’t fall, but to be there to soften the fall and buoy their own way back up. Then they can move on with self-confidence once again.


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