Emotions & Self-Awareness Helping Your Five-Year-Old Develop Independence and Self-Confidence

From taking their first steps to learning how to read, children gain self-confidence as they master new skills. This gives them the courage to continue to explore and expand their abilities. Five-year-olds sometimes toggle between wanting to do things by themselves and having parents do tasks for them that they find difficult. As you encourage their independence, you may also need to help them talk through their frustrations and fears. Encourage their interest in learning new skills. They will develop confidence as they practice and recognize their progress. 

Help your child build self-confidence with these strategies:

Zoom In

Kids may encounter intense feelings of self-doubt when they are overwhelmed by a task or situation. For example, instead of remembering that they already know how to dribble when joining a basketball team, a child might take in the whole scene ― the hoop, the other kids, the fast movement, the size of the court ― and become lost in self-doubt. Teach your child to "zoom in" on both strengths and challenges. Instead of looking through the wide-angle lens and assuming they can't do something, they can zoom in on what they can do and what they cannot yet do ― and make a plan for improving specific skills. (For example: “I know how to dribble a ball, so that will help me play," "I don't know how to do a layup yet, but I can ask my coach for help with that.")

Build Self-Confidence With a Goal-Setting Activity

Achieving a goal can build self-confidence. Help your child set and work towards a goal by creating "I Can" statements.

Do This Activity

Practice, Practice, Practice

In order for children to develop resiliency to forge on through the ups and down that go hand in hand with all learning, they will need oodles of practice time. As parents, we need to step out of the way and allow our children to make mistakes and encourage them to keep trying.

Let Your Child Borrow Your Confidence

Kids look to parents to see, "Should I be scared here?" Psychologists call this "social referencing." For instance, when children see a dog for the first time, they'll look up to mom or dad to assess whether or not the dog is dangerous. If their parent looks relaxed, it's easier for the child to approach the dog. When kids are scared, our instinct might be to help them escape — or to avoid scary situations entirely. But that tells them, "This is too hard for you to handle!" Instead, provide encouragement. Tell your child, "It's hard, but I know you can do it." Show your faith in your child's ability to cope.

Fight Fears Through Art

Creating courage cards with your child can help her face fears and be brave.

Do This Activity

Never Do for a Child What a Child Can Do for Themselves

Identify what tasks your children are capable of handling and let them do these. If he can pour his own drink, let him. If she can get herself ready for school independently, let her. Resist the urge to step in and make the process quicker (or cleaner). Instead, try to provide time for them to complete the tasks.

Growing Up

Your child can take a look back at how much she's grown since she was a baby by identifying new things she has learned and accomplished.

Do This Activity

Help Your Child Manage Emotions with Arthur

Whether facing down a bully, worrying about a new teacher or being the very last person on earth to lose his baby teeth, Arthur and his friends manage to solve their crises with imagination, kindness and a lot of humor.

Find Activities

Activity Finder: Learn With Your Five-Year-Old

Explore our Age-by-Age Guide: