Adapted from AAP adapted from Kenneth Ginsburg, M.D., MS Ed, FAAP


Competence describes the feeling of knowing that you can handle a situation effectively. We can help the development of competence by:

  • Helping children focus on individual strengths.
  • Focusing any identified mistakes on specific incidents.
  • Being careful that your desire to protect your child doesn’t mistakenly send a message that you don’t think he or she is competent to handle things.
  • Clearly expressing the best qualities, such as fairness, integrity, persistence, and kindness.
  • Praising honestly about specific achievements; not diffusing praise that may lack authenticity.

True confidence, the solid belief in one’s own abilities, is rooted in competence. Children gain confidence by demonstrating their competence in real situations. Confidence is not warm-and-fuzzy self-esteem that supposedly results from telling kids they’re special or precious. Children who experience their own competence and know they are safe and protected develop a deep-seated security that promotes the confidence to face and cope with challenges. When parents support children in finding their own islands of competence and building on them, they prepare kids to gain enough confidence to try new ventures and trust their abilities to make sound choices.

In thinking about your child’s degree of confidence, consider the following questions:

  • Do I see the best in my child so that he can see the best in himself?
  • Do I clearly express that I expect the best qualities (not achievements, but personal qualities such as fairness, integrity, persistence, and kindness) in him?
  • Do I help him recognize what he has done right or well?
  • Do I treat him as an incapable child or as a youngster who is learning to navigate his world?
  • Do I praise him often enough? Do I praise him honestly about specific achievements or do I give such diffuse praise that it doesn’t seem authentic? (More information about praising effectively is in Chapter 6.)
  • Do I catch him being good when he is generous, helpful, and kind or when he does something without being asked or cajoled?
  • Do I encourage him to strive just a little bit farther because I believe he can succeed?
  • Do I hold realistically high expectations?
  • Do I unintentionally push him to take on more than he can realistically handle, causing him to stumble and lose confidence?
  • When I need to criticize or correct him, do I focus only on what he’s doing wrong or do I remind him that he is capable of doing well?
  • Do I avoid instilling shame in my child?


Developing close ties to family and community creates a solid sense of security that helps lead to strong values and prevents alternative destructive paths to love and attention. You can help your child connect with others by:

  • Building a sense of physical safety and emotional security within your home.
  • Allowing the expression of all emotions, so that kids will feel comfortable reaching out during difficult times.
  • Creating a common area where the family can share time.
  • Fostering healthy relationships that will reinforce positive messages


  • Children need to develop a solid set of morals and values to determine right from wrong and to demonstrate a caring attitude.
  • To strengthen your child’s character, start by:
  • Helping your child recognize himself or herself as a caring person.
  • Demonstrating the importance of community.
  • Encouraging the development of spirituality.
  • Avoiding racist or hateful statements or stereotypes.


Children need to realize that the world is a better place because they are in it. Understanding the importance of personal contribution can serve as a source of purpose and motivation.

Teach your children how to contribute by:

  • Communicating to children that many people in the world do not have what they need.
  • Modeling generosity.


  • Modeling positive coping strategies on a consistent basis.
  • Realizing that telling him or her to stop the negative behavior will not be effective.
  • Understanding that many risky behaviors are attempts to alleviate the stress and pain in kids’ daily lives.
  • Not condemning your child for negative behaviors and, potentially, increasing his or her sense of shame.


Children who realize that they can control the outcomes of their decisions are more likely to realize that they have the ability to bounce back. Your child’s understanding that he or she can make a difference further promotes competence and confidence.

  • Help your child to understand that life’s events are not purely random and that many things that happen are the result of an individual’s choices and actions.
  • Discipline is about teaching, not punishing or controlling; using discipline to help your child to understand that his actions produce certain consequences.
  • Children need to know that there is an adult in their life who believes in them and loves them unconditionally.

There is no simple answer to guarantee resilience in every situation. But we can challenge ourselves to help our children develop the ability to negotiate their own challenges and to be more resilient, more capable, and happier.

1/30/12 – Building Resilience in Children

[The 7 Cs are an adaptation from The Positive Youth Development movement. Rick Little and colleagues at The International Youth Foundation first described the 4 Cs of confidence, competence, connection, and character as the key ingredients needed to ensure a healthy developmental path. They later added contribution because youth with these essential 4 characteristics also contributed to society. The additional two C’s – coping and control – allow the model to both promote healthy development and prevent risk.]

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