Self-esteem.  Self-confidence.

THAT’s what I want for my children!

How do kids grow in self-confidence? 

One sure way is to

  • allow them to engage in difficult activities,
  • give them a role in the decision-making process, and
  • celebrate the achievement together.

When I change my behavior (less control, more appreciation of each person, and enjoyment of the moment), the kids grow more confident!

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Read on or download your free Family Confidence-Building Calendar now.

We had such an opportunity this summer when hiking in Canyonlands National Park, UT, and to engage in a family challenge: one tough hike.

Relinquishing Control

Let’s rewind.  The success of our family challenge began way before we donned hiking boots.  First we had to decide on the kind of activity to endeavor together.  Each of us held different priorities.

I love hiking.  And the idea of taking a walk through majestic wilderness thrilled me.

My husband encouraged me to “be reasonable.”

Our teen sons acted as if vacationing = lounging.

For our visit to Canyonlands National Park we all agreed on taking a hike.  How long and how challenging were yet to be determined.

Before our visit, I did my research and identified several interesting walks of varied lengths.  These options provided enough insight to establish (and communicate!) a departure time and starting point.

And I limited my decision-making to these two essential options:  when and where to start.

If we were all to fully engage and enjoy a long walk, it would have to be OUR Adventure (vs. Mom’s Hike).

Upon our arrival at the parc’s visitor center, I purposefully stepped back, making sure that my husband and our sons could inquire of the park rangers for suggestions.

Then, I watched my husband and one of the boys come to the same conclusion I had arrived at through my research.  I simply kept quiet (It was tough!) while, together, they convinced our other teen to “start and we’ll see how it goes.”

It was so exciting to witness the powerful and positive impact of my “letting go.”  When I relinquished control, others took the lead…and were surely more effective than me in this delicate situation.

What if they had chosen a different option?  It would not have been the end of the world.  Frankly, the stakes were low for my letting go…like many instances where parents seek to control.

Decision-Making by Kids

Weighing Costs & Benefits

My husband and son proposed a 11.4-mile hike over rocks and through desert.  It was ambitious for us all.  I was up for it.  Our youngest teen was much less enthusiastic.  “I don’t want an 11-mile hike.”

Chesler Park, The Needles, Canyonlands
One step after another….
The Needles at Chesler Park, Canyonlands
Across desert, through and over rocks, under burning sun.

Some short-term sacrifices….

The new leaders has us agree on the first step to take and where we would determine our next step. That enabled us to start and still be flexible.

We NEEDED water, up to one gallon per person.  It’s heavy to carry.  Everyone pitched in.  We even opted to leave food in the car to bring more water on the hike.

Our youngest son finally did agree on the long hike, yet was annoyed and sometimes let us know it.  (“Mom, your picnic stinks.”)

I sacrificed my pride and kept my mouth shut.  It was not time to preach manners, nutrition, or survival.  It was time to be compassionate and appreciative of his presence.

Celebrating together

Immediate rewards…

We walked through amazing sites.  Towering rocks.  Teetering & towering rocks.  Cliffs like walls…some so close we had to wiggle our way between them.  The scenery was SPECTACULAR!

The challenging path kept us entertained.  We climbed and jumped as well as walked.  No monotony!

Teen hiking in Needles, Canyonlands
Sliver of trail through canyons. “Look at me!”
Elephant Canyon, The Needles, Canyonlands
Tiny me in Elephant Canyon. Humbling and awe inspiring.

…and lasting benefits.

When we finally returned to the visitor center (and refilled our water supply) the boys exclaimed,

“It feels great to push myself and to succeed.”

“Compared to those canyons, we are tiny…and yet we’re strong enough.”

“Please send me that photo so that I can share it.”

Those sure seem like signs of confidence!


In writing this post one week later, I asked our reticent child how he feels about the outing today.

“I was annoyed.  But it’s not a bad memory…it’s even a good one.”

& Building Confidence for Tomorrow

Each of us will encounter challenges this school year.

Having thrived through this tough hike together, we’ll be able refer back to this situation to take courage for upcoming, unplanned hurdles.

“Remember how we were hot and tired and still kept going?  I am confident you can also keep going in this situation (difficult homework, issues with friends).”

Self-Confidence and Self-Esteem for YOUR kids

You too can boost family cohesion and individual confidence by having all the family do a challenging activity together.  Something that would stretch each of you and that be completed with teamwork.

Choose Your Type of Family Challenge

There are MANY ways to engage in a confidence-building family project:

  • Physical challenge (adventure…!)
  • Giving of time (helping at a food shelter),
  • Financial sacrifice where everyone pitches in (family fun & fund-raiser)
  • Hospitality (inviting students to a home-cooked meal)


Someone has to start the ball rolling.  Probably you.  What initiatives are needed to begin the process?  Get the project off the ground by reserving a date on the calendar and doing some basic research.

Include Others

What decisions can you delegate so that this effort truly becomes a Family Thing?

For a physical challenge, kids can decide on the food.  For giving of time, could the children invite a friend too?  For a financial gift, would the children like to work to earn money (baking cakes) to give or spend less (plain rice for dinner once a month) to come up with the budget?

Celebrate Success…again & again

Decide how to celebrate.  Will you include a photo with your Christmas card or holiday letter?  Will you note quotable quotes from each family member (I liked _______)?

Return to these memories when the children need a confidence boost.

“Sweetheart, remember when we hiked and it was hot.  You sure kept going then.  You have proven that you can persevere.  I’m confident you can do it now.  Try again.”

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