Parenting: Competence, Confidence, and Self Esteem

One of my favorite things in the whole world is when I am doing research for my job working with adolescents and something resonates so clearly and appropriately to my parenting that it feels almost serendipitous! That is what happened within the first 20 pages of “Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Kids Roots and Wings” by Kenneth R. Ginsburg.  Obviously the book is about all ages and stages of children but I began reading it specifically for the teen sections, however the applicable content for my own 1st and 2nd plane children is too much to ignore!


For six months I had been struggling to write a post about self-esteem and confidence in Montessori children. The primary focus of “Building Resilience” was succinctly laid out and was exactly what I was trying to put into words: Competence leads to Confidence. When children are competent in a task or ability then they have true confidence. Confidence is different than self esteem. Self-esteem is how we feel about ourselves at any given moment. As an adult I find my self-esteem fluctuates depending on arbitrary things like a fresh pimple on my chin or a particularly flattering outfit. I am, however, confident at my job. I have proven my competence at many areas of my work and that gives me confidence to show up and do my job even with that pimple!

One of the many things I love about Montessori education is that Montessori teachers treat every student as competent. The thoughtful way the classroom is setup is specifically done for students to gain competence. The confidence then follows suit.


I often joke that my children certainly don’t have self esteem problems when they engage in conversations with adults, but that is inaccurate. What strangers and friends are seeing is their confidence. I attribute this confidence to their Montessori education and our Montessori-based parenting philosophy. They know deep in their hearts that they are competent and capable beings and it shows.

How can parents grow children’s confidence through the lens of competence? 

  1. Creating a home environment that allows children to complete daily tasks with little to no adult intervention. Examples included here and here.
  2. Communicating with children with dignity and the assumption of competence. Example “I know you know what to do before bedtime. Let me know if you need any help.”
  3. Consciously shutting down fear-based parenting. More on that here.
Confidence isn't a super power. It is better.

Confidence isn’t a super power. It is better.

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