Below are some simple tips to help you build confidence in your child through everyday actions. It might be worth focusing on one or two over the holidays.
Wishing you all a wonderful Easter break.
Different WAYS TO LOVE YOUR CHILD CONFIDENTLY
BY MICHAEL GROSE
All parents want their children to thrive and flourish. That means we need to love our kids confidently, rather than protect, pamper and problem-solve for our kids.
Here are some parenting ideas to help your kids thrive and in doing so, may reduce the number of parenting challenges you experience along the way:
When kids can, let them do
The independence mindset that we promote means that parents look for as many opportunities as possible to develop self-sufficiency in children. When kids can get themselves out of bed in the morning, we allow them to do so. When a toddler can clear her plate and spoon away, we encourage her do so. When a teenager can catch a train into the city, we allow him to do so, even though we may uncomfortable about letting go. Self-esteem and confidence is built by kids gaining mastery over their world and doing the little things that we as adults so often do for them.
Develop a growth mindset
This generation shouldn’t grow up like past generations thinking that their natural abilities set the tone for the pattern for the rest of our lives. If you think that you’ll never be good at maths/writing/sport/whatever, then you have a fixed mindset. We now know that talent and smarts aren’t fixed- they evolve over time with practice and effort. There is a lot parents can do to develop a growth mindset in kids. Start by linking your child’s success with effort rather than linking it to natural ability. You want your child to grow up believing that hard work and strategy have as much to with their success in any area as their natural ability.
Encourage them to play
Adults are very fond of organising environments for kids to enable learning and maximise their development. Kids’ lives are full of organised after school activities including sports practice, music practice and swimming lessons. There is not much time for mucking around these days. Self-initiated play, particularly when it occurs outside is great for kids’ confidence. Left to their own devices kids often take risks that would make adults shudder, if only they knew about them. However, it is through risks such as climbing trees, building cubbies and navigating their neighbourhood that kids learn to extend themselves and develop skills that they did not know they had.
Give them some tough stuff to do
Life in the twenty-first century is comfortable for most us. We have eradicated most of the hardship from life so that most kids in developed countries like Australia wake up on a winter morning with a full stomach, a warm house and the prospect of being driven to school. Nothing builds confidence like a deep appreciation for what you have and an understanding that you can put up with some hardship and discomfort so consider ways you can disrupt deep comfort levels. Maybe they have to do some chores (make their lunch/their bed/feed a younger sibling) in the morning; maybe they should walk to school; maybe they can do without morning tea if they leave it at home. Maybe… I am sure you can think of your own ideas to help them feel familiar with discomfort.
Make sure they do something that someone else relies on
So what does your child do that someone else relies on? Does he feed the dog? Empty the dishwasher? Help his sibling with homework? Assuming responsibility builds kids’ confidence. We often give responsibility to kids who we know can carry out the responsibilities without a hitch, not the kids who really need it as they sometimes struggle and won’t do it right.
Ask them to help you
Nothing displays faith in a child’s abilities like a genuine request for help. Next time you are about to embark on an activity (cooking, washing the car, loading the washing machine) ask a child to give you a hand. Even better, give the total job to your child if it is practical and timely to do so. Now that is what I call a show of faith!
Let them teach you something
When was the last time you asked your child to teach you how to do something? Kids who see themselves as strugglers can get a boost in confidence when they teach their parents how to do something that they are good at.
Problem solve together
While kids need a chance to resolve some of their everyday problems – such as managing pesky siblings, dealing with strict teachers and sharing a workspace at school with peers they don’t like- by themselves, they can also benefit from sitting down with a parent and working their way through problems together. All the aforementioned problems (and many more besides) could be workshopped so that kids get the benefit of your wisdom, without you solving their problems for them.
Kids generally resolve relationship problems with friends and siblings in three ways – through accommodation, aggression or assertion. Accommodating the needs of a friend or sibling is admirable but some kids give way too much because they don’t know how to stand up for themselves. Some children will use aggression and other high power ways to get their own way. Encourage your child to be assertive and ask for what they want rather than give way all the time or be aggressive. Assertiveness is as much about strong body language as it is about the words they use. So encourage them to practise standing up straight, using a strong voice and making eye contact when they say to a sibling or friend, “No. I don’t want you to borrow that.”
Help them see beyond the label
A child who defines himself as being stupid because he struggles academically benefits from parents who lovingly point out that there is more to a life than schoolwork. Help him see the strengths that they has in other areas of life such as making friends; success at leisure activities and the personal qualities that he or she displays such as loyalty, patience and persistence. Help children see past labels that they can place on themselves.
Cue confidence not anxiety
Recently I heard a parent say to her primary school-aged child prior to going on a class excursion, “You’re not going to be anxious are you?” If the child wasn’t anxious already she was likely to be after her mother planted the idea in her head. Children generally take their cues about how they should see events from their parents so we need to be very careful about what we say to children particularly when they go into new or unfamiliar activities. Better to cue a child to be courageous with a statement such as “Now’s the time be brave.”
Help your child rationalise, rather than exaggerate their worries
Children and teenagers can easily jump to conclusions and catastrophise (“I’m hopeless!”), blaming themselves when they experience difficulties. Help your child work through their difficulties so they can rationalise and find solutions. Challenge their self-talk and help them see that a situation probably is not as bad as they are making out. By calling out their propensity to catastrophise you may not be making yourself popular, however you will be teaching a valuable lesson in staying calm rather than letting their emotions get the better of them.
Building children’s resilience and confidence is a basic parenting task. It always has been and always will be. Some kids need more of a focus on resilience and confidence-building than others. Best to take your cues from your kids and look for strategies that stretch them rather than restrict them or keep them dependent on you.