Let’s face it–parenting can be a pretty tough job sometimes. It’s so much more than just getting dinner on the table, changing diapers, helping out with homework, and providing a place to sleep. In fact, that’s the easy part. The tough part is making sure our kids grow up learning everything they need to know to not just survive in life, but to thrive.
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The older I get, the more I see that SO many hurdles for women in life come from a lack of self-worth, low confidence, and a shaky sense of identity. The same can also be said for boys, although it may manifest itself in different ways. For both genders, low confidence means going along with the crowd, rebelling, and making decisions based on what others want, rather than setting their sights on positive accomplishments and goals.
And that is why it is so important to raise confident kids, even from an young age.
Granted, it is no easy feat, but here are a few things I’ve learned so far.
1. Praise Accomplishments, Not Abilities
Rather than always saying, “You’re so smart,” or, “You’re so pretty,” instead, try praising the accomplishment. For example, “I’m so proud of you for studying so hard and sticking it out so you could get 100% on your spelling test!”
When we praise abilities, it sends the message that our children are born with certain traits (pretty, smart, athletic, etc.) and we only like them because of these particular inherit traits. Most things, however, can be accomplished with determination, hard work and practice. Praising the accomplishment (and acknowledging the work it took to get there) sends the message that it was their perseverance and practice that got them to their goal. Confidence comes from setting and achieving goals.
2. Allow for Learning Experiences
This can be a tough one. (I know it is for me!) It can be hard to suppress the urge to swoop in and correct, fix or otherwise advise your child on a project or task. It’s TOTALLY OKAY if everything isn’t perfect. It’s okay if your kid falls down once in a while as they’re learning to ride a bike. It’s okay if they don’t get a perfect score on every project or test. It’s okay to cringe when they do something a little irresponsible.
Help your child come up with a vision and plan for their project and then let them carry it out. Of course, it might not be how you would do it, but allowing your kids to experience bumps in the road and problem-solve teaches them grit. It gives them the ability to cope with life’s uncertainties and it helps them feel confident and proud when they come up with solutions on their own.
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Let Your Child Hurt
For a mother, nothing is more heartbreaking than to see your child hurt, physically or emotionally. In fact, the emotional stuff can sometimes be even more gut-wrenching. If your child is disappointed, sad, or if they feel bad about something, allow them to feel it. Don’t jump in and try to fix everything.
This is really tough. Mothers are natural rescuers and “fixers.” We want to help, always. Instead, let your child experience disappointment and allow them to work through their emotions. This will help them to learn it’s okay to be emotional and it’s okay to feel disappointment. Give you child the chance to come up with a solution to avoid experiencing similar issues down the road.
4. Encourage Perseverance
When something doesn’t go well, it’s easy to throw in the towel. A few months ago, I saw a video on Facebook of a gymnast repeatedly falling down. She went through attempt after attempt to nail her landing. The lesson from the video was: we always see the final victory, but in reality, most of the time, it took years of practice and failed attempts.
Just like many adults, kids look at those around them and think everyone else is able to do things easily. Encourage your children to practice and keep trying. Don’t give up on a first attempt just because it’s hard or challenging. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
5. Don’t Refine or Redo Your Kid’s Work
When your child messes up a chore or task, resist the urge to go behind them and redo it. So they leave streaks on the bathroom mirror or miss a spot when they’re cleaning the counter. Instead of redoing tasks to be up-to-standard, praise your child for their efforts and let it go.
I know, it’s not easy to let your child walk out of the house with a wonky hairstyle or mismatched clothes, but you know what? No one notices or is judging you, and even more importantly, kids learn independence and the ability to complete tasks on their own.
6. Set Them Up for Success
Doing any job is easier when our kids have the right tools and directions. It’s also important they keep their goals realistic and “baby step” toward the ultimate or larger goal. Help your child learn to prepare with the right tools for the job and clear instructions. Don’t leave room for temptations and distractions.
If your child struggles with concentration or focus, provide them with a quiet spot and ample time on the schedule to complete their task. If your child is easily frustrated, help them break down a task into smaller pieces. If you have a kid who isn’t athletic, give them an opportunity to work up to the big game, practice with them, and ensure they have the equipment they need to be successful.
7. Don’t Set the Bar Too High
If you walked out your front door today, chances are good that you couldn’t complete a marathon (unless you’re a regular runner). Your child is the same way. Kids don’t operate on the same ability and logic level as adults. I find I’m just as guilty as anyone of becoming frustrated when my kids can’t figure something out or use logic to solve a problem.
Of course I want my kids to get straight A’s and be great at everything they do. Sometimes though, you have to realize that they’re young and simply learning. Doing hard things means you won’t be great at everything right off the bat. You have to break things down into smaller, teachable moments and goals. Give your kids the chance to feel small successes and victories along the way. This gives allows them to feel a true sense of accomplishment when their task is successfully completed, even if they don’t bite off the whole project at once. You might feel like you’re starting small, but that’s part of the learning process. It’s okay if they miss a few answers on the test or if they don’t get a perfect score.
8. Learn from Mistakes
Each mistake is a learning opportunity. It’s easy to look at a mistake or misstep as a failure, but it’s much better to look at it as a chance to learn something new and grow. Our kids need grace, and they also need to know it is okay to make mistakes sometimes, that everyone makes mistakes, and that the most important thing we can do is learn from them and move on.
It’s hard to treat mistakes as opportunities to learn and grow. It’s much easier to blow up, get frustrated and throw a fit. Kids and parents both can struggle with this. Admitting you might be wrong is a very humbling experience—and you won’t believe what you might learn by doing it.
9. Model Positive Self-Confidence
If you want confident kids, you have to be a confident adult. How often do your kids hear you say, “Ugh, I’m so bad at this,” or, “I look so fat in these pants,” or “I’m such an idiot”?
Ban negative statements from your vocabulary. Kids model behavior whether or not we realize what they’re doing. They might not directly repeat your self-doubt and criticism, but they’ll learn it’s “normal” to tear themselves down. If, instead, you step back and say, “Well, I’m going to have to keep trying,” or, “I’d better get in some more practice,” your child will learn to follow your example of picking yourself up by the bootstraps and getting back on the horse. Kids learn by example. Be sure you’re setting the best one possible.
10. Teach Rather than Critique
One of our biggest parenting challenges is how to teach rather than simply critique. Teaching means coaching and encouraging. It means asking questions and giving kids a chance to use logic to solve a problem, plan, schedule and carry out a goal. To critique simply means to review the final outcome.
No parent is perfect, and I know I’m far from it, but raising confident kids means helping him or her discover, learn and grow from each experience. Whether you’re a homeschool teacher, a stay-at-home mom or dad, or a full-time working parent, you’re still a teacher. All parents are. Use this gift to help your kids grow and develop into their fullest potential.
Confidence isn’t something we’re naturally born with. It’s something we grow into. It’s a lifelong challenge and almost all humans struggle with it at some point. Often, those who come off as confident or arrogant are actually insecure. Quiet confidence is subtle. It means you have faith in your own abilities and a strong sense of self-identity.
When you stumble on the path as a parent, remember to have faith and don’t be afraid to request guidance and help. Parenting can be challenging, but hold fast to your confidence—you can rise to the occasion!