Is it ever too early to instil confidence in our kids?
How encouraging more honest discussion, supporting successes & failures and checking our own actions can help your kid's confidence
It’s been a strange and challenging year for everyone, but perhaps more so for kids who don’t really understand the full picture of what’s going on. Their whole schedule has changed again and again and they have certainly missed out on a lot of socialisation and good times. So much time away from what was their normal may also have had an effect on the way they are now interacting and their confidence levels.
Those of you reading this who have younger children may be feeling that helping to encourage and teach your kids to be more confident is not needed yet, is another unwelcome parental task to add to the long list or just that it’s not your way of parenting. I totally understand the objections, but imagine they come from a place of not wanting to put pressure on yourself as a parent or put undue pressure on your child.
It’s widely accepted that the first seven or so years of a child’s life are those that form their main personality traits, which stay with them during their whole life. There are many and varied facts and discussions around how personality is formed but simply considering the nature / nurture argument means parents have a huge influence on their child’s personality both directly and indirectly.
Most parents would like to think that they actively teach their kids to be ‘good’ – polite, respectful, generous, grateful, helpful, etc., as this is what society expects and needs of us. And the kids’ personalities are what they are - shy, extrovert, friendly, pensive, nervous, the list goes on. And of course, it’s obvious sometimes that ‘he’s just like his mother / father’, recognising traits that resemble personalities of those close to the child.
Encourage confidence even if they're not always winning
So, whatever their character, how can we help with their confidence when they are at a young age? Well, it’s much the same as helping an adult who lacks confidence, but by instilling less fear and more confidence at a younger age means it is something they will take through their growth years into adulthood and beyond. Equally, it’s never too late to help your child, of whatever age, with their confidence.
And confidence should not be seen as a negative. Don’t get me wrong, whilst writing this I can imagine many of you are thinking that you don’t want some cocky, arrogant child who is always going to challenge you and push your buttons on a daily basis! Rather, I am alluding to a sense of self-belief and self-worth in a child that will allow them to lead a more balanced, calmer and happier life. There is always a fine line between confidence and arrogance and it’s important that the examples and lessons we demonstrate and teach our kids ensure a confidence that is also humble, respectful and kind.
Confidence is about feeling sure of yourself and your abilities; it’s a feeling of trust in yourself and a sense of certainty; it is also a belief that we will act in the right way. Some kids are naturally confident, but it’s teaching them to be confident even if they fail, fall short or mess up - that’s where true confidence lies. It’s easy to feel confident about things we know we are good at; a kid that is excellent at sports will naturally be confident when they have a games lesson, as would a naturally arty child welcome the more creative lessons at school.
But what about when children are faced with things they are not so good at, dread a little bit or have failed at previously; where’s the confidence then? Sometimes building their confidence is simply about getting them to face their fear in a way that doesn’t seem daunting or scary. As with adults, remembering successful episodes in the past where something we weren’t good at, or dreaded, wasn’t so bad after all, is sometimes all we need. Reminding children that the final outcome isn’t always the most important thing and that just challenging oneself is enough, can give kids the boost they need to go on to face some of the things they may naturally fear.
That’s not to say I condone the ‘give both winners and losers a prize so no one feels bad’ method of parenting; I don’t. I feel that learning to lose sometimes is as much of a confidence lesson as winning. We don’t always win in life, that’s a fact, but it’s how we as parents deal with kids’ performances that will mould their self-worth and self-belief.
More open & honest conversation helps their confidence
Openly and honestly talking through episodes that may be weighing heavily on a child’s confidence, explaining and getting them to see other points of view is a good place to start. Conversation is key; making time for valuable chats is a must in family life. Many kids’ view of the world is very black and white and it’s our job (without making it another job!) to show that there is a myriad of ways of doing things and an equal number of ways of assessing success or failure and learning from both.
So here are some tips to try and help your kids feel more confident:
Encourage discussion always – sometimes just talking things through can help them feel better, or talking to the right person
Challenge negative feelings – understand what’s upsetting them / making them angry and see if there are ways of making the situation more positive / less daunting
Focus on the positives, try not to criticise - congratulate when merited and try and be glass half full when things aren’t so great and avoid being critical or self-critical in front of them
Set some goals and keep them – get kids to experiment and explore new things and try and keep commitment levels up to show they can see things through to the end
Model confidence; don’t tell them you are worried too – don’t let them pick up on your doubt / fear / worry, it will stress them even more
Mistakes are ok, they are building blocks – we don’t always win but there are always lessons to be learnt
Praise effort & perseverance – build their self-worth by acknowledging they gave it a go / tried something new / didn’t back out / got there in the end.
You may look at that list and understandably think it’s easier said than done, but kids pick up on our moods, actions and reactions, so it’s important to have a positive and confident mindset if we are to expect that from our kids. Imagining how we would like our kids to be healthily confident may well get us to start questioning how confident we really feel as a parent and adult. And if your child is not naturally confident, ask yourself if there are small steps or changes you as a parent could make to help.
Every day is a learning day for a child (and for adults), whether reading books, playing games or communicating with other kids or adults. Responses and reactions help to mould them and it’s important that we take a second to try and do the best we can in the situations that present themselves. Make no mistake, there will be times when parents are frankly too bloody tired or exasperated to want or be able to take a second, but hopefully the above is food for thought. The golden nugget here is that confidence CAN be learnt; we can help our kids to look at things in different ways, be less fearful, be encouraged to question more, be open to new experiences in a bid to increase their self-belief and make them feel more worthy, and, in turn, lead a more confident life that brings as much happiness as possible.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, but if you would prefer a private chat about what I do and how I could help, do get in touch.
All images sourced from unsplash.