Santa Claus brings us presents. The Tooth Fairy assures that we floss. The Easter Bunny offers baskets of candy. And, perhaps, that’s why we believe in them. Yet, despite all this wonderful stuff (especially you, Cadbury Crème Eggs), the most important thing we can believe in is ourselves. Yep, confidence is one of the greatest gifts we can have and one of the greatest gifts we can pass on to our children.
So, how to raise a confident child? Start with the following:
1. Let them learn from you
One of the truths of parenthood is also the simplest: kids learn from watching mom and dad. So, have a go at your own self-esteem. If you’re nervous for a big meeting at work, name this anxiety but don’t focus on it. Move forward with gusto and poise. If you believe in yourself, your kids will learn to believe too.
2. Give them the freedom to fail
No parent wants their child to strike out with the bases loaded or score a goal for the other team in a heated soccer game. But a life without failure is a life without learning (it’s a life that’s entirely unrealistic, too). Let your kids fail and, importantly, let them see that failure isn’t forever.
3. Focus on perseverance
If everyone threw in the towel every time they failed, the world would be covered in terry cloth. A major part of cultivating confidence is teaching kids to keep on keeping on. No one succeeds at everything they do, no matter how often they pretend like it on social media.
4. Move them outside their comfort zone
It’s easy for kids (and adults for that matter) to find confidence when they’re doing things they know they’re good at. But moving children outside their comfort zone allows them to explore new experiences, which shows them that they can tackle other activities that come their way. It helps them gain new interests and uncover hidden talents, too.
5. Get interested in their interests (both the new and old)
Let’s be honest, part of parenthood is feigning interest in all sorts of things from snakes to cartoons, from bugs to dolls, from stuffed animals to a cool scab on a skinned knee. But there’s a reason we show interest: our attention fosters a child’s passion which helps them find their talents, recognize their self-worth, and make friends. Don’t shy away if your kiddo wants to do something a little off the wall, either. If everyone in their class is playing the saxophone and they want to play the bassoon, let them. You never know where someone will find their calling.
6. Set achievable goals
It’s always good to dream big but setting goals that are entirely out of reach ultimately leave a child discouraged. Instead, set goals that are reasonable (or, at least set achievable benchmarks for goals that are lofty). If your son wants to get drafted by the NBA by the time he’s 13, aim a little smaller; teach him to work to nail his jump shot first.
7. Make effort excellent
In many ways, effort is more important than achievement and it should be awarded accordingly. Celebrating the fact your child tried encourages them to try, try again. And trying again and again helps turn their attempts into accomplishments.
8. Get specific
Parents utter the term “good job” so often that it becomes our mantra. Child drew a picture? Good job! Child cleaned their room? Good job! Child refrained from picking their nose during that lengthy church sermon? Good job! While it’s great to compliment your child, they grow immune to the same type of praise. So, pay attention to details and find specific things about their efforts or achievements to laud (such as “I love how you drew that dog’s nose!”). You should also refrain from praising things that aren’t really praise-worthy. If your child cleaned their room, as mentioned above, thank them instead of giving them a standing ovation. After all, cleaning their room is their responsibility.
9. Refrain from rescuing
Moms and dads may as well walk around with whistles and flotation devices – they’re always ready to jump into the proverbial deep end and save their child from danger. But intervening all the time doesn’t help a child in the long run. In other words, don’t be a helicopter parent; you might cut someone with your rotors. Protecting your child protects them from getting hurt, which is what you want. Yet at the same time, it prevents them from learning that getting hurt is part of life – everyone has things that make them feel sad or inferior. If kids don’t have obstacles, then they never learn to overcome those obstacles.
10. Decide on them deciding
We don’t want our kids to make all our decisions; if they did, we’d eat mac ‘n cheese for breakfast, lunch, and dinner until they left for college. But kids love to be in control (almost as much as they like “cheese” that comes in a packet). Give your kid freedom to make certain choices, while maintaining the power of the veto. Giving them control to choose what they wear or what type of juice they have with lunch shows them their potential.
11. Be positive
Disappointment is a real Debbie Downer, sure to turn a room melancholy as soon as it enters. While it’s only natural to feel sad when things don’t go your way, teach your child to see the silver linings in life’s disappointments. Then come up with a plan to do better next time. If your daughter isn’t doing as well at soccer as she wants, for instance, create a routine where you practice, together.
12. Problem solve
Sure, you want to solve your kid’s problems; it’s only natural to want this as a mom or dad. But if you fix everything that comes your kiddo’s way, they can’t learn to help themselves. Children are imaginative, resourceful, and inventive. If you give them space to find solutions, they just might blow your mind. Try it next time your kiddo is stymied – if your son complains about not making the basketball team, ask him how he thinks he can find a remedy.
13. Help others
Children love to be helpful (at least when they’re young (the teenager with chores is a different story entirely)). They like to set the table, pass out juice, and feed the dog. Allowing your child to assist you (or even do things themselves) empowers them to see that their actions matter. When they realize that they can make a difference, something magical happens: they want to make one.
14. Can the comparing
It’s perfectly normal to compare your child to other kids, especially your annoying cousin Marcie who won’t stop talking about her son’s fencing accomplishments on Facebook. But this is a practice in futility (not to mention frustration). Instead of comparing and contrasting, appreciate your child’s individual awesomeness.
15. Ban the sarcasm
Sarcasm can hurt a child’s feeling (duh!). They often don’t have the capacity to understand that you’re joking and so it lands as mean. As hard as it may be, put the irony on ice and ban the sarcasm. Along these lines, don’t ever call your child any names or belittle them. Even if you don’t agree with their actions, make sure your kiddo still knows that you always have their back.
16. Love them unconditionally
You’re a parent so you already love your child unconditionally. Now, make sure they know that! Hammer home that you don’t only love the great things they do; you love them too. And, when they fail a test or crash their bike into the mailbox, make sure you remind them that you love them anyway.
Raising a confident kid requires you to choose your words and actions carefully (or, sometimes, choose inaction instead). It’s not something that requires perfection so if you screw up from time to time, don’t worry. Just do what you want your kid to do and have the confidence to keep on going.