I once had a discussion with the CEO of a company that I interned with about how I didn't have any confidence. He wasn't sure what to tell me other than that he thought I wouldn't get anywhere in life. He didn't have any advice except that he had gained his confidence as a child from his parents. Since then, I have always had a goal that I would raise a child with confidence, even if I'm still searching for what that really means.
Raising a confident, well-behaved child is something that my husband Kevin and I talked about long before we had our son Henry. Right now, Henry is very happy and not afraid to do or try anything. We love it, and we don't ever want him to stop learning, growing and believing that he can reach his dreams. If there was some way to bottle up his happiness right now, I would. But the reality is that isn't possible, and so I have gathered up my thoughts based on our discussions. I really hope they will help you and us raise a more confident child.
1. Believe that they can and will.
I see this more often than not. Parents don't let their children at least try.
This may be the downfall of most parents, and I am even guilty of this sometimes. For example, I take my son Henry to a weekly gym class. There, they have the kids climb, crawl and walk over all sorts of different things. I'm often there at the other side watching him experiment. Once, I found myself being impatient to let Henry climb a slanted walkway by himself. It was much easier to lift him to the top and let him crawl around from there, skipping the climbing part. The teacher quickly stopped me and said that he could do it, that Henry needed to build his muscles. Sure enough, with the teacher being patient and with a little bit of bribery (a ball at the top), he climbed up the walkway all by himself.
I didn't think he could do that and wouldn't have waited, nor would I have thought of having a ball waiting at the top for him to play with. I would have just wanted to move on because it was convenient for me.
In life, we are sometimes too quick to solve the problem for our children when they face a challenge because we think they can't handle it, when they actually can. They don't reach their goal or, more importantly, their dream because we as parents, who should be their heroes, do not think it is best for them. They look to us for the approval of yes, you got this. You can.
2. Time in, not time out.
This is incredibly hard to do when your child has just thrown the temper tantrum of the century. They have been screaming and acting out for one reason or another. But the truth is when most children act out, they are begging for your attention. They are secretly saying, "I'm drowning and I need you to help pull me out." Children face challenges and trials too. They have friends that we don't choose for them who may say unkind words. We can't protect them from everything. Instead we can be there to help them through it. The best way is to take a deep breath, hug them and try to ask what's really the matter. Sometimes a child may even act out or make a mess of everything because they're bored. It could be simple or big. Be there either way.
"Time ins" of course, vary from child to child but as their parent, you know how to best communicate to your child.
3. Believe in their dream, not yours.
We see in movies and read in books about parents who their dream onto their children. They want their child to grow up to the football star, the doctor, the lawyer, but not what their child wants.
More often than not, there are fights between mother and daughter at the time of the daughter's wedding. This is because the mother wants the daughter to have her dream wedding when technically, it should have nothing to do with the mother, except her love and support.
To have your child be confident in what they're doing, believe in their dream. Find who has been successful in their dream and what they did to get there. It will help you understand how to guide your child along. They can then count on you as they grow older when it's time to make really important decisions in their life and career.
4. Don't just tell them, show them.
Classic parenting advice. Too many parents today yell, "Clean your room!" and then get upset when it's not done or not done correctly. Don't just yell. Show your child how it is done. Explain every little detail on how you would like their room to be clean. The less you yell and the more calm things are, they will be more likely to learn and then want to be willing to help. Make it something you can do together. The key is to also praise their efforts and they will want to help in whatever you're doing.
I grew up in the era of "Shut up! I'm watching Oprah!"
The T.V. became more important than me. You could even say the T.V. became my enemy, maybe that's even the reason why I haven't made it a priority to own one. It doesn't matter what's pulling you away from your kids, whether it's a show, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, an app on your phone, or a book, when your child says, "Mom/Dad, I want to tell you something," off it goes.
Be happy they want to talk, because there may come a time when they don't want to talk to you anymore. It's important to gain their trust now. Right now. Yes, it may be something little but it's little things that can turn into big things.
Listening to your child will make them feel that they are an important priority in your life, that they matter.
6. Never compare your child to another.
Simply because they will never be that child you compare them to. Different personalities, different circumstances, different outcomes. Don't handicap your child because you want them to be like someone else's child. They are their own unique person and you have the privilege of seeing them flourish into something great, like no else. Everyone has challenges and you don't know the story about the other child. You don't what happens behinds closed doors. That child that you compare yours to may excel in one thing and fail in another. You don't know what their parents went through to get them there. Instead, focus on being a better parent to your child so your child has the room to improve. When we don't see our child in the right light, what it really translates to is that you are disappointed in yourself not your child.
7. Never embarrass your child in public.
This also means don't gossip about your child. It's easy in a group of friends to start talking negatively about how your child acted out, is doing poorly in school, broke that in your house. Saying things negatively even when your child isn't around, won't help the situation. It shows that you think negatively about your child. Your friends will treat your child differently at playgroups and anytime they see them. Your friends will remember the negative thing you said and even have other conversations with other friends about it. Don't start a wildfire.
Never, EVER yell at your child in public (unless they are about to jump off a bridge). People will watch. It will break your child's heart. It will make your child feel so embarrassed. There will be tears of shame. It will be remembered. Leave disciplining for times at home when things have most likely calmed down.
8. Never blame your child for your mistakes.
It is not your child's fault that you didn't travel/go to college/save up more/build up your career/plan and other millions of things that you could have/should have done before they were born. Don't take it out them. They are not an "accident." Don't let your child be called the "accident" child. There's nothing worse than letting a child know that you didn't want them. Don't ever say that your life would be better without them. Your life is blessed because of your child.
Tell your child that they are your miracle, because they are.
9. Give praise.
This goes without saying. Praise goes a long way. But use it wisely and only say it when you truly mean it. Your child will remember when they did a great job. They will remember when you told them that you are proud of what they accomplished. Don't ever go too long without telling them.
Giving praise will not only improve confidence, it will help your child want to succeed in anything and everything they do. It will teach them that they can't do a job halfway. They'll learn that they need to work hard and that it feels good to a job well done.
10. Always, always, ALWAYS love them.
No matter the circumstance, rich or poor, you have the ability to ALWAYS give and choose love. Don't ever hide it, and show it every single day. Always remind them, and that love will always reciprocate back to you. Love does great things, and it will always help and never hurt. Love will make your home a haven filled with laughter and joy, a place that your child will always want to be.
There is nothing greater that will bring your child confidence as letting them know that they are loved.