Yesterday, I asked the Whinypaluza Mom Group on Facebook, “What is the hardest part of parenting in the current stage that you are in?” First, thank you to all the moms for being for being vulnerable and willing to contribute to this question. The answers were really insightful and helpful. A couple of the moms asked about building confidence in their children and that really resonated with me.
I am the oldest child, so I didn’t know what it was like to be the youngest child. I have three children. Max is 17 years old, Ella is a month away from turning 15 years old and Lillie is 11 years old. Max and Ella are what I would call overachievers. Max’s teachers don’t understand why he would be upset by a 96. When you expect yourself to get 100 on everything, a 96 is low for you. That gives you a little insight as to what Lillie’s older siblings are like. Ella just got a 98 on her math midterm (a normal achievement for her), and both Max and Ella have a list of things that they are involved in. Lillie has quite the act to follow and that could mess with anyone’s head. Especially when she compares herself to her siblings. Lillie has given me a lot of understanding about what it is like to be the youngest child.
We all want our children to have confidence. How am I working on building Lillie’s confidence and how can this help you:
- Giving a lot of praise and being strength focused. Give them positive feedback for a lot of different things like: You notice them helping someone. You see how hard they studied for their test. I praise Lillie for her effort and hard work regardless of what grade she receives. We want them to learn that it’s about hard work and perseverance and not just about the outcome. I give her specific examples so that there is proof for my praise.
- Allow your child to be independent and do things on their own. Lillie’s phrase in our house that she uses often is, “I’ll do it all by myself.” She doesn’t want help. She wants to do it herself and she wants to prove that she can do it by herself. This builds her confidence.
- Give them unconditional love and support. I tell them often that I love them for who they are not what they do. Max will make comments that I love him for his success and achievements, and it makes me so sad that he would even joke about that. I love him for a list of things and his achievements are not one of them. I am proud of him for his achievements but that isn’t why I love him.
- Be a good role model. They are always watching us. If we tear ourselves down, then they see it and they hear it. Show them how to be confident through your own actions and attitude about yourself.
- Let your child explore new things. This helps our kids to find what their passions and talents are. Lillie likes to find things that are just for her that her siblings aren’t involved in.
- Teach them that comparison is the thief of joy. I notice that Lillie gets down on herself when she is comparing herself to her siblings and friends. We are teaching Lillie not to compare and to focus on herself. We tell her to focus on being the best Lillie and working on improving herself independent of what others are doing.
- Giving our kids constructive feedback criticism. Constructive feedback aims to help our children to improve by offering specific, solution-oriented advice in a supportive manner. Criticism often points out flaws or shortcomings without providing clear guidance and can be delivered with a negative or judgmental tone. Let us all be more constructive and less critical.
- Let them solve their own problems. I will often listen and ask some questions to help my kids come up with their own solutions. If we help them solve their own problems, then they build up their confidence.
- We promote resilience and a growth mindset. This means that when we fall down, we get back up and try again. This means that when we fail, we try again and never give up. Failures are an opportunity for learning and growing.
- Create a lot of support around them. We want our children to be surrounded by family, friends, teachers, coaches, etc. who lift them up, believe in them and encourage them. Our children love getting praise from us but how wonderful for them to get positive feedback from others outside of the family.
- Maintain open communication with your children. Make sure that they know that they can come to talk to you about anything and everything. Try to let them express themselves without reactions and judgement. Try to be calm and cool in your communication with them. Especially when they are upset.
- Celebrate! Celebrate their achievements. Acknowledge your child’s achievements.
- Point out unique qualities that you notice that may make them feel special. Lillie is really good at organizing and decorating our house and her bedroom and that is very different from her siblings. This makes her feel special and builds her confidence.
Building self confidence in our children doesn’t happen overnight. It is an ongoing process throughout our children’s lives that takes patience, consistency and understanding. Every child is so unique, and we want them to learn to embrace their own individuality. Every child has their own strengths and needs. As you provide and build a supportive and nurturing environment, your children’s self confidence will continue to increase. Remember to never give up on your children just like you never want them to give up. I hope that this will help you to build your children’s self confidence.
Laughing, Learning, Loving,
Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R
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