“Confidence is preparation. Everything else is beyond your control.” – Richard Kline
All parents want their children to grow up confident and self-assured. Having self-confidence and high self-esteem allows them to stay positive and weather life’s ups and downs. However, we are not born with confidence, nor can it be taught as an academic subject. Rather, it is gained and accumulated through experiences. We do not need to send children to expensive confidence building camps or workshops. Instead, as parents, we have the opportunity to help them foster the belief in themselves, starting from the early years.
Here are some tips that I found useful when encouraging C:
1. Start with a loving environment
Let the child know that she is loved unconditionally, and that she is important to you. Emotional security is the basis of a sense of self-worth.
I start and end each day with hugs and kisses, and plenty in between 🙂
2. Give praise and recognition
Giving recognition for good work done spurs the child to repeat her success. When they perform the task more often, they will get better at it and confidence will grow. Remember to praise for effort too! Don’t overdo it though – it undermines the value of the praise.
I praised C one day for her effort to speak in mandarin (she finds difficulty communicating in the language). I was pleasantly surprised the next day when she brought me her Chinese reader and attempted to read it by herself. Needless to say, I heaped praises on her for her effort. The more she practised, the more confident she got. It’s no longer such a struggle when we converse in mandarin.
3. Set realistic goals and celebrate small successes
Set attainable goals or breakdown tasks into manageable portions. When the children were babies, we documented and celebrated each small milestone – first flip, first word, first step. Along the way, as our children grew up, the frequency of such celebrations diminished, accomplishments taken for granted. Cheering them each step along the learning journey increases their willingness to try seemingly difficult tasks.
When C started playing the violin, it was a challenge to get her to practise. Expecting her to practise for half an hour was impossible, so we started with 5 minutes sessions and a specific objective, like holding the violin correctly. It lessened the frustrations considerably, and she was happy to be able to be able to accomplish the tasks one by one.
4. Letting them make mistakes
More often than not, we tend to be overprotective, shielding our child from possible setbacks and removing all obstacles. Self-confidence means being able to accept failure and being able to try again. Show her the way, let her try, encourage her when she stumbles, but never do it for them.
C had requested for roller-skates for her 5th birthday. Understandably we were hesitant about getting her something that might possibly result in broken limbs. Finally, after much consideration we relented and got her a pair. After a discussion on the importance of protective gear, and guiding her on the correct way to get up and move, we watched as she practised (and fell, countless times!). It was hard to watch, but she was determined to do it herself. When she finally skated up to me, saying “See, mummy, I did it all by myself!”, the look of confidence in her eyes was priceless.
5. Respect them
Paying attention to your child when she talks tells her that she matters. Take an interest in whatever she has to say.
I make sure that I spend some time everyday asking C about her school and friends. When we talk, I try to remove distractions (phone, tv) so that I can concentrate on what she is saying.
6. Avoid comparison, remind them of their strengths
Even without adults making comparisons, children are watching each other. Constantly remind your child of her strengths.
C came back after her school sports day, despondent that her team didn’t win the obstacle race. In her words, she was smaller and slower than the rest of the class. I had to remind her that she did a good job climbing over the obstacles, and that she was brave to be able to overcome her fear and jump down from a considerable height. I then reminded her that the objective of the sports day was to have fun (it helped that everyone walked away with prizes).
7. Be a role model
Display the qualities that you want your child to possess. Walk the talk.
Being music illiterate, I learnt how to play the piano while sitting in with C during her piano classes. I made sure that I practiced as hard as her, and she saw me making mistakes and trying again and again.
8. Be mindful of your words
This is one of the most important tips of all. Positive language, used often, builds self-confidence gradually, but criticism can shatter it instantly.
I’m guilty of using words that I’ve regretted in the heat of the moment, when my patience was worn thin. I’ve learnt to walk away, and speak only after I’ve cooled down considerably.
At the end of the day, we all hope that our children will have the confidence to stay true to themselves. I love this quote by Dr Seuss:
As with the other aspects of parenting, it is never an easy task, and I’m still learning along the way. I would love to hear your experiences on boosting your child’s confidence. Do leave a comment to share your views 🙂