Steps 1-6…helping your child develop self-confidence
Self-confidence is more than just a warm and fuzzy term. Studies show that people who have high self-esteem and confidence are more successful in school, get along better with friends, are less influenced by peer pressure, and better handle the difficulties of life. There is no quick fix for confidence. It is built slowly; it starts with a good foundation during infancy, and with ongoing care throughout a child’s life. Hopefully when a child becomes a teen, they have developed enough confidence to stand for the values you instill, and not bend with peer pressure. As an adult, a confident person will be very successful. Starting now, with positive parenting, your child will develop a healthy self-esteem and the confidence they will need in life.
1. Establish trust
- The development of a healthy self-esteem and self-confidence starts at birth. The infant/parent bonding process is so important. How well a parent responds to a child’s needs is what builds a secure attachment and trust in Mom, Dad and the world. Feeding, holding, cuddling gives a child basic trust in the world that helps him feel confident later in life. You cannot spoil an infant!
- As your child gets older, it is important to spend quality time. There should be time spent that is simply fun. With several children, there must be one on one time with each of the children in the family. This does not have to be large amounts of time and expensive outings. This can be as simple as a few minutes each day at bedtime. Your child needs to feel that you like being with him…
- You must accept your child. Every child is different. Some children will be the life of every party or have many friends, other children are more introverted or cautious. This world is a better place because we have many types of personalities. If your child only has a couple of friends, this does not mean that he or she is not confident. This may be just their personality or temperament. Do not compare your children if you have more than one, and do not compare your child to your own personality. Your child must trust that you accept him or her for who they are.
2. Be consistent
- Consistency helps a child feel secure which helps a child concentrate on discovering the world. By simply comforting your baby every time he or she cries and saying goodbye every time you leave your toddler and preschooler you will eventually let your child know that he can trust you. As your child grows, you must continue to parent consistently. There must be consistent rules in the home and consistent consequences. A child feels more secure if there is predictability in the home. Discipline does not break a child’s self-confidence; it helps a child build it. Consistency allows your child to be comfortable enough in his life to embrace challenges.
3. Be a mirror…reflect who your child is back to him.
- Children see themselves through the eyes of others. Parents start this by mirroring a child. When an infant smiles, you smile back. When an infant coos, you coo back. When a toddler draws a picture, you describe it back to him. This shows the child that he is valuable just being himself. Continually telling your child that he or she is great or is nice is positive but not as helpful as mirroring. A parent needs to be more specific. Example: “You have built a great tower using all the square blocks!” “You sat so quietly in church today, I am so proud of you!” This is not empty praise, but constructive praise.
- Praise should be for the process, not necessarily the end result. Some children may fear losing their parent’s love or pride if they don’t hit a home run or get an “A” on a paper, even if their effort has been there. It is not the home run or the “A” but if your child has given their best that deserves the praise. When a parent speaks to effort, anyone can be encouraged. Emphasizing effort and improvement, results in a child who believes that giving his or her best is success. If children give their best, most likely, confidence and success will follow.
4. Teach your child self-love
- Pure and simple, self-love is the basis of self-confidence. Children who are loved and love themselves take more risks, try new things, initiate relationships, and develop confidence. Giving your child lots of hugs, kisses and time alone is a good start for this. You also need to celebrate your child’s accomplishments with specifics. Think before you speak. Even small children are sensitive to your emotions, positive or negative. Concentrate on the behavior. Dealing with a bad behavior by screaming at the child will not make the behavior any better but can erode self-confidence. Take a 10-second time out and then speak.
- Help your child see his strengths. Point out the “specialness” of your child. Do not allow yourself or your child to compare himself or herself to others. Discourage friendships that erode your child’s self-esteem. Do not allow siblings to build themselves up at the expense of their sister or brother. Use the dinner table to focus on successes of your child, and the talents that he or she has. This is a great dinner conversation!
5. Encourage competence
- There is nothing more exciting and gratifying than accepting and meeting a challenge. How great it is after weeks of stumbling and falling when your baby finally walks. There is such a look of pride even in a 15 month old’s eyes as he or she toddles across the floor. There is such excitement the first time a child truly connects a printed word in a book and “reads” it. These accomplishments teach a child that he or she is capable and will result in him or her tackling new challenges rather than backing away. Encourage challenges. Even when a child fails, the fact the challenge was embraced will foster confidence. Encourage challenges that are both in your child’s comfort zone and out. When children succeed in areas that are in their comfort zone, it gives them confidence to try challenges outside of their comfort zone.
6. Foster interests
- It is important that a child have opportunities to explore many areas of possible interest. A parent should honor their child’s interests rather than their own or those they think their child should have. Having the opportunity to discover what a child is good at and having the resources to develop that talent is the basis for self-esteem. In whatever your child is interested in, do not overemphasize perfection. Emphasize the joy of working toward a goal.
- Do not “pigeon hole” your child. Children should be able to experience many things! A child that has tried only one sport, or dance, or musical instrument may miss what his or her true passion is! A person who has passion is confident! Let your child find his or niche!
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.