More about Confident Children
So how do we nurture our children to become confident without turning them into spoilt brats? Most kids will copy their parents, so actions speak louder than words. What will happen if you constantly shout at or disrespect your partner and other people? Your child be disrespectful to other people.
Be careful not to criticise your child too often. Studies show that over 90% of what a child hears before their 5th birthday is negative. Think about that statistic.
We criticise our kids without meaning to hurt them or attack them. Saying things like “you are so messy – your toys are everywhere!”, or “your writing is so untidy”. Or “why can’t you behave like so-and-so down the street”.
As parents, most of us are not intentionally hurting our children. But what if all you hear is “don’t do that” or “you are untidy, lazy, irresponsible, not as good as sister/brother etc”? Then as a child you are either going to do one to two things.
- Believe that they are always bad no matter what, so might as well act up even more. So becomes more rebellious, aggressive and very hard to manage.
- Or they believe that they are worthless so gives up trying. And becomes withdrawn, lacking in confidence and suffering poor self esteem.
Be careful to listen to your child and pay attention to what they are telling you. It is often not what you think you hear. Suppose your child comes home from school telling you that everyone else in the class is much better/smarter than them. The worst thing you can do is tell them they are being silly and do better at school.
You have undermined their confidence and belief in them self. They trusted you with their feelings and you have dismissed them. Instead, try and sit down with your child and ask them why they think that way. In language which they will understand but not find patronising. Then try and explain that some people are better than others in certain way. But they are not as good as your child in something else. (Try to ensure that the 'something else' is your child is good in).
Never tell your child to grow up or stop behaving like a baby. Children sometimes struggle with their emotions like adults do. They can feel overwhelmed by life and this can be illustrated by a “babyish” reaction. Again try talking to them and finding out what is making them feel that way. It is only by talking and listening to your child, that you can help them. They will trust you and become more confident in their own abilities to solve their own problems.
If they are behaving like a baby (and are not still in nappies) then find out why. They may be tired or having a bad day. Try and distract them but do not focus on the “babyish” behaviour. We all have days that you would prefer to spend in bed with the duvet over your head. And as the day goes by you wish you had. Your children are no different.
Find reasons to praise your child but keep it in perspective. If you praise everything your child does, they will learn that the praise is not worth having. Or they start needing somebody else’s approval for everything they do or say. If your child has done something amazing then praise them. But telling them they are the next Michelangelo when they build a clay model is pushing it. Unless of course it is amazing and he is a junior expert in sculpting.
Sometimes parents take this advice and start praising their child for being good or good grades in school. But you can teach a child that to get your approval they must be the best behaved or get the highest marks all the time.
Instead, why not comment on your child’s laugh or running abilities or smile.
Think about how much attention you give your child and whether it is positive or negative.
If you have two children in the one room and one is playing nicely on their own but the other is climbing over the furniture. Who gets your attention? The one bouncing on the sofa. As they get told off. The other child gets ignored. So both children learn that negative behaviour will get attention.
A different tactic would be to praise the child playing nicely. And ignore the one climbing on the furniture. Now the message that is coming across is that positive behaviour gets attention. One thing all kids the world over have in common is that they like attention.
Also show your kids some appreciation. Say thank you to them if they help with the dishes or tidy up their toys. Catch them being good and you may find that they are good more often!
A lot of our parenting is on autopilot and based on what we learnt from our parents. Even if we don’t agree with it now we are adults.
Let's look at an example. We will pretend that I was the eldest of three children.
Being the eldest I was constantly told that I had to take care of the younger ones or that I should know better. I swore I would never use this expression with my kids. But the other day I told my five year old that he should know better than his cousin when they were both being naughty.
My son asked but why? And my answer – “because you are older!” This shocked me – he is only a couple of months older and here was me sounding exactly like my own parents.
I had fantastic parents but like most parents they got it wrong sometimes. But I turned out OK as I was never constantly 'put down' and my sister was older than me.
We need to watch our language with our kids and make sure that we label the behaviour as “wrong” or “naughty”. Rather than the child being the problem.
A child is not going to have a healthy value of their own worth if they believe that they are naughty and evil. So next time you discipline your child try to remember to use appropriate language. If they have hit another child, then you could say “hitting is naughty” rather than say “you are really naughty”.
Let your children solve their own problems or at least attempt to do so. The type of problem they are able to resolve will depend on their age. If an older child wants the best trainers for football, but does not need them. Encourage them to think of ways that they can earn some money towards the cost of the trainers.
For younger children you could let them do their own school project work. An example of this happened to my friend recently. Her son, aged 8, had to make a castle and bring it into school the next week. So my friend gave him some cereal boxes, kitchen roll tubes, glue and crayons and he was very proud of his castle. The only help my friend gave was to do some cutting for him. He arrived at school to find that the parents of classmates had decided that the project was for them. Some had castles with moats filled with water. Others had turrets made from bricks or carved wood. His pride in his own work took a beating that morning.
My friend’s son cried his eyes out. But my friend told her little boy that it didn’t matter what the other castles were like. He had made him himself and that is exactly what the teacher wanted. He had not cheated. His very wise teacher agreed. As she judged his cereal box castle as the winner.
In raising a confident child, motivation is one of the greatest gifts you can give them. Children who are not motivated are down, depressed, bored, listless etc. Not a happy picture is it? Kids are born believing they can do anything – look at any toddler who learns to walk. He/she will never believe he/she cannot do it. They fall over again and again but they always gets back up until one day he/she walks on their own.
It is so distressing to see children lose that belief in their inner abilities. To be continued