This particular topic is one that has been on my heart and mind for a little while now. It is probably because lately I have been dealing with some personal self-confidence issues. I am desperate to keep my kids from ever feeling some of the ways I am feeling. Although, I am sure that they will someday in the (hopefully far away) future, it certainly won’t be because of something I have said or done.
Self-confidence starts at a young age. I grew up being told I was beautiful. I grew up with the value of independence drilled into my being (that’s another issue for another post). I grew up being told I was great, that I could do anything I set my mind to. Unfortunately, words don’t always add up. It depends on so many other factors whether those values are adequately instilled. Words, actions, and values that are emphasized all contribute to self-confidence.
So, how do we not royally screw up our kids??? UGH… I DON’T KNOW! But, I do know what I’ve come to believe are ways that will, at least, set them on the right path to having a healthy self-confidence.
- Give praise when praise is due
- Give them choices
- Teach them about being healthy (not skinny or fat!)
- Encourage them to achieve their goals
- Give them responsibilities
- Don’t compare them
- Discuss, don’t suppress, feelings… Find the “why”
- Encourage them to stand up for themselves
- Inform them. Being different is okay.
- **Be an example.**
Give praise when praise is due. As parents, it can be extremely difficult to get caught up in what our children are doing wrong. This is our first year of T-Ball, which is an experience in itself. Our boys are naturally good at sports. William even more than Wesley. Knowing this, when they mess up or don’t pay attention, it is so easy for us to let them know what they are doing is wrong. Because we know how talented they are, we forget that they still need to hear when they do things right or when they excel. Being told constantly what you are doing wrong, even if there are no bad intentions, is tiring, frustrating, and disheartening (for adults too!!). Make sure to praise those babies when they do something good! No matter how small.
Give them choices. Giving children choices empowers them. It lets them know that what they care about matters. Obviously, we can’t let them decide everything. If I let the boys decide everything, they would never bathe. They would eat McDonald’s or “Chick-a-lay” every day. William would never go to school. Wesley would have cookies every day for breakfast. As parents we have the control… or should. Pick a handful of things, like dinners, that you don’t mind them having. Let them decide.
Teach them about being healthy… (not skinny or fat!). This is a really big deal for me. We went to Publix the other day and Wesley steppe don their big scale at the front. “Mom, I lost weight!! I’m so excited!” I’m not sure if you realize from pictures how skinny Wesley is, but he’s a bean pole. I immediately told him that he didn’t need to worry about losing weight, and that he was perfect. He responded by telling me that he could lose weight if he wanted too. Being a 5-year-old, this really scares me. His Honey owns a gym, and he is in that gym with me often. Jeremiah is also really big into fitness, so I know why he says this. I also know that he probably doesn’t understand exactly what he is saying. My fear is that he continues to think this way and as he grows older he begins to see a false image of himself. That false image could bring soooo many other issues to a teenager or young adult. Teach them to be healthy… PLEASE. We want them to make good choices with food. We want them to understand that sports and exercise in any form is good for your heart and brain… your whole body. But, telling them they are skinny or fat isn’t healthy at this point. Don’t instill that insecurity in them. WE put their food on the table. If you notice an issue, change what YOU are doing. Encourage activity. Don’t give them any reason to see themselves negatively.
Encourage them to achieve their goals. Kids can come up with some crazy goals. Just encourage them. It might seem silly to you, but I promise, crazier goals have been accomplished and you just never know. If they want to be a professional baseball player and they aren’t very good at baseball, encourage them to practice every single day. If they want to be a vet, encourage them to learn about animals. If they want to paint a mural in the Grand Canyon, encourage them to learn every painting technique there is.
Give them responsibilities. Kids are kids, but they don’t need everything handed to them. Teaching them responsibility will help them build confidence in themselves… and it will help you!!!
Don’t compare them. This one is particularly important to me also. William is our super athletic, tough, man’s man. Wesley is our school loving, sensitive, puzzle king. Don’t get me wrong, they are both good at all of it… but they both obviously excel in these areas. It’s so easy to say, “Wesley, do what William is doing when he throws the ball,” or “William, watch what Wesley is doing when he writes his letters.” The fact is, they are different, and they are both special. They shouldn’t have to feel like being “worse” at something than their brother makes them any less adequate. Compare in private parents! It will happen. Just don’t let them hear it.
Discuss, don’t suppress, feelings… find the “why.” This is difficult. Especially for boys. With boys, it is so easy to say, “toughen up, boys don’t cry.” But, boys still feel. Little kiddos don’t know what to do with what they are feeling. We have to teach them. If we don’t, those feelings are going to come out as anger or being super emotional or something of the sort. Talk about it with them. Find out why they are feeling the way they are feeling, that way you can discuss the real problem.
Encourage them to stand up for themselves. Kids are mean. They say mean things to each other. They put each other down. Teach your kids that they don’t have to sit there are take it. They are absolutely allowed to stand up for themselves.
Inform them. Being different is okay. Our boys are the same in some ways, but night and day in others. Let your kids know that there is nothing wrong with being different than other people. Just because you don’t look the same or like the same things, does not mean you are any less special.
**Be an example.** This. This is so important. We can do this entire list perfectly, but if our kids don’t see us living the way we are asking them to live, we are going to send them mixed messages. Let the know how important these life lessons are by doing you best to live them and having the ability to admit when you haven’t been.
Being a kid is hard. The least we can do is help them figure it out.