Children are not confident on their own; confidence is developed. How can parents foster confidence in their child? Here are just a few tools to add to your parenting tool box!
Praise: Praise is a tricky topic because if you praise your child when they really did not accomplish anything, they start to have a false confidence. If parents “over praise,” children might stop believing their parents. Parents may be able to tell when they have used praise too much when they hear their child say something along the lines of the following: “Of course you would say that; you’re my mom (dad)”. Rule of thumb here: Use your praise wisely to really make an impact on your child’s self-esteem. That means pick a time when they really did something amazing and praise them for it! They will feel their confidence rising high. Try to catch them doing something unexpected. For example, if your daughter likes to pull her brother’s hair when she’s mad at him, the time she does not do that when she is mad is a prime moment to praise her for that choice.
Validate their emotions: This is very important in raising an emotionally mature child. Children need to know that what they are feeling is normal, even if they show those feelings in non-productive ways. Take the example of when your child says something mean to a friend. Instead of saying, “That was not nice,” try to teach them skills while still validating their emotions. An alternative statement might be, “WOW, you must have been hurt to say that to your friend. What made you feel so hurt?” Once your child tells you why they were so mad, validate that you understand their feelings and help them discover a new way to show that emotion. An example of this might be, “It makes sense to me why you are hurt and even why you said that mean statement. I wonder if there is a better way to show your friend that they hurt you besides saying mean things.” This interaction helps empower your child to feel validated in their emotions AND feel empowered to make a more productive choice in the future.
Challenge them: I am a big believer in challenging your kids to do something they think they cannot do but you know they can. You do not want to make the task too hard for them because that will just create low self-esteem. With that said, challenging your child can build confidence. For example, if reading is a challenge for your child, have them read to you every day. When they finish the book or even just a chapter, you can reflect how they did something they thought they could not do. Then ask your child, “How did you do that? How did you finish that book (or chapter) even though you do not like to read?” That interaction helps children put their own words to their inner strength and shows them that with a little persistence they can achieve powerful things!
Little ears are listening: Be careful how you talk about your child’s struggles with other parents when your child is close by. If you tell a friend, “Yeah, my kid is not good at reading” and your child hears that comment from you their parent, it is possible that they will adopt the story, “I am not a good reader; even my parents think so.” Now, parents need a place to vent to other parents, get advice, and so on. I am not saying do not talk to other parents about struggling children. In fact, listening to other parents can give you ideas for your child you never thought of. The only thing I am stressing here is to make sure your child or even their friends are not within earshot range when you are talking about their struggles.