A Confident Child

Now your child is growing older it is even more important that you provide a positive role model for your child.  We are all a product of our upbringing and early environment.  We are conditioned to respond to certain situations and stimuli.

In Victorian times, and in some societies in our modern world, children were expected “to be seen but not heard!”  How could that possibly instill a sense of self worth into a child?  They are so valuable to their parents, that the adult would prefer them to pretend they weren’t there!  No wonder children brought up in this type of environment lack confidence and belief in themselves.

If as a child, all you hear is your parents moaning and complaining about how hard life is, how difficult EVERYONE else makes their job, how awful the boss is, it is easy to see how the child can become negative about the world in general.

Don’t let them hear you saying you can’t do x, y or z.   Actions speak louder than words so if there is something you are afraid of doing, why not see can you beat that fear.  Parents who approach everything in life with a “I can do that” attitude are much more likely to raise confident kids.

So try putting on a pair of rose tinted glasses especially around your kids.   Make an effort to make positive statements and see the silver lining in all the dark clouds.  Give your children the chance to be a positive, well rounded human being and you never know you may enjoy life a little better as well.

We live in a time pressed society where everyone is so busy working, paying bills and constantly trying to catch up on life.  With the current economic downturn, more of us are stressed over the bills and our jobs.  Children don’t understand that it is outside influences that are causing mum and dad to be snappy or hassled – they can very easily believe that they have done something wrong.

So try to take some time out and take your kids out to the park for some fun. Or play a board game with them.  There is nothing like children’s laughter to melt away your problems or worries if only for a little while.   And children don’t need expensive toys and games to be happy.  They need love and attention from the people that matters most to them i.e. you.

Create a happy safe family environment in your home where everyone, regardless of age, is respected and admired.

Children, like adults, need affection.  They need to know that someone loves them enough to give them time, cuddles, attention.  Kids will be more confident in themselves if their parents actually seem to enjoy their company. If their parents make time to play with them and amuse them rather than sending them in to watch TV or play with their toys, they will have higher self esteem.

On the topic of TV, limit how much television your child watches.  TV and computers don’t help to stimulate your child’s imagination or creativity if overused.  Children are much better off outdoors exploring their back gardens then indoors watching an educational nature program on the TV.

Children are curious by nature – that is how they learn. Encourage your child to discover the world for himself whilst at the same time keeping him out of danger. So whilst you might not relish them tasting an ant as my boy did, the ant won’t harm him.  It helps to keep things in perspective.  Kids need to get dirty be it whilst they are painting or playing in the mud.  Clothes can be washed, repaired or replaced – childhood memories of fun and laughter can’t!

In fact the trend for parents, schools and childcare facilities today not to let children be kids in case they hurt themselves is not conducive to creating positive confident adults.  If we are constantly telling our children that the world is a bad place, full of people who will hurt them, how can we expect them to grow into well rounded individuals?  They are more likely to be scared of their own shadows!

So what can you do?  Well firstly put things into perspective.  The dangers have always been there in some shape or form.   Unfortunately children have been abused and mistreated since time began.  Tragic cases like Madeline McCann are unusual and not the norm.  So if your child wants to walk to school by themselves, meet them halfway if it is safe to do so.  For younger children, rather than walk them to the classroom door, why not try leaving them at the school gates. You can wait discretely to make sure that they haven’t come out again.

So how do we nurture our kids to become confident without turning them into spoilt brats!  Well, most kids will copy their parents so actions speak louder than words.  If you are constantly shouting at or disrespecting your partner, then you cannot expect your child to be respectful to other people.

Be careful not to criticise your child.  Recent studies have shown that over 90% of the communication that a child hears before their 5th birthday will be negative. Think about it.  We often criticise our kids without meaning to hurt them or attack them.  How often have you said to your child “you are so messy – your toys are everywhere!”, or “your writing is so untidy” or “why can’t you behave like Jonny down the street”.

As parents, most of us are not intentionally hurting our children but if, as a child, all you hear is “don’t do that” or “you are untidy, lazy, irresponsible, not as good as Jonny etc”, then you are either going to do one to two things.  The child will believe that he is always bad no matter what he does so he might as well act up.  He becomes rebellious, aggressive and very hard to manage.  Or he believes that he is totally 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 not what you think you hear.  If a 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 pat them on the head and tell them they are being silly.

You have just undermined their confidence and belief in themselves – 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, try and explain that some people are better than others in certain fields but they are not as good as your child in xxx.  X being whatever it is your child excels in and we all excel in something – you just have to find it.

Never tell your child to grow up or stop behaving like a baby.  Children sometimes struggle with their emotions just 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 or issues.

If they are behaving like a baby (and are not still in nappies) then find out why.  They may be tired or just 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– kids 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 else they may think that they need somebody else’s approval for every action they take.  If your child has done something amazing – then by all means 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 getting good grades in school.     But you can inadvertently teach a child that in order 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 by himself whilst the other is climbing on the sofa.  Who gets your attention?  Usually the one playing on the sofa as he gets told off.  The other child gets ignored so both children learn that negative behaviour will get mum or dads 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 and 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 just find that they are good more often!

A lot of our parenting is done on autopilot and is based on what we learnt from our parents even if we don’t agree with it now we are adults.  For example, being the eldest I was constantly told (or at least it felt like constantly!) 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.  Yet 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!” .  I nearly died – he is only a couple of months older and here was me sounding exactly like my own mum.

Don’t misunderstand me – I had fantastic parents but like most parents they occasionally got it wrong and I truly believe that constantly expecting me to behave better as I was the oldest was one of their mistakes.  But then I am probably biased!

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.  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 (and all children need discipline at times!), 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. Obviously the type of problem they are able to resolve will depend on their age.  For example, if an older child wants the best trainers for football, try and 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 homework.  An example of this happened to my friend recently.  Her son, aged 5, was asked to make a castle and bring it into school the next week.  So my friend gave him some cereal boxes, glue and crayons and he was very proud of his castle.  The only help my friend gave was to do some cutting for him.  His pride in his own work took a beating when they arrived at school to find that the parents of his classmates had obviously decided that the homework was meant for them.  A section of the castles had moats filled with water whilst others had pink turrets made from bricks.

You probably can see the picture.  If you have spent any time at a school with your child, you have seen this scene before.  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.  His very wise teacher obviously agreed as she judged his cereal boxes as the winner and he got pride of place in the classroom.

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 will never believe he cannot do it – he falls over again and again but he always gets back up until one day he walks on his own.  So it is very distressing to see children, particularly young children, lose that belief in their inner abilities.


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