To say that we have a confident five year old is an understatement. She’s more than happy to take off out of the front door and go find one of her friends, go off on her first skating lesson or happily say “see you later” when we drop her off at school. She will speak to everyone – and her little sister’s following right along in her own way. As Violet runs off to play wherever we go, we’re constantly getting comments about how independent, confident and willing to try things she is. Half personality, half how you parent – here’s how we’re raising confident kids:
“The roots of self-confidence are born or broken in childhood. Early experiences shape our sense of self. It is often just little words that wound kids or empower their dreams. So having a heightened awareness as to the enormous power of your words and communication to kids is essential for fostering confidence in children.”
I’ve seen the effects from parenting tactics that negates self confidence and this has rooted in how I choose to parent. Raising confident children who are ready to tackle anything is an important part of the way I parent. It’s the way I choose to ready the kids for grade school, for adulthood, for their life.
1. The kids knows that their opinion is valued. Screw the criticism against ‘modern parenting’. This kid knows that if she has an opinion it’s going to be heard. Her opinion (within reason) is going to be considered, listened to and countered (as will her sister’s when she can speak).
2. Skip the ‘I can’t’. From a young age we’ve skipped the ‘Can’t’ when it comes to doing something. Instead, I’ve asked her to categorize into I don’t want to, or I won’t or I am nervous to try etc. Showing her that she can with assistance, more trying or additional learning has helped her to have confidence in her abilities.
3. Let them do it. From making a sandwich to pouring a glass of juice. Making their bed to walking across the street (once they’ve learned to look all ways) to get the mail and helping. Let them do it. There’s going to be a mess, that’s okay. Letting them pour that juice, spill it and understand that accidents happen is going to give them the confidence to keep trying.
4. Stop the yelling. I am admittedly bad for this one. I am the Yelling Mom. It’s a hard habit to break and something that I am actively working on so the neighbors don’t think I’m crazy (these suburb walls are super thin). However, every single time that I yell, I apologize and explain what I should have done instead of yell. It’s not some passing apology, it’s down to her level, apologizing because it was a. rude b. wrong and c. hurtful. When she screams at her sister or calms down from a tantrum, she mirrors that same behavior.
5.I read something a while ago that made so much sense to me. If you wanted your kids to stop getting on your nerves, be genuinely interested in what they are doing and what they have to say. Make the decision to ‘like’ them, not just love them. Genuinely get excited to see them in the morning and watch that confidence soar.
6. Mistakes happen. For a while there was a phase Olivia was frequently running away with whatever had broken, something she got marker on, whatever it was. It’s been a journey, but after countless conversations about accidents and demonstrating that her dad and I are fallible, we make mistakes too – she’s open to sharing, and learning from it (most of the time, after all she’s four).
7. ‘I’m proud of you’. There is a lot of criticism against the over-praising of children. I don’t think that there are too many times, or too many ways to tell the kids that I am proud of them. They hear it all the time from, sleeping in their room all night or brushing their teeth well alone (minor things), to reacting to situations and displaying empathy (major things). I’m proud of you and praise doesn’t ruin kids.
8. Let the mess go. Messes = learning. This was a huge challenge for me. Actually, that’s an understatement. I still struggle with the messes that ‘creative processes’ and ‘learning’ make but again, it’s something that I am actively working on and am able to let go until the activity is over. Then, it’s time to get back to organized.
9. We don’t compare them to one another, don’t compare them to ourselves and don’t compare them to other children.
10. We give them their fifteen minutes. We encourage them to put on a show, to do something that is the center of attention and to show off that new move they learned in gymnastics/skating or dance/song/play they made up. Let them shine, give them their moment and they’re going to gain the confidence to perform in the future.
11. Demonstrate confidence. Jamie and I are both loud, sarcastic and confident. Mirroring the skills, and showing confidence in yourself, your work and your relationship seems to make it easier to have confident children – which makes sense, right?
12. We’re sensitive and empathetic to situations that they are experiencing and what they’re going through. Nothing drove me crazier during potty training than people making a big deal if one of the kids had an accident and explaining to the kids that you shouldn’t pee in your pants, or making a spectacle of an accident during play. Accidents happen, going back to the above, and making mention of it in front of a room full of people wasn’t going to help her potty train any quicker.
Instead, I chose to be empathetic to the potential embarrassment that she may have felt and helped her change her clothes, in private, explaining that accidents happen and that’s okay.
We choose to understand their disappointment when we’re driving by Chuck E Cheese and we’re not going. We understand the feelings when they’re fighting with their current BFF, mean words spoken at the park and the apocalyptic measure of not being able to eat Halloween candy for breakfast. Not that we’re going to give in, but we’re absolutely going to understand, be sensitive and kind to anything that is upsetting.