There are many trials and tribulations when raising kids, but I find the most difficult times are in trying to teach your kids about something you still struggle with as an adult. No, I’m not talking algebra or physics; I’m talking about confidence. It’s easy to talk to them about confidence but harder to SHOW them how to be self-aware and positive about oneself. My confidence meter has never been at 100%, so to speak, and of course I wanted more for my kids. So while I obviously don’t have all the magic answers to raising confident kids, here are some tips and tricks we use in our home to help gain confidence and help it stick into adulthood for our 6 ½ year old identical twin girls and almost five-year-old son.
It starts at home
Most importantly: it starts at home…for everyone. We had to model self confidence if we wanted the kids to learn it. This meant that both my husband and I had to cut down and watch what we said about ourselves, especially in front of the kids. It was probably more soul searching than either of us were comfortable with but it was all worth it when we saw our kids catch and correct themselves from saying something negative. It’s still a work in progress for us.
This might sound dramatic and a tad cheesy but I try to compliment my kids often. Sometimes it’s to counteract a negative self worth situation or to maintain a good self-esteem. Of course, I’m always telling my kids I love them but I want to point out the good things they do/say/wear so they can start recognizing the positives themselves. I have no problem telling our daughters that they are beautiful/cute but I’ll also compliment them on their coloring or schoolwork to show that girls can be more than cute. I don’t hesitate calling our son tough or athletic but when he uses his manners to hold a door open for someone or shows compassion for a playmate, I make sure I point it out as a good job. Hopefully, this becomes an inner voice of sorts and helps them find good traits in themselves.
I believe perspective is the best tool we can give our kids to continue to gain confidence, if not many other situations. Helping them to recognize who or what is important to their own value of self worth will follow through for the rest of their lives; hopefully making happier, more independent adults.
Now as a parent, of course I think the sun rises and sets only for my kids but the reality is, that’s not always going to be the case. Not every teacher or coach is going to think my kid is the be all and end all, and that’s ok. I tell my kids that they might not always be the most intelligent/richest/most successful people in a group but two things that no one can take away from them is hard work and kindness. If they tried their hardest and ‘lost’ with some grace, that’s all we can ask as parents. And hopefully our kids will use the experience as stepping stone to achieve goals in the future.
Tell them not to be hard on themselves
While going over our girls’ end of the year test results and discussing the areas we needed to work on over the summer, Eva burst into tears. Between sobs she stated she should’ve done better or she ran out of time on certain sections. I held up the sheet with her scores on it and said “Eva, this sheet of paper does not determine your self worth. It’s about growing and learning; it’s a stepping stone”. While education is very important in our household, I didn’t want our daughters beating themselves up over every letter grade or paper (especially in kindergarten). It was ONE set of tests in their first year of school and considering they had a long way to go until graduation, these were not worth the self doubt and tears.
What others think
Both fortunately and unfortunately many people will have an impact on how kids gain confidence. For every family member or friend who supports them and builds them up, there will be the same amount of people who try to get them to question or feel bad about themselves. When our kids come running that Billy on the playground or even their own siblings call them names, I ask them to consider how important this person is to them. Is Billy’s opinion of them really going to change how they feel about themselves or are feelings just hurt? Does your brother really think you’re stupid or is he just trying to get under your skin? It’s all about how they react and nothing is going to irritate the offender more than brushing it off like it was nothing. I tell my kids to visualize a shield that surrounds them; most words should bounce off but some things can dent. It’s the dents that get extra cuddles and compliments; I should get them in while my kids are still little and still come to me with problems.
While it will be impossible as parents to keep our kids confidence meters at 100% all the time, with the right examples and tools given early we can encourage them to recognize and maintain their own confidence through to adulthood. Keeping check of who or what affects their confidence level and which situations show improvements to be made are a great way for kids to gain confidence. A strong shield built now will mean a longer lasting shield later.
Leah Bryant is a stay at home mom of three, identical twin girls and a son. She is a proud Kansas native (insert favorite Toto quote here) and currently resides in the Kansas City metro area. Besides being constantly surprised by the wonders of raising twins and caring for her family, Leah’s hobbies include cooking/baking, gardening, reading actual grown up books along with Dr. Seuss, and cheering on her favorite home-grown sports teams. Leah also meets the challenge of keeping up with Sonny, the newest member of the family. He is an American Eskimo dog the family adopted after he was rescued from a puppy mill. While Leah is active on most social media sites, you can find her family blog at http://twinsplusabe.tumblr.com/.