Planting the Seeds of Confidence in Children

We want our children to gain confidence as they mature. Confidence allows our children to explore the world around them and find areas of interest. Confidence gives them the ability to bounce back after a rough day or perceived failure. Confidence enhances their social interactions. It gives our children the strength to take advantage of new and exciting opportunities. Confidence helps our children become “all they can be.” So, how can we help boost a healthy confidence in our children?
First, we plant the seeds of confidence by:
     ·         Setting reasonable expectations for our children, expectations that match their developmental ability. Maintaining developmentally appropriate expectations assures that our children have the ability to behave in a way that matches our expectation. If we set an expectation that they, due to age or ability, cannot “measure up to,” we have planted a seed of self-doubt and shame rather than confidence. So, plant seeds of confidence by setting reasonable expectations.

·         Allowing our children opportunities to problem-solve. Opportunities to problem-solve can range from deciding which game to play with a friend to discussing how to manage a difficult teacher in school; or which movie to watch with a sibling to figuring out how to pay for car insurance. Discuss and explore options with your children. Offer guidance and suggestions. Ultimately, whenever possible, let them make the choice and experience the consequences of that choice. When you do, confidence is planted.

·         Catching them being good. Look for polite interactions, kind gestures, loving and/or considerate actions, or any other positive behavior in which you see your child engage. Each time you see these positive behaviors, you see a seed of confidence that you can then fertilize. 
Second, fertilize the seeds of confidence by:
     ·         Recognizing those positive behaviors. Simply acknowledge that you saw their positive behavior communicates that you value them enough to pay attention. Learning that you value them enough to listen intently and observe the good in their life’s actions builds their confidence.

·         While you are at it, acknowledge their strengths and assets. Help them learn how to use those strengths and assets to overcome difficulties. Teach them that their strengths and personal resources allow them to bounce back after difficulties and find success in spite of any setbacks.

·         Offer genuine praise. Make your praise specific. Let them know that even amidst imperfect effort or failed attempts you can identify and acknowledge something they did well. Perhaps you can praise their effort, the difficulty of the choice they made, or some other specific aspect of their action. Whatever you specific thing you praise will fertilize those seeds of confidence.
Third, kill the little pests that contaminate the seeds of confidence and ravage the fruit of confidence. Pests that need to be killed include:
     ·         Lecturing. Lecturing is as sly as a fox. We may think that lecturing gets our point across but it does not; our children just quit listening. As a result, lecturing robs our children of the opportunity to make decisions and learn from their decisions. It builds a wall between us and them. It crushes the seed of confidence by subtly communicating that we have little confidence in their ability to learn from mistakes. So, stop lecturing to nurture the seed of confidence.

·         Focusing on what they do wrong rather than noticing what they do right. Giving all our attention to what they do wrong creates self-doubt. When they put all the silverware, plates, glasses, and napkins on the table for dinner, we can acknowledge what they did well or focus on the missing serving spoon. When they bring home a report card with 6 A’s and a B, we can acknowledge the A’s or “harp on” the B. Don’t get me wrong. We still promote improving behavior and correct misbehavior, even address that single B. However, if we only focus on what is wrong or incomplete, we send the message that they are never “good enough;” that no matter how hard they try, they can never please us. That will kill confidence.

·         Attributing problems to character flaws. Saying a messy room is a result of your child being a “slob.” Or, not doing their homework reflects a “lazy child.” Such name-calling and contempt will ravage confidence.
To promote confidence in your child, plant the seeds of confidence, fertilize those seeds of confidence, and kill the little pests that ravage confidence. Happy confidence gardening.

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