Are you a martyr parent? Martyr parents love their children. They want their children to succeed. But they also harbor fears. They fear their child will feel bad when they don’t succeed. They fear their child will misbehave when frustrated by a task or limit. They fear their child’s self-esteem will falter if they don’t succeed easily and quickly. They fear feeling their own pain when they witness their child’s discomfort. (Why do I have to do everything?)
All these fears make them anxious every time their child struggles, becomes frustrated, or gets upset with a limit. As a result, martyr parents do whatever they can to alleviate their child’s frustration, stress, and anger.
Rather than let their child struggle with a homework assignment or coach them in asking their teacher for help, they do the homework for them. Rather than helping their child realize they can’t do every activity they would like, the martyr parent sacrifices their time and sanity to rush them from activity to activity. Martyr parents argue with teachers to reduce the homework that stresses their child. They give up their finances to get them everything they desire rather than risk their child’s tantrum over a strong limit or a firm “no.” (Learn to give A More Powerful No for Effective Parenting.)
In the process their child never develops the coping skills needed to deal with life. They don’t learn that their choices have consequences. They don’t learn how to prioritize and decide which activities they will pursue and which they will sacrifice due to time and financial constraints. They don’t learn problem-solving skills.
Instead, they witness their parents advocating for lower expectations around homework and chores. They witness parents saving them from stressful decisions or work struggles. They listen to their parents complain about time and finances as they rush from one activity to another. The implicit message they hear is, “You can’t do this on your own. You’re not capable. You’re incompetent. But everyone will sacrifice everything to make life easier for you.” Worse, they begin to believe that message and so avoid the difficult task. They let their parent do the work. Their growth is limited and their self-confidence struggles. (Sometimes it’s best for Good Parents to Do Nothing.)
What can a parent do to break out of the role of a martyr parent?
Realize that doing everything for your child is hurting them and you. They will become more competent and confident as you step back and quit doing everything for them…and Give Your Child the Gift of Confidence instead.
Think of one area in which you are willing to step back and let your child engage in the struggle or face the consequences. Schoolwork is often a great place to start.
Take on the role of coach and teacher rather than fixer. Coach your child in understanding their options and let them problem-solve. Teach them the limits and the reason for the limits. Then teach them that choices have consequences by holding them accountable to the limits. Let them face the consequences of poor grades due to incomplete homework or loss of activity due to not doing a chore. Teach them that choices have consequences.
Decide how much time, energy, and finances you can invest in your children’s activities. Set a reasonable limit on activities based on those resources. That may mean limiting your child to one or two extracurricular activities at any one time. Then coach your child in thinking through their schedule and helping them prioritize what they like the most. Let them decide what they will continue or stop based on the limited resources available. (Managing Your Child’s Schedule…or Seeking Balance in the Devil’s Playground.)
Let your children stumble. You may see this as letting them fail. It’s ok. They don’t have to succeed at everything. They can mess up. They can have a bad day. They can be ordinary in some activity or skill…AND still be healthy, happy people. In fact, teach your children that failure is information, an opportunity to learn what does not work. Teach them to use the information gained through failure to “do better next time.” Teach your child to love mistakes.
These 5 steps will free you from the stress of being a martyr parent and allow your child to grow more competent, confident, and self-assured.
Children and teens are still learning. Parents know this, but we still get angry when they make bad choices. We know children make mistakes. They push the limits. They compound already stressful situations by becoming distracted, breaking down into tears, or even having a tantrum. And we, as parents, respond. The real question is: what is the most effective response? How can teach our children appropriate behavior and responsibility for their actions while still communicating we love and value them? I’m glad you asked.
An effective response begins with the words we use. Our words carry two messages. One message is the objective meaning of the words…the least powerful message of the two. The other message, the more powerful message, is the implied meaning behind the words. Effective parents learn to use power of words by using words that imply an affirmative message rather than a negative message. Consider these examples.
Implied Negative Message
Implied Affirmative Message
“When are you going to finish cleaning up your mess?” This communicates the negative implication that any effort your child makes is not enough. It’s never going to satisfy you.
“Good start. Looks good so far.” This acknowledges their effort, appreciates what they have done, and leaves room for more work to be done.
“Don’t forget” implies your child needs a reminder because forgetting is their norm.
“Remember” expresses faith in their ability to remember and trust in their desire to remember.
“I have no idea what you’re babbling about” communicates that your child is not worth listening to. They are just a “babbler.”
“Whoa. Slow down. I’m interested in what you have to say but I can’t keep up.” This implies you value what your child has to say and teaches them to speak in a manner you can understand.
“What are you doing? See those streaks? Are you blind? Do it right.” This statement communicates that your child is incompetent and cannot live up to your standards. There is no room for individuality and growth.
“You’re really getting the hang of cleaning the tables now. Let me show you how to avoid leaving streaks on the table.” This communicates a trust in their ability to learn, an appreciation of their growing ability, and an awareness of them as part of ‘your team.’
“Why? Because I said so.” This statement offers a challenge. It presents a power play. Power plays and challenges always invite debate and rebellion.
“I love you too much to let you do that. I’m afraid you’ll get hurt because….” This statement expresses concern and a belief in your child’s ability to understand the reason behind the rules.
“You are so careless. Watch what you are doing!” Name calling (“careless”) and global characterizations generally express negativity. How can a careless person watch what they’re doing? They’re careless.
“Oops. We better clean that up. You’ll know to be more careful next time.” This statement acknowledges a mistake was made and normalizes that mistake. It also communicates a trust in them to learn from those mistakes.
“Quit crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.” Minimizes or dismisses feelings. Makes children feel shame for their feelings. Limits their ability to learn to manage their feelings.
“That has made you really sad.” Accepts and acknowledges feelings, which allows children to learn to better manage their feelings as well.
“Relax. What are you so angry about?” Once again, this dismisses their feelings with all the related negative results.
“I appreciate your passion. It really shows how important this is to you.” Not only does this accept your children’s feelings, it communicates that feelings have an underlying value, a purpose. It encourages children to look for the deeper priority under the emotion.
What words do you remember hearing as a child? Those words that carried a negative message may have left scars you still experience today while words that carried an affirmative message continue to boost you and propel your forward. We want our words to propel our children forward with confidence and respect for authority. With that in mind, we must ask ourselves:
What words do I use with my children that carry a negative message?
How can I reword those phrases to send a more affirmative and effective message to my children?
Teens are hard on one another…and they are hard on themselves. They live under the constant pressure of expectations from parents, coaches, teachers, peers, and even themselves. In an effort to feel good about themselves, to have a positive self-esteem, they often get caught up in comparing themselves with other teens and with the false images of touched-up beauty, staged happiness, and constant success they find on social media. Questions like “Am I good enough?” or “How can I compete with them?” and “What have I accomplished lately?” are ripe with global evaluations that make anyone feel bad. All this judging of one’s self against arbitrary standards of perfection does not promote a positive self-esteem in our teens. But I have an idea. Forget about self-esteem. Focus on self-compassion instead.
Self-compassion allows us to recognize and accept our mistakes and struggles since “we are part of the human race.” Through self-compassion, we realize that “we all make mistakes and struggles. I am not alone.” Teens who practices self-compassion treat themselves with the same kindness and understanding they would extend to a good friend. This may sound naïve, but a study of 235 adolescents and 287 young adults revealed that teens and young adults who practiced self-compassion demonstrated a greater sense of well-being. That’s not all, either. Another study of self-compassion found that teens who practice greater self-compassion had less fear of failure and a greater association with “adaptive academic motivational patterns.” In other words, teens with self-compassion were better able to focus on accomplishing tasks at hand. They have greater perceived confidence and less fear of failure. As a result, they work toward achievement without the hinderances of fear or emotion-based goals. So how can you promote self-compassion in your teen?
Accept your teen’s emotions and help them find a name for those emotions. The broader a teen’s emotional vocabulary, the better able they are to recognize and accept those emotions in themselves and others.
Confirm that many experiences with which your teen struggles are universal experiences. They are not alone. Explore how other people have dealt with those struggles to help provide them options.
Ask your teen what they would say to a friend in a similar situation. Encourage them to offer themselves the same compassion and kindness they would offer their friend.
When your teen makes a mistake or experiences a failure, understand their point of view. Listen carefully to understand. Then, after they know you understand, problem-solve together for similar incidents or situations that may arise in the future.
In conversation, use statements that are self-compassionate, statements that accept mistakes and look to the future, statements that show kindness, statements that reveal acceptance.
For more ideas, check out Dr. Neff’s self-compassion exercises. (Dr. Neff is an Associate Professor of Human Development and Culture at the University of TX, Austin, and a pioneer in self-compassion research.)
Ironically, as we teach our children and teens self-compassion, their positive “self-esteem” will likely improve as well. So, forget about self-esteem. Help your teen develop self-compassion.
Self-esteem is not easy to come by
in today’s world. Our culture communicates that “ordinary” is not
“good enough”…that self-esteem is based on performance, achievement,
being better than the next guy. This leads to a self-esteem built on sand,
shaky ground at best. The common answer to this problem is to shower our children
with praise. Unfortunately, this does not help. In fact, research suggests that
lavishing our children with praise may either lower self-esteem or make
our children less willing to pursue challenges.
So, what can we do to help our children gain a more positive self-image? Eileen Kennedy-Moore gives a very insightful answer in Greater Good Magazine. It may sound strange, but the answer lies in helping our children take their eyes off themselves and learn to focus on something bigger than themselves. This is a great answer…and we can help our children do it at any age! Here are a few ways.
Immerse your children in a project or experience that they both enjoy and are challenged by. This might include building a model, drawing, reading, studying a favorite topic, playing a sport. Encourage them to get lost in the adventures of great books or music or hiking, rock climbing, or art. You’ll know they have experienced this when they become absorbed in the activity, lose track of time, and enjoy the challenge presented.
Let them bear witness to acts of courage, generosity, and virtue in other people. This will motivate them to care about others and to act courageously in expressing their care for others. They can bear witness to caring, generous, and courageous people by learning the stories of heroes. Tell them stories about family members and friends who have engaged in generous, kind, virtuous acts. Talk about historic figures who have engaged in generous, kind, virtuous acts. As Mr. Rogers has said, “Look for the helpers” and then point them out to your children.
Nurture compassion in your children. Children begin to feel compassion at a very young age (this video shows children leaning toward the “good puppet” for whom they have compassion as young as 18 months). Nurture their compassion by letting them witness your compassion in helping others. Provide opportunities for compassionate action as a family. Visit a sick friend or a nursing home. Involve them in volunteer work as part of your family. Volunteer at a shelter. Run in an event raising money for a need you and your child care about. Encourage them to care about their friends’ well-being and teach them practical ways to do so. Nurture compassion.
Experience awe as a family. Make it a point to enjoy those things that elicit awe. Watch a sunset together. Enjoy the vast, panoramic view of the ocean, the star-filled sky, or a mountain range. Enjoy the moving harmonies of great music or the intricacies of fine art. Experience the soul elevating times of worship together. Introduce your children to those things that move you to awe. And, when they discover something that moves them to awe, experience it with them.
Each of these tips will help your
children focus on something bigger than themselves. As they do, they move away
from an excessive self-focus and self-evaluation, both of which hinder a
positive self-image. They move toward curiosity, caring, and values that
promote a positive confidence and a deeper, more joyous life.
If you play video games, you know
the value of a good “cheat code.” They help the player advance to a
new level or gain a special power. Other “cheat codes” help the gamer
obtain a special tool or weapon needed for greater success.
If you’re a Dad of daughters, you
may feel as though you need a “cheat code.” You may want inside information
to help you move toward an advanced level of understanding in relation to your
daughter. You likely desire a “cheat code” that will provide a
gateway to the special power needed to influence your daughter toward
maturity. If so, I have just what you’re
looking for: “cheat codes” for dads raising daughters.
The last “cheat code” provided information about “Spending Time With Your Daughter.” Here is another “cheat code” for raising daughters: Showing Confidence in Your Daughter’s Abilities.
The Cheat Code: Showing Confidence in Your Daughter’s Abilities.
Purpose: Showing Confidence in Your Daughter’s Abilities will…
Value: Every day, your daughter’s confidence and inner strength is undermined in a multitude of ways. Our cultural obsession with a particular brand of beauty leads to a lack of confidence in our daughters. In fact, 80% of 10-year-old girls have been on a diet because they lack confidence in the appearance of their body! Struggles at school with teachers and academic work also impacts our daughters’ confidence. Conflict with peers, jealousy, boyfriend problems, girl drama…it all threatens to crush your daughter’s confidence.
Fortunately for us, children first
gain a sense of confidence from their family. More importantly, you, her father, have a special power to boost
your daughter’s confidence. You do it by simply Showing Confidence in Your
Instructions: Showing Confidence in Your Daughter’s Abilities involves…
Praise specifically. Don’t just offer a broad acknowledgements like “Good job” for something she did well. Offer a specific praise. For instance, “I really liked the time you went around the defender to shoot the goal. That was fancy footwork.” Or, “I love that blue color you chose in your drawing. How did you choose that?”
Expose your daughter to challenges. Climb trees and mountains with your daughter. Go backpacking. Let them drive on a snowy day. Support them in trying out for the school play. Applaud their solo. When we support our daughters in taking risks, we show our confidence in their ability. And they learn to have confidence in their abilities as well.
Let them go. Our children start exhibiting a desire for independence when they crawl away from us into another room or refuse to eat the mashed sweet potatoes on the spoon we are floating in front of their face. Encourage their age appropriate independence. Support it. Teach them and then show confidence in their ability to do what they have learned.
Listen to your daughter. Really listen. Let her teach you about her life at school, her friends, her music, her world. Show genuine interest in her and her world. Carefully consider what she says and let her words influence you. Acknowledge her wisdom. And, change with her as she grows and teaches you. You might even learn to like some of that “kid’s music” along the way. More importantly, your daughter will grow confident in her ability to voice her opinions.
Let your daughter do significant tasks that contribute to the household. Yes, this means chores. But make sure they know the significance of those chores to the household. Thank them for doing the chores…after all, we thank people for doing those things that are important to us.
Pre-adolescents and adolescents go
through tremendous change. They change from elementary school to middle school
to high school to college. Their individual
classrooms and teachers change multiple times a day. Their relationships with family
and friends change. Their voices change. Their bodies change. Even their brain
changes. In fact, their changing brain makes pre-adolescence and adolescence
the perfect time for building the habit of contributing to family and community.
One impact of a teen’s changing brain is their growing ability to think
abstractly and consider the consequences of various actions and words. They
want to make a contribution of consequence, a meaningful contribution as
opposed to the simple act of making their bed (which they likely perceive as
having little benefit to themselves or others). So, think about ways in which
your teen can have substantial impact on others in the community—a regular
volunteer position helping children or elderly or homeless for instance. When
you want them to contribute to the home by doing chores, explain the
“substantial benefit” of that chore. Don’t just make it up; be
sincere. Your teen wants to make a difference. Provide opportunities for them
to do so.
The teen brain also has a growing
ability to take another person’s perspective and to understand another person’s
feelings. They often “go overboard” with this growing ability in
their attempt to become popular with their peers. This new ability grows so strong
they worry about “bad hair days” or the “pimple that will ruin
the dance.” But you can utilize their growing ability to take another
person’s perspective and their desire to be popular by helping them consider how
they might contribute to their home and community. For what group of people do
they feel a particularly strong compassion? How might they like to contribute
to others in a meaningful way? How do household chores impact others in the
home? You might have these types of discussions with your teen while discussing
chores, opportunities to serve, or ways of contributing to others.
The reward system in your teen’s
brain is also changing. They experience greater positive feelings from new and
exciting activities than we do as adults. This drives some of their risk-taking
behaviors. However, research suggests that this same brain area (the reward
system) drives kind and helpful behaviors as well. In fact, most people,
including teens, find kindness and helpfulness a “feel-good experience;”
they find it rewarding. Sounds like a great reason to build opportunities to
make contributions of consequences into your teen’s life.
Your teen’s brain is primed for making
contributions of consequence. Create such opportunities in the family. Let them
provide real and meaningful jobs like caring for younger siblings, helping with
meal preparation, or participating in family decisions about food choices,
rules, daily activities, or vacations.
Encourage them to become involved in their school through student
government, clubs, or sports where they can take on leadership and
decision-making roles. Provide opportunities for them to contribute to the
community through regular volunteer efforts in areas where they have a
particularly strong interest or passion.
I hadn’t noticed until someone mentioned it. We were at a playground and there were no teeter-totters. My kids would not learn the thrill of teetering at the high end of the teeter-totter before plummeting back to the ground at a speed slightly quicker than imagined. There were also no merry-go-rounds, the ones you can get spinning so fast that the centrifugal force threatens to pull you right off the ride. I used to love the feeling of having to hold on for dear life and surviving before bursting into hysterical laughter! No, none of that in this playground. Instead, we stood on a large, soft rubber mat surrounded by mulch. The rides included enclosed stairs and “castle peaks, short slides, and balancing beams two inches off the ground. Don’t get me wrong. This was an amazing playground and my children loved it. Their favorite ride, though, was the spinning tire swing. My children loved to get on that swing beg me to spin them so fast their hair would fly straight back. Some parents wouldn’t allowed their children to ride at the fast spin, directed them to the slides and the castles. But my girls loved the thrill of holding on as the force of spinning pulled them outward. I just liked watching their hair fly back as they spun.
This memory came to mind as I read a review of the literature on play and anxiety published in Evolutionary Psychology. This review suggested that “risky play,” like the playground rides described above, help to prevent long-term anxiety. The article notes that we have become a society in which anxiety is epidemic and the overprotection of children may contribute to that increase in anxiety. Risky play, play in which we go right to the edge of safety, may help prevent anxiety. It helps us become more aware of our environment and our personal limitations. The more we know about our surroundings and the more comfortable we become with exploring new things, the less anxiety will hold us back. The more we know about our personal limitations, the more we practice healthy caution rather than anxious avoidance. But risky play does more than increase our awareness. It also represents a form of “exposure therapy,” an opportunity to face our anxiety in a healthy, appropriate manner and overcome the fears that threaten to imprison us. For instance, climbing trees teaches us to interpret the feelings associated with greater heights as information rather than simple anxiety that holds us back and “keeps us on the ground.” We can make wise decisions based on our experienced-based knowledge of the environment (strong vs. weak branches) and our own ability. This comfort with heights translates from trees to bridges to rooftops to airplanes. We learn to think wisely about our actions and related fears rather than succumbing to irrational anxieties.
So, what kind of risky play can help
your children avoid anxiety? Here are six categories identified in the
Exploring heights by doing things
like climbing trees, jumping, balancing or swinging.
Exploring speed as we speed along on
our bikes, skates, sliding, etc.
Learning about dangerous tools by
using knives, ropes, or tractors for various activities.
Rough-and-tumble play, like
wrestling, play fighting, or sword fighting with sticks, helps us learn to
negotiate physical interactions with others.
elements” like deep water, icy water, fire, or rock climbing.
“Getting lost” and
exploring our communities and world.
Of course, we don’t want our children to go crazy. We still need to teach our children the difference between risky behavior and hazardous behavior. However, when the opportunity arises, let your children engage in some risky play. Let them poke the fire. Let them climb the tree. Encourage them to do some rock climbing, wood chopping, vegetable cutting, and swimming in the deep end. Let them explore. You may be preventing the rise of anxiety and opening the door for them to live a more joyous life.
What can puzzles teach us about self-critical children and their parents? I must admit…that’s not a question I ever asked myself. However, researchers at the National University of Singapore did and boy am I glad. They followed 263 children for 5 years starting at 7-years-old. In the first year, the children were given puzzles to solve in a limited period of time. Their parents accompanied them and were told they could help if needed. The researchers’ objective was to watch whether the parent became intrusive and, if they did, how intrusive. An example of highly intrusive parenting would involve a parent taking the puzzle away from the child to reverse a mistake they had made. The researchers wanted to know whether the parent interfered with their child’s problem-solving opportunities or allowed their child to learn from mistakes. This puzzle assessment was repeated when the children were 8-, 9-, and 11-years-old. The researchers also tested the children for levels of self-criticalness and perfectionism. Guess what the research uncovered. You got it. Children who had highly intrusive parents engaged in more self-critical behavior and perfectionism. The children in this study who reported increased levels of self-critical behavior and perfectionism also reported more symptoms of depression and anxiety as the study progressed. Consider the progression suggested by this study. Parents intrude upon their children’s activities by interfering with their children’s independent problem-solving. This conveys an implicit message from parent to child that “you can’t solve your own problems; I have to step in to do it for you.” As a result, children never feel “good enough.” Although they feel inadequate, they also recognize their parents’ desire for perfection. As a result, even the smallest mistake leads the child to criticize themselves for not being “perfect,” for not “meeting standards.” This, in turn, increases the risk for depression and anxiety. I like the quote from the lead researcher: “Our findings indicate that in a society that emphasizes academic excellence…parents may set unrealistically high expectations on their children. As a result, a sizable segment of children may become fearful of making mistakes. Also, because they are supposed to be ‘perfect,’ they can become disinclined to admit failures and inadequacies and seek help when needed, further exacerbating their risk for emotional problems.”
So, what’s a parent to do? Here are 3 ideas.
Focus on your children’s efforts rather than the end results. Acknowledge your children’s efforts rather than comparing their results with someone else’s results. Effort produces success over time. So, focus on effort and nurture an excitement to try new things without fear of failure (which brings us to tip number 2).
Create an environment in which mistakes and temporary failures are opportunities for learning. Ask what your children learned rather than the final grade they earned. When they do poorly on a test or project, discuss what they did well before moving to discuss how to correct the areas in which they did poorly. Discuss what they learned from their mistakes and “flops.” In other words, turn failures, poor performances, and mistakes into opportunities to learn rather than opportunities to evaluate and blame. (Do Your Child a Favor: Love Mistakes)
Let your children struggle to find their own solution. Do not step in to “fix it” or “solve it” for them. Let them work at it. Let them pursue options they think of independently. You can ask some questions to spark their imaginative solutions, but don’t just them the solution. Rather than fix what they did wrong, ask they how they might fix it. When they get stuck, discuss possible ideas and the basis for those ideas. Nurture their ability to think and pursue solutions independently. (Read Do You Rob Your Teen of Victory? to learn more.)
Put these three practices in place and you will help raise children who pursue excellence without becoming self-critical and perfectionistic. And we learn all this because someone asked what puzzles can teach us about self-critical children and their parents!
Want to increase your preschooler’s attention span, ability to plan, and self-confidence? Here is an idea borrowed from “Tools of the Mind”. Let me describe what the teacher does in a preschool where this idea is utilized. The teacher helps children plan their play before they begin their play. They actually discuss what the children want to do and let them “write down” the order of activities they want to engage in. The “written” order of activities may not have actual written words. It may consist of pictures or what appears like scribbles. Nonetheless, it represents the child’s plan, a symbolic contract.
Children then begin engaging in their activity. As you have likely experienced, they often lose focus part way through the activity and begin to drift to another activity. At that point, the teacher brings the children’s “written contract” out and asks them if they finished what they had planned to do. Often, the children look at the paper and remember their “plan.” “Oh yeah. I have to finish….” A simple reminder and they return to the initial activity and continue with “the plan.” After the activity, the teacher goes over the “plan” with the children again. They acknowledge the children’s accomplishment. This allows the children to enjoy the accomplishment of completing what they began. Adding to the benefit, children gain an increased attention span, a better ability to plan ahead, and a greater sense of self-confidence. Who wouldn’t want that for their child?
Reading about this tool got me thinking. Could we do this with our children at home? Sure, it takes a little more time but preschoolers spend a lot of time planning their activities already. And, it really isn’t that hard. We simply begin to talking with our children about the play activities they want to engage in. We allow them to “write down” the activities and “make a plan.” Then, as we engage in play and our children begin to drift from the plan, we ask them about the plan. We even let them look at the “written plan” and ask if they still want to continue with the plan or change it. Many times they simply remember the plan and return to the activity they had initially written down. And in the process they learn to plan ahead, focus, and build self-confidence. How great is that?
How do children form a positive self-concept? How do they come to see themselves in a positive light? How do they develop confidence and learn to esteem themselves well? These questions arise in many a parent’s mind as they interact with and discipline their children. We want to help our children develop a persistent confidence in their abilities while not becoming arrogant. Sometimes we doubt ourselves. We wonder if we are really doing the right thing (at least I do!). We constantly search out practical advice for increasing our children’s self-confidence. Friends, family members, experts, books…we search them all to find reassurance that we are doing a good job and in hopes of finding the “magic bullet” to help our kids grow. Well, I don’t have a magic bullet, but I have found several practical ideas to help raise confident children.
Warm up. Develop a warm relationship with your children. Warm parents show an interest in their children’s activities. They share their children’s joys and excitements. Doing so makes their children feel noticed and valued. It increases their self-esteem. It contributes to their self-confidence. (For more on the impact of a warm relationship, read An Amazing Parenting Insight Learned in Three Parts)
Praise effort, not ability. Acknowledge your children’s effort and investment rather than just the end product. Let them know you see how hard they work to make things happen. This helps our children learn their effort impacts their world and their success comes through effort. It teaches them to value effort and notice the successes found in effort, even if the end result was not what they initially intended. Effort, as opposed to waiting for something to “fall in our laps,” leads to success. And, success builds self-confidence.(Build Your Child’s Success Mindset offers more tips.)
Do not overpraise. Our children need us to acknowledge their effort and appreciate their accomplishments, but overpraise will backfire. Excessive praise actually contributes to lower self-esteem. Overpraise can contribute to arrogance. Sometimes extremely positive, inflated praise can contribute to narcissism, a sense of personal grandiosity. Excessive praise can also set our children up to worry about falling short of the standards for which they have already received lavish amounts of praise. So, go ahead and appreciate achievements. Acknowledge accomplishments. Praise effort and investment. But don’t overdo it. Don’t overpraise. It just gets in the way of healthy self-confidence. (Read How to Ruin Your Child with Praise for more.)
Value failure. Treat failure as a time of learning rather than a catastrophe. Failure is simply an opportunity to learn what does not work and explore changes that can lead to a better result. I like Oprah’s quote, “Think like royalty. Royalty is not afraid to fail. Failure is another steppingstone to greatness” (I hope she’ll excuse my changing her use of the word “queen” to “royalty.” If not, I guess I’ll learn from the failure.) Confident people fail gracefully. Confident people know failure is not the end of the world. Confident people recognize failure as a signal for problem-solving, making changes, and moving toward “greatness.” (Do Your Child a Favor)
Give your children important tasks to complete. Let them have chores around the house. Chores and tasks build a sense of competence and competence contributes to confidence. (Chores: The Gift of Significance will explain even more.)
Model healthy confidence in your own life. Work to improve your self-confidence and your children will follow in your example. Value your failures and talk about what you learn from them. Acknowledge your achievements while focusing on the effort and investment that led to those achievements. Accept their acknowledgements of your success with a smile and a simple “thank you.” Maintain warm loving relationships, especially with your children. Children imitate those they see and admire. They become like those they imitate. Give them a self-confident parent they can look up to and imitate.
Put these six practical actions in place and your children will grow in confidence daily!