By Silvana Clark, adapted excerpts
Sit by any playground and observe the children running, jumping, and climbing over and under the equipment. It’s not hard to notice the daredevils who soar headfirst down the slide and then leap from the hanging bars to begin twirling feverishly on the tire swing. These kids know no fear! Then there are the cautious playground participants. They slowly walk across the shaky wooden bridge. It takes them time to get the courage to slide down the fireman’s pole. What makes the difference? Could it be self-confidence?
We all want our kids to eagerly participate in school, join other kids in the playgroup, or volunteer to play on the soccer team. Yet often—as well meaning as we are—parents undermine their children’s ability to develop selfconfidence. If a preschooler runs into a room carrying a glass of water, what’s the first thing most parents say? You’ll usually hear, “Be careful, you might spill that!” instead of “It’s a good idea to walk when carrying a glass of water.”
Why encourage a self-fulfilling prophecy by telling Susie she’ll spill the water? Let’s revisit the playground. Listen carefully and you’re bound to hear some mother yelling, “Jordan, stay close by where I can see you, you might get hurt!” Yet that’s no way to build a child’s confidence! When our daughter was three, my husband found her trying to climb an apple tree in the backyard. Rather than tell her she was going to fall, he spent time showing her how to select branches for holding and standing. They climbed another ten feet, much to Sondra’s delight. The rule is she can climb trees when an adult is nearby—which has resulted in numerous father-daughter, tree-climbing expeditions.
Here are some ways that you can help young children develop confidence in themselves and their abilities.
Encourage positive risk taking
Self-confident children have the inner fortitude to try new things, even if it means a possibility of failure. Cheer on your toddler as he or she tries new skills. As a family, read a book on a topic new to all of you. Take a walk on some unfamiliar trails, just for the adventure of seeing where you’ll end up.
When my daughter was younger and assigned to bring something for Show and Tell, I encouraged risk taking. Instead of having her share the latest Barbie doll, I’d give her a theme such as “Take something you made yourself.” (We baked bread, which she
shared with the class.) “Take something that grows in the ground.” (She picked dandelions and showed their long root systems.) The teacher always commented positively about Sondra’s unique choice of Show and Tell items. In a small way, she learned she’d get positive reinforcement by doing things a bit different from the ordinary.
Let children make choices
Yes, you want your toddler daughter to go out wearing the cute red plaid skirt with the matching red sweater. She, of course, wants to wear the purple striped pants with her yellow flowered turtleneck. Why not let her?
A large part of self-confidence is the feeling that it’s great to reach out and do something out of the ordinary. All too often as parents, we say things such as, “But all the other kids have lunch boxes. Why do you want your lunch in a bag?” Give children the opportunity to make choices as long as safety and family values are taken into account.
Keep praise in perspective
There’s a tendency for parents to praise every action their child makes. There’s no need to clap and cheer if your youngster puts his napkin on his lap at dinner; that’s expected behavior. Some parents gush over every scribble their toddler makes as if each drawing belongs in a museum.
As a preschool teacher, I often saw parents excessively praise children for minor
accomplishments; yet positive feedback is effective when it is realistic. When children learn they can do almost anything and parents automatically give a standing ovation, the praise loses its meaning.
As a parent, you can indeed offer support and encouragement to your child. But you can go even a step further and allow her to explore her own abilities and revel in her own accomplishments. These tips for encouraging self-confidence can breathe new spirit into your child, instilling confidence that will last a lifetime.
Courtesy of Motivated! magazine. Used with permission. Photo by Mitch via Flickr.
Linda and Richard Eyre, Teaching Children Joy
Adults often bristle when someone remarks that they are “just like so-and-so.” We like to think of ourselves as unique, different, and one-of-a-kind, which is how it is meant to be. It is good to remember that there is much more to what makes a person a unique individual than, for example, the obvious characteristics of a person’s astrological sign, their interests, the number of children they have, or the type of clothes that they wear.
In a similar fashion, parents should learn to appreciate the uniqueness that each child brings to their lives. Each child needs to feel special and important in his or her own right. Seeing each child as an individual with varying likes and dislikes, will help to make the child feel loved for who he is and is meant to be.
Here are some tips on how we can encourage our children’s unique qualities and
Ponder: Take time to reflect on each of your children’s qualities and strengths. Make a list of these qualities and focus on encouraging and praising your children for them.
Text courtesy of Motivated magazine. Used with permission. Photo by Patrick via Flickr.
Let me know when I make you proud. And help me to have pride in my own accomplishments. Let me earn your trust. Then trust me. I won’t let you down.
Let me try my wings. If I fail, let me know it’s okay, and encourage me to try again.
Let me know you love me—with a hug, or a pat on the back. Or, when I need it, with a firm but gentle “no.”
Let me be. Let me change. Let me grow. Let me tell you when I’m feeling bad... or angry… even at you. Let me know that even on my worst days, you still like me.
Let me dream. Share my joy when my dreams come true. Share my tears when
Let me feel secure in my home. Help me realize that love is always there … that I
can depend on you no matter what. Let me run … let me laugh … let me play.
And most of all, let me be a child! —Anonymous
Text courtesy of Motivated magazine. Photo by Philppe Put via Flickr.
What is unconditional love? It's just what the phrase implies—loving a person without any prior conditions, because of who the person is and not because of what the person does.--Zig Ziglar
Exceptional children are just that—exceptions. The vast majority of our children are not dazzlingly brilliant, extremely witty, highly coordinated, tremendously talented, or universally popular! They are just plain kids with oversized needs to be loved and accepted as they are.--James Dobson
Comparing yourself or your child from an analytical or critical point of view and wishing your child was this or that can steal your happiness, your inspiration, and your peace of mind and contentment, not to mention the effect it will have on your child.
Children remember things very clearly and are directly affected by their parents’ attitude and how their parents feel and think about them. So if you’re constantly speaking faith and positive things about your child, either to him or to others, and if you’re thinking positive things about your child, this will have a good, faith-building, positive effect on your child, and he’ll likely become more like what you think of him and expect from him. But if you are thinking or speaking negatively about your child, either directly or indirectly, it can make him think negatively about himself and hinder his happiness and self-esteem, his performance, and the way he sees himself. Faith begets more faith; positive attitudes foster more positive attitudes in both yourself and those around you. It often takes showing faith in someone to bring out the best in them.--Jesus, speaking in prophecy
The spirit of approval means that you love your child even when he resists you or is in an ugly mood. He must know that his personal worth is not based on beauty, brains, or behavior, but on the simple fact that he is a person created by God.--Dan Benson4
To build a relationship of love and respect, you must remember that your children respond to you according to the way they feel about you. If those feelings are ones of love and respect, you will receive obedient, loving responses from the children because that is what they want to do. … There's no real unity without respect.--Zig Ziglar
Children thrive on praise. It's more important to praise a child for his good works and his good behavior than it is to scold him for his bad behavior. Always accentuate the positive.--David Brandt Berg
Ways to show love and respect to children
* Don't dismiss your child's feelings. Respond with love.
* Don't command your child and expect him to come to attention without so much as an explanation. Approach him respectfully and lovingly when you need to ask a favor—trying to be sensitive and coming across with a considerate and sweet spirit.
* Make eye contact with your child, and go down to your child's level when talking to her; for example, when you're telling her something or passing on instruction.
* Take a little bit more of your time to slow down and really tune in to your child. Treat your child's ideas as important. Don't quickly shoot them down. If the idea is unreasonable, even though your child might not understand all the whys and wherefores, try to explain as much as you can.
* Don't make fun of a child when he’s made a mistake or done something more on the silly side. This can really hurt his feelings. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't teach your child to learn to laugh things off when things go wrong, but pray for discernment, because sometimes your child may just need a moment of understanding.
* When your child needs correction, help her not to feel embarrassed by correcting her as privately as the situation warrants.
* Find a way to connect with each of your children individually.
* Show your children that they're important to you by how you treat them. Give your children the same level of attention that you expect them to give you.
* When your child comes to tell you something, stop and listen. Give her your full attention and respond to what she is saying. Don't listen halfway, while thinking about something else and continuing to do what you're doing.
* Stop and acknowledge your child.--Maria Fontaine
Encourage your children’s unique qualities and characteristics:
Know each child well as an individual. You can't help a child build confidence around his inherent gifts and talents unless you come to know what those gifts and talents are. Two ways to learn: (1) In private chats with the child, time spent together watching and appreciating; and (2) in organized time, spent as husband and wife, discussing each child, sharing perceptions, taking notes, discovering together more about the personality and individual character of each child.
Genuinely respect each child and his own gifts. Our children are human beings, deserving not only our love but our respect. With this thought in mind, sometimes it becomes a bit easier to (1) show an added measure of faith in them after any kind of failure; (2) discuss our own failures with them and tell them what we learned; (3) praise their accomplishments lavishly and honestly, particularly accomplishments in areas where we perceive special aptitude; and (4) never criticize or tear down the children personally. Make sure they still know our total love for them. Never criticize in public—praise in public, correct in private.
[Teach] independence, self-reliance, responsibility at an early age.Confidence and its joy tie directly into being able to do useful things. Each child should have a job in the family, for the family—particularly daily or weekly jobs—for which he is praised and made to feel very able and very important, very much a part of the family.
Help the children to see what their own unique gifts are—and that these gifts are as good as anyone else's.--Linda and Richard Eyre
Your children depend on you to be an example of My love to them in a way that they can understand, grasp‚ comprehend, and feel. If you don't show them My love, how will they know that I love them? You are a manifestation of My love for them. Children are fragile in their emotions, even those who don't seem to show it as much, and I want to show them that I love them, that I care for them, and that I want to be close to them and do special things for them. Your love manifested in time spent with them is one of the biggest ways that a child feels My love through you. And just as I love you so dearly, so do I love them—more than you can imagine.--Jesus, speaking in prophecy
Courtesy of http://anchor.tfionline.com/post/love-builds-children/. Photo by Stenly Lam / Flickr
By Joyce Suttin
During the spring of my junior year in high school, some girls suggested we practice for the junior-senior basketball game, and I thought it might be fun, so I tagged along. I did poorly in practice, more focused on my friends than on the game; but despite getting on the nerves of some of the more competitive players, I decided that I would go through with what was going to be my one and only basketball game.
Throughout the match, the seniors consistently held the lead, while my teammates were struggling. I had passed the ball a couple of times like a hot potato, happy to get it out of my hands as quickly as possible. Until…
We were two points behind with seconds left in the game when one of my friends managed to intercept the ball. She tossed it as far as she could, and I realized with dismay that it was coming straight at me. I caught it easily, but now what? None of my teammates were near the basket.
I must have appeared frozen in time, uncertain of what to do, when I saw the face of Stan, one of the athletic boys in my class, sitting in the front row in the crowd. He called out, “Just shoot the ball! You can do it!”
I remember looking at the basket from my place at half court, taking aim, and shooting with all my might. What happened next is somewhat hazy. Somehow the ball miraculously swooshed into the basket at the last second, and we won the game!
As everyone crowded around me during my moment of glory, my eyes searched the crowd for Stan. He finally came up to congratulate me, and I said, “Thanks, Stan, for showing confidence in me when I needed it. You were the one who thought I could do it, and I did.”
We all need someone who spurs us on when the faces in the crowd are a blur, when the voices seem unintelligible, and our steps falter—someone like Stan to tell us to go for it when we are hesitant and unsure, to boost our confidence to try the impossible, to say “I know you can do it!”
Your children need to see that you want them to achieve, and that you believe that they can achieve. In their times of despair or heartbreak, they need you to show them that they can pick up the broken pieces and start again. They need to know that no matter how hard they may have fallen, or how many times they may have failed, they can stand up again. They need to know that they are winners, they are champions, and that you believe in them.
There are many examples in history of people who did great things, became someone great, discovered something unknown, invented something ingenious, wrote something creative, sang something beautiful, inspired others, or helped to make the world a better place through their efforts—in great part due to the faith that someone had in them.
The strength of faith and the belief that others had in them helped many of these great people to overcome what seemed to be impossible odds, opposition, danger, or difficulty. They might have ended up unheard of by the rest of the world if they hadn't been inspired to achieve, and as a result of that, pushed themselves to become more than they were.
Many of these great men and women were thought to have had little or no potential to begin with. There have been cases of great teachers, scientists, and inventors who were thought to be below average intellectually as children. Some great athletes have been told that they were too sick, handicapped, or weak to qualify for even the first level of competition. There have been cases of great writers and speakers who could hardly articulate themselves when they first started. World-famous dancers, singers, and actors can remember being turned down at their first auditions due to "not having enough talent."
There are many who failed and made countless mistakes, who showed promise and potential, but were disappointed over and over again—until finally, through the strength to persevere that was ignited in part by those who believed in them, they succeeded.
Courtesy of Activated magazine and www.anchor.tfionline.com.
Great Expectations. It’s a novel. It’s a story of human life that comes at you on many levels. It’s the story of love and appreciation, of work and of rising out of nothing into something. It has its nightmares and its problems, but it has its surprises, as well.
Can we expect great things from our children or from one another? Does our culture allow us to demand great things anymore? Do we have a right to make a child behave or do his homework well or his chores regularly?
I remember a very special group of nuns who loved the children in their care. When your ink blotted on your math paper, the expectation was to begin again. There was never a raised voice or a scolded child. It was simply expected, and everyone knew.
You didn’t crumple your paper, because that was unladylike. You slipped your paper quietly into the trash can, and you began again silently.
Ridiculous, you might think, but it taught us that everything we did mattered.
If you carry that thought with you into adulthood, at the very least, the most insignificant things you do will be done well because they matter, from peeling an apple to the real matters of achievement, that of rearing a child.
From what teachers see today, we expect virtually nothing, and then we whine when we get it. Children have a license to do nearly anything anytime without regard to anyone else, and we call this civilization. It isn’t.
I always laugh when a parent tells me, “I couldn’t get him to do it.”
“Really? What are your expectations?” Then they look at you as if a light bulb has gone off.
Parents often forget who is in charge. Rarely do ineffective parents have expectations. The children of fruitless, hopeless sloth are not free. In fact, they are prisoners of horrible behavior, which is more emotionally confining than simple, kindly, agreeable behavior. When parents are not in charge and have no expectations, children suffer.
In a classroom, the expectations move from parents to teachers. Teachers are supposed to back up parents and fill in for parents who are lax. They are supposed to be tough, caring, intelligent and filled with expectations for the kids in the room.
I salute all of my children’s grade-school teachers because of their strong and decent influence.
It starts at birth in the home when parents expect a good schedule for infants and toddlers. By 3 and the preschool years, a child’s behavior should be under control. He should have learned the hard lesson: how to listen.
By 5, a child should be able to conduct himself like a gentleman and turn his listening skills into learning.
Discipline today counts now as much as it did in the times of Great Expectations. Then as now, it should be a normal daily matter of attention to detail, and a conversion of manners, which means a gentle turning toward the best we can be from the inside out.
Expect great things from a child, demand the world, and he will give it to you.
Expect nothing and that will be yours also, and his.
Taken from “Expect Great Things From a Child—He’ll Give it to You,” Scripps Howard News Service
Each of us is “shy” in some instances and “outgoing” in others; this is normal. If you expect your child to be “shy” (or “withdrawn”) you will be reinforcing this behavior and making it happen more often. Focus on and praise your child’s strengths.
Self-esteem is a powerful force which will impact your child’s success and happiness throughout his or her life. More than any other factor, self-esteem or self-image influences our attitudes about what we can or cannot do, how we cope with problems, and how we get along with others.
Self-esteem is a blend of the way we feel about and “see” ourselves, as well as the way we believe others see us. A strong self-image helps a child feel both lovable and capable. A child’s self-esteem is strongest when parents nurture both love ability and capability.
Feeling lovable means that the child feels loved and worthwhile just because he or she exists in this world, not because of something he or she can do. You help a child feel lovable by praising things that are intrinsic or unique to your child’s personality, like his sense of humor, friendliness, persistence, or creativity.
Feeling capable means that the child feels strong and competent, and proud of his or her ability to do or achieve things. Feeling capable has to do with life skills—things like being able to wash and dress oneself, help with household chores, get ready for bed independently, and know the names of colors. Here are a few points to remember:
§ As an adult, you know that every person is unique and special; your child does not know this. Teach him how and why he is unique.
§ Praise is only valuable when it is genuine and descriptive. Use meaningful praise that describes what you notice, like, or approve.
§ When children are allowed to do as many things for themselves as possible, they feel proud and competent.
Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D.
Richard loved to tinker with mechanical devices. As a six-year-old, he took apart an alarm clock. At nine, he helped his dad fix the lawnmower. In high school, he spent hours tearing apart and rebuilding stereo equipment. Now, as a young adult, he’s a sound technician for a professional theater company. Richard’s parents encouraged his interests at an early age, which helped him become a successful adult. However, Richard was never labeled as “gifted.” In fact, he had trouble with math in school.
The definition of “the gifted child” has traditionally been based on school-related skills and limited to the upper five to ten percent of children who achieve high test scores, write well, and excel academically. These are certainly important, but there may be hundreds of other ways for children to show their gifts. “Today’s intelligence researchers emphasize that nearly all children—not just the celebrated five percent—have special talents,” says David G. Myers, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. Studies at Harvard University bear this out, suggesting that kids can display intelligence in many different ways—through words, numbers, music, pictures, athletic or “hands-on” abilities, and social or emotional development.
As an anonymous observer once said: “All children are gifted, some just open their packages later than others.” You can play a crucial role in awakening latent talents or developing current strengths through experiences you give your child at home. Here are 50 ways for you to bring out your child’s best, regardless of how his gifts are packaged:
1. Let your child discover her own interests. Pay attention to the activities she chooses. This free-time play can say a lot about where her gifts lie.
2. Expose your child to a broad spectrum of experiences. This may activate latent talents. Don’t assume that he isn’t gifted in an area just because he hasn’t shown an interest.
3. Give your child permission to make mistakes. If she has to do things perfectly, she’ll never take the risks necessary to discover and develop a gift.
4. Ask questions. Help your child open up to the wonders of the world by asking intriguing questions: Why is the sky blue? Find the answers together.
5. Plan special family projects. Shared creativity can awaken and develop new talents.
6. Don’t pressure your child to learn. If children are sent to special lessons every day in the hope of developing their gifts, they may become too stressed or exhausted to shine. Encourage, but don’t push.
7. Have high expectations. But make them realistic.
8. Share your work life. Expose your child to images of success by taking him to work. Let him see you engaged in meaningful activities and allow him to become involved.
9. Provide a sensory-rich environment. Have materials around the home that will stimulate the senses: finger paints, percussion instruments, puppets, etc.
10. Keep your own passion for learning alive. Your child will be influenced by your example.
11. Don’t limit your child with labels. They may saddle her with a reputation that doesn’t match her inner gifts.
12. Play games together as a family.
13. Have a regular family time for reading, listening to music, talking, etc.
14. Have reference materials available to give your child access to the world.
15. Allow your child to participate in community activities that interest her.
16. Use humor, jokes, and [funny] stories to encourage creativity.
17. Don’t criticize or judge the things your child does. He may give up on his talents if he feels evaluated.
18. Play with your child to show your own sense of playfulness.
19. Share your successes as a family. Talk about good things that happened during the day to enhance self-esteem.
20. Provide your child with access to a home, school, or public library computer. (It’s important to provide supervision for any children going online, so that they don’t end up browsing the wrong sites.)
21. Listen to your child. The things he cares about most may provide clues to his special talents.
22. Give your child a special space at home to be creative.
23. Praise your child’s sense of responsibility at home when she completes assigned chores.
24. Visit new places as a family.
25. Give your child open-ended playthings. Toys like blocks and puppets encourage imaginative play.
26. Give your child unstructured time to [think] and wonder about things.
27. Share inspirational stories of people who succeeded in life.
28. Don’t bribe your child with rewards. To constantly use incentives to get children to perform sends a message that learning is not rewarding in its own right.
29. Suggest that your child join peer groups that focus on her gifts.
30. Discuss the news to spark interests.
31. Discourage gender bias. Expose your child to both feminine and masculine toys and activities.
32. Avoid comparing your child to others. Help your child compare himself to his own past performance.
33. Be an authoritative parent.
34. Use community events and institutions to activate interests. Take trips to the library, museums, concerts, plays.
35. Give presents that nourish your child’s strengths.
36. Encourage your child to think about her future. Support her visions without directing her into any specific field.
37. Introduce your child to interesting and capable people.
38. Think of your home as a learning place. The kitchen is great for teaching math and science through cooking.
39. Share feelings. A child’s gifts can be stifled by repressed emotions.
40. Encourage your child to read.
41. Honor your child’s creations.
42. Do things with your child in his areas of interest.
43. Teach your child to trust her intuition and believe in her capabilities.
44. Give your child choices. It builds willpower and fuels initiative.
45. Show your child how to use books to further an interest. For example, how-to books for the hands-on learner.
46. Set aside an area of the house for displaying creations and awards.
47. Encourage your child to tackle areas that are difficult for him. Help him learn to confront any limitations.
48. Be a liaison between your child’s special talents and the real world. Help her find outlets for her talents.
49. Introduce children’s literature that honors and develops gifts. Books like The Little Engine That Could encourage a “can do” attitude.
50. Accept your child as he or she is.
When I was growing up, I knew a family of six brothers and sisters. I was impressed by them because they were so unconcerned about being part of the “in group” or wearing the latest style; to me they seemed secure and unafraid of failure.
Each of the six had his or her own personality, but all possessed one similar quality, a quality that I grew to greatly admire. It was a certain peace, a security or naturalness—in short, it was confidence. This confidence wasn’t from individual brilliance, athletic ability, or good looks—they were actually pretty average in each of those categories-so I was interested in where it came from.
One day an unexpected opportunity came to discover the true source of their confidence. The family moved into a house just across the block from ours. Now, instead of only seeing them at school, I saw them in my neighborhood, and the secret was revealed! Within their home, acceptance and trust were generously shared between parents and children, and that inspired confidence in each person.
It’s no wonder that confidence would spring from a trusting and accepting environment. Interestingly, the root word of confidence is confide. In order to confide in someone, there has to be trust. When two people share a mutual trust and acceptance of each other, the result is confidence—confidence in the other person and confidence in oneself. — Deepa Daniels
The ultimate safety net
Many children simply need a firm footing of love and acceptance by their parents. This foundation of love provides a cushion of protection and security around them that will help keep them from danger and bad influences, such as drugs or alcohol, or even the pain of rejection by their friends. Your love and acceptance will provide a safety net of protection at such times. If they know that you will not reject them, even for their mistakes or foolish actions, they will come to you and there will be the bond that you desire.
Children need to know that you will always love them no matter what they do, that nothing will ever take your love away. They must know that they can always talk to you; that even though you may not agree, you may not see eye to eye, you may even think that they’ve done something that is very wrong or harmful, still you are always their parent. You will always love them and they can always come to you. Even if all hell would break loose, your child would know that they will always have your love. — “Parenteening”, by Derek and Michelle Brooks.
- "This is the Confidence" excerpted from http://just1thing.com/podcast/2011/6/15/this-is-the-confidence.html
- "Parenteening" © Aurora Productions.