BUILD YOUR CHILD’S CONFIDENCE (WITHOUT CREATING A BRAT)
Did I ever tell you all why I left classroom teaching? I started teaching right at the time in the early 2000’s when standardized testing began to get a bit out of hand, and schools were feeling increasing pressure for their students to achieve on these contrived measures of student success. I began to notice that several of my students became the 7 year old equivalent of stressed out, including those that were my best of the best and would have no problem with these tests.
As adults, we walk a fine line between building kids’ confidence and creating monsters. Yes, I said it out loud…but, as parents we all fear it. The “I’m the smartest kid in the world so I don’t need to listen to you” or the “Buy me this toy now or I will XYZ” syndrome. We all dread it. We all swear we won’t let our kids get that way. And we all walk that fine line between helping our children become confident and helping them not become, well…, entitled brats.
We’re dealing with this issue right now in our home – the brat end of the spectrum – because my five year old is having a tough time losing.
(As a warning, don’t accept his invitation to play 1:1 soccer right now, because it comes with a list of exclusions that make it nearly impossible for you to score – you can’t use your feet, you can’t get near the goal, your goal cannot exceed 12 inches in width, you need to recite Dante’s Inferno by memory before taking a shot…)
And if somehow, you manage to get the ball through the carnival-game-style goal – you know, after your recitation, while shooting with your thigh from behind a tree – you might as well run for cover, as my child will suddenly turn into a (albeit cute) demon-like character, with the most epic fit you have ever seen. Yep, we’re teetering on the bridge of entitlement, and we’re determined to help our child develop into a confident kid without the bratty attitude.
1. FREQUENTLY TELL YOUR CHILD WHAT HE OR SHE DOES WELL.
I tell my kids all the time how kind, thoughtful, helpful, and hardworking they are. I try to focus on things they can control, not characteristics that might seem out of their control. For example, I rarely tell them how smart or athletic they are – instead, I focus on what they have done to deserve the praise: “I saw how hard you worked on that math problem” or “You really showed patience while waiting for the perfect time to score that goal.”
2. VALUE A VALIANT TRY AS MUCH AS SUCCESS.
I want my kids to feel comfortable failing. They need to learn how to fail before they can succeed. Therefore, those five strikes my son has before he makes contact and the baseball rolls onto the field – that’s worthy of a cheer too. If I scream ways he can improve while he’s at bat, he is only going to freeze up. Instead, I smile, I cheer, and show enthusiasm (not relief – which is what I am actually feeling) when he finally hits the ball.
3. MODEL THAT SUCCESS TAKES PERSISTENCE
There are lots of movies that help kids understand that that success doesn’t come without hard work. Since we are heavy into sports nowadays around here, Netflix movies like D2: The Mighty Ducks and The Bad News Bears help my boys see that it is not all about winning and that winning takes effort. When the pressure of winning had been taken off of them, they have the confidence to try their best and enjoy the game.
How do you instill confidence in your children?