5 Ways to Raise More Confident Children

Concern for children’s self-esteem is fairly new. Today, it is one of the biggest worries parent’s have about their child. In fact, Google finds over 7 million sites addressing children and self-esteem!

Our greater focus on protecting and increasing kids self-esteem is misguided. I think kids actually struggle more with self-confidence than self-esteem. I’m going to explore how parents can do less esteem protecting, so their kids can do more confidence building.

Self-esteem versus Self-confidence:

Of course, a child feeling accepted, loved, and worthwhile is important. Don’t young children naturally feel good about themselves? Kids seem to have this innate ability to know they are loved and to give love freely in return.

I know my kids initiate affection without any reservation. Where adults may evaluate the timing and response when giving affection, kids don’t. My kids don’t stop to ask themselves if it is a good time to give mom or dad a hug, they just do.

If self-esteem is the ability to feel loved, then what is self-confidence? If you are confident, you are sure of yourself. Confidence focuses more on being sure of one’s abilities, skills, and self.

I don’t know anyone, kids or adults, who feel confident 100% of the time. Yet, I’m continually surprised by how many children’s problems resolve themselves when parents, including myself, leave the problem alone.

My kids are even great at reminding me that “they can do (something) themselves.” They may remind me with their words, while they also freely show me with snarls and actions. Either way, they have a great way of showing me when I’m stepping into their territory.

Don’t we all need to struggle when we are learning something new? Why do we feel the need to rescue our kids from their learning? I think it all goes back to worrying about our kids’ happiness and self-esteem too much.

5 Ways to Raise More Confident Kids:

So, if a child is unsure of their ability to manage their feelings or solve their own problems, what do we do? I think Lady Bird Johnson was right on when she said,“Children are likely to live up to what we believe of them.” In my family, the more I treat my kids as helpless, the more they act helpless. The good news is, it is never to late to self-correct and get back on track by doing less, so our kids can do more.

Here are 5 ways that parents can raise more confident children:

Recognize your own worries. Although they may focus on different areas, we all have worries. Even with the best of intentions, we may project our fears onto our kids. For instance, if you have a hard time with criticism, rejection, and disappointment, you may worry how your kids will handle the same things.

In turn, you may leak your worries about being well-liked onto your child: “Don’t say or do that, kids may not like you.” Once you recognize your own fears, you can learn to be less leaky with them: “Sorry sweetie, that is mommy’s fear. True friends like you even when you make mistakes. We all make them, even mommy.”

Decide who owns the problem. Each person is responsible for their own thoughts, feelings, and actions. If you are unsure, ask yourself: is the problem something only my child can change?

If it’s not your problem, can you leave it alone? I mean not even poke at it – I know it’s hard!

Coach them in problem solving. On the other hand, when your child comes to you with a problem they are struggling with, restrain yourself from fixing it for them. As long as your child is safe, this can be a great coaching opportunity. What does your child think the solution is? What have they tried?

Most of the time, I find my child has already solved the problem before coming to me. Or, at least the problem has evaporated for the moment. They have nothing to complain about when they realize they have already solved it.

Don’t overuse advice giving. When a child is stuck in problem solving, “I don’t know” likely means they are unsure. Kids will become sure when they have lots of opportunities to try solving their problems.

Giving our kids advice doesn’t help them solve their own problems. It’s ok to give kids ideas and suggestions, yet I try to use them sparingly. Usually when I am pressed for time and low on energy!

Praise effort not outcome. Kids may not always succeed as they try their solutions. Teach them that the outcome doesn’t matter as much as their effort and hard work. It may take multiple attempts to learn something new.

I know it’s hard to see kids struggle. In my family, it is usually fleeting. I can out worry any of my kids. They are over it before I am. They have solved it and moved on. And, if it is not fleeting, it takes more work on my part to internally remind myself that some learning takes longer than I expect it to.

For some parents, this is going to be a new way to think about parenting. I want to hear your perspective.

How can you do less, so your child can do more? When do you see your children solving their own problems?

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2010, and is still a favorite today. Click here for more parenting articles.

Increase Emotional Intimacy Without Pursuing More

You are feeling lonely, so you nudge your spouse: “I wish you listened to me like my friends do. It’s so hard for me to talk to you.”

Spouse responds with, “What are you talking about? I’m listening now.”

“When you stare at me with that blank face, I think you don’t care at all about what I have to say.”

Spouse reacts with, “That’s insulting. Of course I care about you.” Then spouse storms out of the room.

Has this ever happened in your relationship? You give subtle nudges for more attention and approval. Yet when you try to get closer to your spouse, you end up co-creating more distance!

That’s because our mate’s can sense when we are emotionally pulling and pushing on them, even if it’s subtle. And when we feel pressured or pursued, a natural reaction is to withdraw, shut down, or defend. Thus trying to pull your mate closer can actually bring more distance.

The key to increasing emotional intimacy is learning to see your spouse as emotionally separate from you, while maintaining good personal contact.

3 Ways to Increase Emotional Intimacy Without Pursuing More

Let’s break down how to feel closer without trying to pull your spouse closer, so you can find the choices you never knew you had!

1. View Your Spouse as Separate Than You:

If you think you spouse’s behavior is a reflection of how he/she feel about you, then you will start getting critical and increase your emotional distance. Instead of assuming your spouse is avoiding you, find a more objective way to think about his/her actions.

For instance, if your man is being quiet when you talk, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about you. He may be concentrating hard, preoccupied with his own stress, or nervous about how to respond. When you think of your spouse as emotionally separate than you, then his or her behavior doesn’t define your self-worth.

2. Change We Goals into I Goals:

“We goals” involve trying to get the other person “on board” with what you want to receive. When you approach someone with a “we goal,” you are either taking responsibility for the relationship or your spouse. So when you try to get them to be a better spouse, you may be met with defensiveness or distance. Examples of we goals: 

- To be closer as a couple

- For us to communicate better with each other

- To improve our relationship

Instead of pursuing your mate with “we goals,” try changing your interaction goal into something you can control. In doing so, you approach him/her with more confidence and intimacy. An “I Goal” is less dependent on your loved one’s response, because it is taking responsibility for your emotional needs. Examples of I goals:

- To tell spouse about myself without expectations or assumptions

- To be less critical and more curious without pressure for other to respond

- To take my spouse’s interactions less personally

3. Be Social and Develop Friendships:

I am not suggesting having an affair. Nor am I suggesting telling your friends and family all the negatives about your spouse, so you have more people on your side. Obviously this will help create more emotional distance in your relationship.

Instead, remember most relationships can’t handle being the only source of social support for each other. If you expect your spouse to meet all your social and emotional needs, the well may dry up.

When you are better connected socially, you have more wells to drink from. You come back from social outing with your well full, so you are less needy in your most important relationship. So how do you meet your social needs without solely relying on your spouse?

When you can see you and your spouse as more separate emotional beings, you can actually be more present and connected. You are freer to share yourself without pressing on your loved one to respond in a certain way. Thus increasing your emotional intimacy.

Questions and Comments are welcome…

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Emotional Intimacy Journal

Top 5 Focusing Tips in a Distracted World

Do you want to be less distracted by mental clutter? I think mental clutter comes in two forms: the worries we give ourselves and the information overload we receive from outside of ourselves.

In today’s age of instant gratification and touch screens, it can be hard to unplug and unwind. It starts with a beep, a ring, a tweet, or a status. And it spirals from minutes to hours mindlessly lost in a web of technology.

While I am often bombarded with technology pings and pulls for my attention, I find I need just as many reminders to be mindful of how I use and respond to technology. So I’m pulling out my review of Leo Babauta’s book, Focus: A Simplicity Manifesto in the Age of Distraction. Focus offers a wealth of practical information to help you focus in an age of increasing technology and available information.

“The stream of news, information, and messages we get these days is enough to drown us.” Leo Babauta

Leo’s not drowning, he’s choosing a different path. If you don’t know Leo, he is the humbly, wise and prolific writer of Zen Habits. He writes about simplifying life for a more peaceful, productive, and happier you.

When I get bored, lonely, or worried, I can get really distracted. What about you? Yet, if I add focus to any task, I create a peaceful productivity.

To learn the art of focusing, I’m choosing my 5 most favorite, focusing tips from Leo’s book. And, taking steps that I can apply to my everyday life. Will you join me?

Top 5 Focusing Tips:

#5 - Limit Streams of Information

We sit down to read, but what do we pick up? A book, magazine, blog, newsletter, e-book, or professional journal. There is a mega amount of information literally available at our fingertips.

How do you reduce information overload? Here are some steps I’m taking to limit the constant stream of information that I consume:  less Facebook, TV shows, blogs, and unsubscribing from newsletters.  This is where focusing begins for me.

#4 – Prioritize Less Tasks

I have always prioritized daily tasks, but almost always try to complete more than is realistic in a day. Now, I limit myself to 2-3 important tasks per day. How do you decide what tasks get priority in your day?

I also separate important from routine tasks. I start on the important tasks first, before I start on one of the many mundane tasks, such as errands, chores, filing, copying, etc.

#3 – Take an Information Cleanse

I resist unplugging from the computer, unless I’m on vacation or out of town. Yet, I’m tired of waiting for travel to take me away. What would it take for you to unplug?

Start with a half a day. Move up to a whole day. Unplug from the technology of your choosing, phone, computer, TV. Initially, I was anxious about unplugging, worried about missing out and getting behind. Yet, I’ve found I’m more focused on essentials and the loved ones right in front of me during an info cleanse.

#2 – Practice Single-Tasking 

I’d like to think I’m a master, multi-tasker. Opening emails, talking on the phone, and checking my to do list. What’s wrong with this picture? There’s a million things running through my mind, but I’m not fully present in any of them.

Surprisingly, doing one task at a time is exhilarating and relieving. Practice completing one task at a time, as if you have nothing else to do. And, then practice again and again. Be completely in the moment, no matter how mundane the task.

#1 – Do Something Amazing Each Day 

I saved the best for last. Think about what you love about life. Intentionally, do at least one thing each day that inspires, energizes, or motivates you. You may already be doing something amazing each day.

Is your most important task also something you love to do? If not, carve out time to do something you are passionate about before you go to bed. Again, give your amazing experience all of your focus, for as long as it lasts. Enjoy!

“Be like water. Flow, respond to the landscape, move around obstacles, and be graceful in your movement.” Leo Babauta

Mental clutter is not like water, it’s a pool of nagging thoughts that you haven’t done enough. Break through by simplifying, unplugging, and focusing on the essentials.

I’m going to be working on putting less on my daily to do list, so I can enjoy that amazing moment! What focusing practice will you start practicing?

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2011, but you can still download Leo’s book on Focus for FREE or purchase a premium version, here.