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