A strong self image has more impact on a child’s life than a high IQ. It turns out that children with high self esteem are more carefree and happier. But how do you help them to build confidence?
Self confidence is something that has to be built and anchored deep inside. It’s knowing, deep inside, that you’re special. If you do, you don’t need good grades, lots of material stuff or others’ opinions to feel good about yourself.
Trick 1: Make them feel your love
Children need love, attention and physical contact to be able to attach to others. After a couple of months, a child wants to crawl away from you. To be able to do that, they need to know they are loved. A child that’s flooded with love and attention, feels connected to their parents. They trust in people to be nice and see the world as a safe place. That basic certainty allows them to go out and discover the world.
Trick 2: Let them know they’re unique
Every human being wants to be valued for who they are. Children, too, want to feel like they’re unique. This makes them turn into leaders rather than submissive sheep, because they learn they don’t have to follow others, they can be an example themselves.
Trick 3: Be relaxed about naughty behavior
A child who’s valued, learns they are not what they do. They can knock over a glass, which makes their action clumsy, but not them, as a person. That’s how they learn: I can make mistakes without disappointing people.
Compliments make you reach for the stars, criticism makes you crawl. For every point of criticism, give at least seven compliments. Because you know all too well that criticism has more impact than a friendly word.
Trick 4: See the sunny side
Do you want your kids to enjoy life? Make sure you see the sunny side, too. Children who grow up in a positive environment, learn to count their blessings. A positive approach makes all the difference between a grey existence or a sunny life.
Trick 5: Encourage beautiful thoughts
Allow your children the freedom to discover what they like to do. Encourage them in all their passions. Let them cherish nice thoughts, big dreams and deep wishes, even if you don’t share them or even if you think they are unrealistic.
Trick 6: Set the right example
Your life, as a parent, is the only parenting book your child will ever read. Live the life you would like your children to have. Do you want them to share? Share yourself! Your own behavior is always the best parenting strategy.
Trick 7: Let them make their own decisions
The aim of parenting, is to teach children to be their own parent. If a child has developed self worth, it’s time for a next step: growing self confidence. In order to do that, a child needs to be allowed to take their own actions.
If you’re not allowed to do anything, the message you will hear is: you can’t do it. And guess what? If children can climb a playset on their own, they are less likely to fall or bump into anything, than when they are constantly monitored.
Trick 8: Let children enjoy things carelessly
Don’t just compliment your kid with the result of their actions, like a nice drawing, but mainly with the action itself. Some children just keep pushing themselves to get results, and forget to enjoy themselves in the meantime. Children don’t have to aim for perfection, they have to laugh, play and act silly. If you see life as a competition, you keep focusing on others to decide what you are worth.
Trick 9: Teach them to embrace the unknown
Life is change – just look at your body, your clothes, your opinions. Teach children to embrace changes with open arms, encourage them to take risks and take new paths. External safety doesn’t exist. Go for inner security, the feeling that you can do anything.
Trick 10: Let go
Our biggest wealth is not the things we have, but the things we dare to let go. Parenting is about finding the right balance between lovingly holding them and having the guts to faithfully let go. Letting go makes them feel assured about their own abilities and your faith in them.
Point the way towards a colorful life, and then step aside. You can do that by encouraging children to experience new things. They will find out how achieving things requires new skills, and how boundaries can be pushed. That’s how you help your kid to go out into the world, full of self confidence.
Text: Christine Pannebakker - Photo: Guillaume de Germain