10 steps to a confident child
“The roots of self-confidence are born or broken in childhood. Early experiences shape our sense of self. It is often just little words that wound kids or empower their dreams. So having a heightened awareness as to the enormous power of your words and communication to kids is essential for fostering confidence in children.” ~ Maureen Healy, Growing Happy Kids.
By adopting a mindful attitude to parenting you can help build a foundation of confidence and self-acceptance within your child. Your words and actions need to encourage your child’s unique talents and abilities in life and support them to do the things they love. There are 10 confidence-building steps you can follow to instil self-assurance in your children.
1. Connection with spirit
In his book The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success for Parents, Deepak Chopra states: “The deepest desire in a parent’s heart is to see one’s child achieve success in life, yet how many of us realise that the most direct way to success is through spirit? In our society we don’t usually make that connection — quite the opposite. We teach our children how to survive, how to behave in order to earn our approval, how to defend themselves, how to compete, how to persist against disappointment, obstacles and setbacks. Although believing in God is often considered a good thing, spirit has traditionally been set apart from success in daily life. This is a mistake, and it has had a profound effect on all our lives, from childhood on …
“Everyone in the world wants something; everyone in the world has desires. Children need to know from the beginning, that desire is the most basic drive in human nature. It is the energy of spirit. When we grow up and seek answers to profound questions or set out to solve immensely challenging issues in our personal lives, what we work with is the same natural desire that made us curious children, nothing more. The seeker is the child who has gone from needing a parent’s love to needing God’s, from wanting toys to wanting infinite creativity … with all its worship of material success, society has missed a profound truth: success depends on who you are, not what you do. Being of essence or spirit — call it by any name you want — lies at the source of all achievement in life.”
With each new experience children will encounter some fear and they look to you for reassurance. This is the opportunity to step back from being their only point of encouragement and develop within them a connection to spirit; a constant source of love and support, where they can go and ask for help and guidance. Knowing your child has a personal relationship with spirit allows you to let go of all the worry because you know your child is working with spirit and moving towards their life purpose.
Chopra continues: “A child raised with spiritual skills will be able to answer the most basic questions about how the universe works; she will understand the source of creativity both within and outside herself; she will be able to practice nonjudgement, acceptance and truth, which are the most valuable skills anyone can possess for dealing with other people; and she will be free from the crippling fear and anxiety about the meaning of life.
“The deepest nurturing you can give your child is spiritual nurturing. Every child has a spiritual life already. This is because every child is born into the field of infinite creativity and pure awareness that is spirit. But not every child knows that this is true. Spirit must be cultivated; it must be nourished and encouraged. If it is, then a child’s innocent spirit grows up to be strong enough to withstand the harsh realities of an unspiritual world.”
Chopra lists some useful questions for your children to help build connection and confidence:
“How did I make a difference today?”
“What talent did I uncover?”
“What came to me — a gift, a lesson, a beautiful experience — that made me feel special?”
“What did I do to make someone else feel special?”
2. Positive encouragement
Every child needs your support and encouragement. Encouragement gives children belief in themselves to risk becoming more and doing more. Positive encouragement helps a child feel valued and worthy. Be there to offer words of encouragement along the way and praise them when they succeed. “Well done sweetheart. You did something new. You must feel wonderful.”
Look for and find something positive in everything they do. When you point it out, you help them to see good within themselves.
3. Introduce children to their gifts
A child learns what is wonderful and unique in them through your eyes. When they accomplish a task that requires skill and determination, take the time to point out how amazing they are to achieve this task. With your help they can become aware of their personal talents and interests.
You may notice that your daughter is always choosing wonderful clothing combinations and has a genuine interest in her appearance. The colours always match and her choices show great style. Let her know that she has a great eye for fashion. “You really love clothes, don’t you? You always take such care in your appearance and you always look beautiful. You have a gift for fashion.”
These complements will make her heart soar with love, pride and confidence. She may not have realised her love of clothes was anything special, but with your kind words she now knows that what she loves is also one of her very special talents — an interest she will nurture even more intensely from now on.
4. Model good relationships
Your relationships with friends and family demonstrate to your children the sort of relationships they can have. Be mindful of the company you keep, remembering that who your children spend time with will influence who they will become and what they think is normal behaviour. Try to spend family time surrounded by good friends with similar morals and ideals to you. You want your children to be surrounded by good role models.
When it comes to your child’s friendships, you can help them to nurture these relationships and create loving bonds. If you see your child having a problem with a friend, this is an opportunity to help them understand how to work it out. Remind them how special that friend is to them and help them understand the situation and how to rectify it. This often involves forgiveness, saying sorry and being able to explain themselves properly. This will help your child to be a good friend and invite more meaningful relationships into their life.
“Ok, so you wanted to play dolls but Grace wanted to play doctors. Instead of telling her you don’t want to be friends, how about telling her how you feel. You could say, Grace, we have already played doctors today. Do you think we could play dolls now and if we have time we could play doctors again later?” If Grace says “No”, your child should be able to explain her need to do what is right for her. “OK Grace, you can play doctors but I really want to go and play dolls now as that will make me happy. I love you and we can play again soon.”
You are helping your child to express her needs to stay happy and build her confidence in making her own choices.
Children need confidence to succeed in relationships and the words you use greatly influence whether they believe they are worthy of good relationships. Try to build their relationship confidence with regular positive affirmations.
“You have lots of lovely friends.”
“You are always surrounded by people who love you.”
“That was such a lovely thing you did for your friend. You are such a beautiful person inside and out.”
Encourage your children to spend time with people who make them happy and enjoy playing the same games they do. Teach them that it’s ok to be kind to everyone while being allowed to choose like-minded friends to spend most of their time with.
5. Mistakes are building blocks
According to psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, “There are no mistakes, no coincidences. Just gifts given to us to learn from.” By responding to mistakes as purely a gift, a lesson to learn and grow from, then your child will be happy to try something new and accept that they may have to make a few mistakes along the way. This will help them cherish the journey of discovery and be so much more confident along the way.
6. Mirror confidence
Your children look to mirror you because they honour and love you. If you can show them you are brave and confident, it will help develop these qualities within them. Even if you don’t feel confident all the time, you can work on being the confident adult that you are or wish to become.
7. Let them shine
Whether it is ballet moves, singing a song, jumping off ledges or solving a puzzle, give your child time to demonstrate something new and amazing for you. Let them show off. Kids are learning new things every day and if you can acknowledge this, they will continue to search out new things to learn. If you don’t pay attention they won’t bother to try new things since no-one notices anyway.
8. Feelings are fine
In her best-selling children’s books, the When I’m Feeling series, Trace Moroney delights children and adults with eight books on FEELINGS. “The greatest gift you can give your child is a healthy self-esteem. Children who feel valuable and who trust themselves have positive self-esteem. You can help your child feel valuable by spending quality time with him or her, playing games, reading books or just listening. You can also help children feel valuable by helping them discover and become the person they want to be. Success follows people who genuinely like who they are.”
Moroney continues in her background notes for parents: “However happiness is more than just being successful. Helping your child gain the self-trust needed to deal with failure, loss, shame, difficulty and defeat is as important — if not more so — than succeeding or being best. When children trust themselves to handle painful feelings — fear, anger and sadness — they gain an inner security that allows them to embrace the world in which they live.
“Each (feeling book) has been carefully designed to help children better understand their feelings, and in doing so, gain greater autonomy (freedom) over their lives. Talking about feelings teaches children that it is normal to feel sad, or angry, or scared at times. With greater tolerance of painful feelings, children become free to enjoy their world, to feel secure in their abilities, and to be happy.”
Moroney titles her books, When I’m feeling … Jealous … Sad … Kind … Angry … Loved … Scared … Happy … and Lonely. Her delightful books remind you why feelings are important and you will find yourself learning more about your own feelings every time you read them.
9. Body image
Body image is one of the most important areas of a child’s self-esteem. Even if you do not accept and love yourself completely, there is absolutely no reason to let your child know that. You must demonstrate self-love. You must fill their heads with words of praise for the miraculous human body. Let them know how magnificent the body is and how wonderful it is at healing itself. As a scab heals over on your child’s scraped knee, point out, “Isn’t your body amazing, look, it knows how to heal itself.”
When your child leaves food on their plate because they’ve had enough, you can say, “Well done for listening to your body, it will always tell you what you need.”
And when your child asks why you have a “fat belly” you can say, “I love my belly. Our bodies go through many phases in life and all of them are beautiful. I am so grateful for my body as it helps me move and walk through life.” Give them reasons to love, not judge.
Lisa is a client of mine who has had body issues all her life. Her problems began in early childhood because of her mother’s relationship to her own body. All Lisa heard from her mother was distaste and judgment towards her body. As a young girl, Lisa never heard any positive words about the body; all she knew was to judge it. Her earliest memories of swimming classes at primary school were of all the girls getting changed in the change rooms and her feeling so embarrassed and judgmental about her body that she had to change in the toilet.
Lisa never knew a body was beautiful. She never knew her body was amazing. She was programmed by default, due to the words and actions of her mother, to distrust and hate her body. It led to eating disorders and sexual abuse. This programming has remained with her all her life and to this day is still the biggest life lesson she has to work on and try to heal.
Avoid setting your children up to judge themselves. Let them believe they are perfect and beautiful just as they are. If they decide at a later stage they want to be fitter or work on their health, they will be equipped to do this from a place of self-love and respect rather than self-loathing and disgust.
Remember that children develop different shapes and sizes as they grow. A chubby child may suddenly have a growth spurt and end up tall and lean. As long as you feed them nutritious food and give them words of love and acceptance, their body will work it out and their body is their lesson.
|“Selecting just the right words and saying them to your child has the power to strengthen them, and in today’s world, every child needs to be strong from the inside out.” ~ Maureen Healy
10. Special place on earth
All children want to know they are special and important. Explain to them that they have a very special job to do on earth that no-one else can do except them. It is up to them to follow their heart and do what they love and through that, they will fulfill their life purpose. It is because of their uniqueness that only they can fulfill their destiny. This will also help them to love and respect others for being different, because everyone needs to be different to fulfil the special jobs they have to do here on earth.
The Little Soul and the Sun by Neale Donald Walsch is a great book that explains to a primary-aged child why they are here. It will help them to understand that they are of “light” and are here on a sacred contract. Another useful book, Secret of the Peaceful Warrior, by Dan Millman helps children accept that they can be a warrior and come from a place of love when confronted with bullying.
These 10 confidence-building tools will help you build a foundation of confidence for your child. There is also a list of definite no-no’s that will kill your child’s confidence and create low self-esteem.
Confidence is the key to following your dreams and believing in your abilities to succeed. Killing a child’s confidence sets them up for a life of unaccomplished dreams and stops them from following their heart and experimenting with life.
If you slip up occasionally, it’s ok, but long-term exposure to these bad habits will foster in children a belief that they are not capable of achieving.
Things you should never do to your children:
Parenting is not always easy. Just when you think you have yourself figured out, God gives you children with their own set of emotions, lessons and karmas. No parent is perfect, but you can remain mindful of the effect your words and actions have upon your children. Be gentle and kind and offer them words of love along the way. Take your time, converse with God and follow the path you have chosen. Confidence in your own life purpose and your connection with God will encourage your child to believe they can accomplish life too. They will know they can succeed because you showed them they were wonderful.
Joanne Mensforth PhD has a passion to help parents mindfully raise confident and loving children. W: www.joannemensforth.com