Confidence is the belief in one’s own abilities. Confident children will usually give things a try, because they feel they can succeed in the task. A young child’s confidence is not only affected by his or her parent’s behaviour and interactions, it is affected by school performance by his/her talents and by how peers and teachers judge him or her.
The first six months of an infant’s life are an important period in creating neuro-chemical biological building blocks because parents act as an early mirror to their child. They do this by showing affection and responding to the emotional needs of the infant from day one. Positive interactions have been shown not only to be important to the child’s emotional status, but also to have positive effects on brain chemistry.
Self esteem is different to confidence it is the way we feel about ourselves at a deeper level. Many parents work hard to build their child’s confidence recognising the effect this trait can have on their child’s future.
Moving beyond confidence to developing increased self esteem is important. Children with healthy self esteem are shown to be able to act independently, assume responsibility, and take pride in their abilities. They will willingly accept challenges and handle problems while dealing with their emotions. If you are interested in raising your child’s self esteem then investing in these traits will have long term positive benefits.
The title of this article, then, should perhaps be re-titled as ‘raising well adjusted children with high self esteem,’since there is a fine line between the child who is confident about what they can do, and the child who behaves in an arrogant way and believes that everything they do is brilliant and deserving of everyone’s attention.
So, apart from giving regular affection and praising our children what can we learn from the research data available? We know that it is important to give a high ratio of praise to criticism, at least six-to-one, and we can refine this by being specific about our praise, and relating it back to the traits
The world today is exciting and constantly developing from a technical perspective. Most household entertainment items are being superseded by those with superior technology and media presentations are getting more sophisticated.
Access to a mass of Information from a young age is easier, and no longer managed completely by the primary care givers. Ensuring that children have the skills to make effective choices has to be the parent’s responsibility, and is becoming more important as children learn from many different sources.
When we look at increasing self esteem we start with simple actions : being available for our children and setting aside time to actively listen to them which is quite a skill in itself. Also talking, playing, and laughing together, and showing by our own actions that we can be confident in what we do. This means that for some parents, developing their own healthy self esteem and confidence is a primary objective.
Children learn from what we do more than what we say, so how we conduct ourselves is the critical factor. It is difficult, for example, for a sad or clinically depressed parent to be able to offer healthy, positive interactions to their child and therefore improving the adult’s mental health can be an essential part of the process.
Our own childhood experiences are important: for example, the parent who was criticised constantly as a child may go on to repeat that pattern of behaviour without even realising that they are doing it. When we are developing self esteem we are encouraging the child to believe’I can do this,’which can become a mantra.
The child will not feel they can do it if they are criticised for doing it in a different way, Conversely, if overprotective parenting prevails, they will wait for their parents to help them, Misguided attempts to help the child to do it better will affect the child’s belief in their own judgment. The way in which we talk to our child, our tone of voice and the words that we use are powerful in affecting changes in behaviour, Making positive statements is an essential skill that has to be learned, unless the adult is able to do this intuitively. Helping a child to visualise a successful outcome to a task not only organises their thoughts, but ensures that they have a ‘give it a go’ mindset.
Sports can be a very good way to encourage the child to develop skills not only in performing the sport but collaborating with others, coping with frustration and failure, and moving on from that to be happy in just having been a part of a process. When an emphasis is placed on winning, the child will feel that they do not measure up. Allowing children to be part of the solution at an age appropriate level is important, children on a football team can contribute to the overall plan and see the consequences for themselves of each action and learn from this, with and without the guidance of the team coach.
A wise parent on the sidelines will keep their thoughts to themselves. Having children complete chores independently is another way of a child developing skills over time and they will feel accomplished in achieving their designated tasks. Having a regular job in the family prepares a child to know that doing ordinary things is a valid and valuable part of everyday life. If we raise children as confident and special rather than competent with a healthy self esteem the child can grow up to have a sense of entitlement, and be unwilling to try difficult tasks.
Teaching a child that behaviour is a choice taken by them, allows them to gain important insights into the way in which they can be responsible for their own behaviour.
Children’s displays of emotions can be powerful, and can be either irritating or upsetting to their parent. Accepting the feelings and helping the child to cope with the fact that things did not work out the way that they wanted behaviour is a choice taken by allows the child to also accept the emotions and not be scared by them. Life goes on, and the child will get plenty more opportunities to succeed in the same or in a different activity.
This builds up resilience in children as young as toddlers, and helps them learn to embrace the challenges we face in everyday life.
Last but not least, empowering our children to follow their heart and develop their own interests enables them to experience opportunities that are meaningful to them.
Supporting an interest you do not necessarily share shows that you value your child as an individual. Nobody said that parenting is easy, and by taking on the concept of raising self esteem alongside confidence, we can grow as individuals too.