Three Tips for Parents to Help your Child Be More Confident
Having spent over twenty years helping adults, children and teenagers develop confidence and performance skills one key piece of information has become apparent to me. There is more than one type of confidence and for the purpose of this post I will explain two of them and explore one more fully to help you assist your child in becoming more confident and emotionally resilient.
The most common version of confidence that people recognise is the ability to achieve something through repetition and practice. We start out feeling nervous but the more we do something the better we get and the more confident we feel. I see this all the time when teaching public speaking or helping people with anxiety, shyness or social skills. We all know what it’s like when we start to drive. I remember rolling downhill after driving only for a few weeks, I got such a fright, I refused to drive up that hill again for a couple of months. In fact, I would park at the end of the hill and walk twenty minutes to my place of work rather than risk the embarrassment and fear of rolling back towards another car again. However, after driving more and more my confidence in my abilities grew and so I braved it and I haven’t avoided a hill since. This type of confidence is the one we most commonly understand. It’s how we navigate the world, feeling more and more capable the more we do something. It’s why as we get older we don’t feel nervous in most situation because they are familiar and we are used to being in them. Yet, if you ask someone to deliver a speech or participate in a new activity their confidence is shaken and they feel nervous until they have done it a few times. It’s all about habits and building strong neural pathways.
The other type of confidence in my experience is more to do with self-confidence and this, it appears to me, is less common. I believe this contributes hugely to our level of happiness as it is linked to our need to fit in, be loved, wanted and to feel safe. When we lack this type of confidence we often find it hard to say no to things, we struggle with our perception of what others think and we often need external approval to feel safe being ourselves. In my opinion this develops in our formative years, and our parents and educators can have a great influence on how we develop our own self-confidence and the resilience to be ourselves. So here are my three tips to help you assist your child in being more confident.
1. Manage Your Behaviour
We all know that children predominantly learn by observing and responding to what they see and experience rather than what they are told. I believe this is because for the first years of their life they can only get what they need through their own behaviour and through observing their caregiver’s responses. They cry and so we respond, they also watch our reactions and recalibrate their behaviour to fit with our response. Therefore, they watch us and mimic what we do. If you’re confident in your decisions and actions your child will observe this and view it as the correct way to behave. If the see you avoiding contact with certain people, unable to say no to things, being overwhelmed because you are afraid to ask for help or viewing and commenting on yourself in a negative way then your child will mirror this behaviour as they grow. It may appear as refusing to get involved in things, being shy in new situations or having a poor self-image. If we are careful about our own behaviour, then we can have a positive effect on our children.
2. Manage Your Language
As children grow they start to listen more but also to absorb all the things we say about them and to them. They very often will not respond to our requests, or demands, but they will absorb what we say about them as part of their programming. How many times have you heard someone tell you what they think of you by saying ‘but you’re…’. I have regularly heard this over the years especially when teaching pubic speaking. My students will say ‘but it’s ok for you Elfreda you’re so confident’, or ‘you know what to do’ and so on. Every time we hear one of these phrases we absorb this a part of who we are and often it can become something we feel is conditional to our acceptance. If you as parent repeatedly tell your child they are good at something, then they may very well become afraid to fail. This can then lead to a Fixed Mindset, which is so eloquently explained in the work of Professor Carol Dweck. If when your child is nervous in a new situation and you tell them they are ‘just shy’ you are programming them for shyness and also teaching them that this is ok as you accept the behaviour. Now I am not saying you force a child out of their comfort zone but you can manage their experience much more effectively, which I will explore in my next tip. If we are mindful of the kind of language we use, we allow our children to make their own mind up about who they are and what they like. It is so easy for us to want to praise and help our children that we often ignore the subtle programming that we are creating and more often than not don’t even realise that it is same programming that our parents gave us. So what can we do? On to my next tip.
3. Manage Their Experience
Unlike adults and teenagers who can have confidence issues explained to them and can be taught through their own understanding how to change them, children learn through experience. They are not aware when they are feeling confident or not, they just know some things feel good and others don’t. For a child most situations are new and so it is natural for them to be nervous or fearful. As I said earlier how we behave and what we say to them can have massive impact on their emotional state. I believe the best way to manage your child’s experience is to allow them to create their own checks and balances for how they feel. When your child appears successful rather than rushing in with your opinion and praise, ask them how they feel about their achievements. Get them to understand the difference between when they are happy with something they have done, could have done better, or are dissatisfied. Then ask them if they would like a reward based on their experience. You, as a parent can then offer your opinion if asked and choose what type of a reward you think is fitting based on how they think they did. We live in a world that is so driven by external approval, especially with the explosion in celebrity culture and social media, I believe it is vital that our children learn to develop a sense of self based on their own internal experience and not based on the approval of others. If your child measures their achievements themselves and is sure in the knowledge that you will approve of them either way then they will become happier, healthier and more mentally resilient young people and adults.
For more information on my classes, workshops and coaching check out my Facebook page or contact me directly via email or phone. Thanks for reading, Elfreda