Originally posted here on Sleep Should Be Easy
With future Olympic stars and piano prodigies swirling around these days, it’s natural to hope your child will excel. If you think about it though, your child’s ability to believe in himself far outweighs any laurels he’ll earn. Why? It’s that self confidence (rather than success) that can usher him through the ups and downs life brings. Here are five things I’m doing to increase self confidence in my kids.
How to increase self confidence in your kids:
Tip #1: Praise the effort, not the person or the result.
After I had my first baby, I heard parenting expert Julie Ross speak about the dangers of overpraise. In Ross’ view, children can become praise addicts who fall apart when everyone around them doesn’t think they’re the latest Mozart or Messi. From that point, I never a told a child they were smart, a good athlete, a good piano player, nor a talented drawer. I’ve never told my kids they were good at anything in particular.
Rather, I have tried to eliminate value judgments and instead praise the attempt or effort involved. You want your child to feel good about himself, whether what he did turned out great or not.
And you always want him to try. You don’t want him to fall apart when he doesn’t get a good grade, thinking that because he’s “the smart one,” he must always do well.
Tip #2: We don’t have to be good at everything.
This leads me to my next point. Nowadays, everyone is supposed to be good at everything, which, we all know, isn’t the case. I tell my kids I turned out to be a decent English student but struggled at math and science. Now, even though I want my kids to still put in a college effort with math and science, I also want them to be able to admit they won’t succeed at everything and that the value is in continuing to try.
Kids are so smart and they can detect insincerity a mile away—if you tell your child they are the next Nobel prize winner in math when they’re not very good, they will know the truth sooner than you and they won’t trust you.
Better that they have reasonable expectations and increase self confidence from what they really are good at. And from the fact that they keep trying when they’re not so hot.
Tip #3: Adopt Churchill’s motto: Never give up.
Which then leads me to my next point—aren’t I logical—ha ha. Whenever I hear a story about a person who went through a challenging time in life and persevered, I recite that tale to my kids. Sometimes I’ll even read them a passage from a book I’m reading about endurance and perseverance. “Did he give up,” I ask? “NO,” they are used to chanting back.
I want my kids to understand that success doesn’t just happen—we work for it. This effort is a cornerstone of self-esteem because when we work hard at something, we feel good about ourselves, even when we don’t succeed at first. Running a start-up has provided perfect material for this theme because my kids have seen me work and struggle. They understand that things don’t just take off without a lot of sweat (and some tears).
Tip #4: Emphasize kindness and respect over success.
When my kids do something generous or sensitive to others, I praise that, even if it’s the smallest gesture. A lot of good ole self confidence can stem from showing common courtesy like politely saying hello, not griping at other drivers, holding the door, and helping someone carry their bags.
These are the small moments that gel into the larger picture of our own lives. And a few of those per day can truly change the way you feel about yourself.
Tip #5: Praise their character.
Even though I don’t believe in telling my kids they are innately good at something, I do praise their character. If they make a mistake or do something mean, I tell them I know they are a good deep down and that that is what matters most. When I tuck them in at night, I say “Mommy loves you so much and I’m so proud of you, and you are a wonderful person.”
I didn’t read this in any book, but it makes sense to me that this will help them grow into someone who realizes that being a good person is the number one priority.
I’m just beginning my own journey as a parent of toddlers to pre-teens and I’m sure I’ve goofed as much as I’ve gotten it right. The tips above are the ones that ring true to me, and I hope they are helpful to you. If you have others to share on how to increase self confidence in your kids, please do so below! Happy confident parenting and thanks for reading!