It is easier to build a confident child than repair a broken adult.
Self-confident kids have positive and realistic perceptions of their abilities. This perception arises from their achievements, no matter how great or small. A parent’s encouraging words are often all it takes to create a confident child.
The increasing number of children experiencing clinical levels of depression, anxiety and other mental health issues, makes it tough to raise a confident child in the modern world. The big question is, what has changed so much from the time we were kids, that it should now be so challenging to raise confident children? Sure, there were cases of depression and anxiety when we were young, but today’s children are struggling with mental health issues on a whole new level. They also appear to be living in a resilience vacuum.
I’m hearing more and more often, today’s children are too ‘soft’. Word on the street is, it’s because they are over-protected. Every child gets a medal, simply for entering the race. They no longer have to work hard to win. They do not have face up to the pain of battle, so they’ll never have to learn to deal with the anguish of loss and defeat. The common belief is they need to ‘drink a cup of concrete and harden up’. This will be good for building their stamina and confidence and so teach them to become resilient. It’s been said, the children who face the hardest knocks early in life, will be the toughest ones later, when it counts most; and in some cases this is absolutely true. Losing the big game, failing to make the top team and making a mess of that first job interview, can all provide valuable life-lessons.
The process of building self-confidence is simple. You lose enough times, until you learn how to win. During this time you experience a multitude of uncomfortable thoughts and intense feelings such as sadness, hopelessness, fear and worry. As an adult, you understand and expect this process. It is familiar. You’ve been through it a thousand times before. However, for an innocent child, with relatively little life experience, this process can cause unbearable pain and suffering. Not to worry, because when this happens, all a child needs is a loving and supportive parent to be there for them and say something like, “Don’t worry … It’s going to be ok … I believe in you … You can do this … You’ve got what it takes … I’m proud of you.” These powerful words of positivity will often lift that child from the floor, to dust themselves off and try again. This is where confidence and resilience is built. Not in the losing, but in coming back from the losing and smashing it out again and again, until the winning is done. In this way, a child’s confidence and resilience is not built in repeated failure, but from giving them the belief they can be knocked down time and time again, yet know they have what it takes to work hard and overcome the challenge.
In other cases however, the pain of repeatedly losing the game of life can traumatise a child so badly it annihilates their self-confidence for life. Let me explain.
When defeated, some children do not hear loving words of support. They may either hear no words at all (because nobody is there for them), or they may be beaten down with criticism: “What the heck is wrong with you? … Are you stupid? … Use your brain you idiot … For crying out loud, how many times do I have to tell you before you finally get it into that thick head of yours?” In these cases, an innocent, vulnerable child is at extreme risk of complete mental and emotional destruction. They only need to lose so many times, before life becomes too much to handle.
Children who lose, and have no reason to believe they can win, rapidly lose self-confidence. They come to see themselves as weak and incapable. They will now do anything to avoid further challenges. Broken, lost and lonely, with nobody to love and hold them, they eventually succumb to an horrific and distressing inner monologue: “I’m such a loser … I’m so stupid … I’m useless … I’ll never be any good … Nobody loves me … I’ll never be as good as them … I’ll never have what it takes … I might as well not be here.” You get the picture.
It’s not the cup of concrete that makes or breaks a child.
It’s what you say and do for them when they are drinking it.
Every child who is negatively impacted by life’s events is going to need somebody to believe in them and express this belief in the form of unconditional love and positive regard. In this way, self-confidence is one of the greatest super-powers an adult can gift to a child. In facing and overcoming life’s obstacles, a child learns how to win. These children understand the universal relationship between effort and reward. A child, who develops command over this relationship, will experience confidence in their ability to create a life of their choosing. Children who embrace the effort-reward process enjoy higher motivation, stronger self-esteem and unwavering resilience. These are outcome-focused children. They are forward-looking, confident, competent and completely aware that loss only equates to failure if they choose to quit. They know a quitter never wins and a winner never quits. They know this because their parents took the time to sit with them through their losses and show them they are worthy, capable and above all else, unconditionally loved.
Your child will estimate their level of worth and value in accordance with what you say and do to them.
So, praise your child. Look for every opportunity to tell them they are magnificent. Tell them you are proud of them, hug them, high-five them, hug and kiss them goodnight. Say, “You are my world and I love you, for being you.”
I’ll leave you with this thought …
The worry of getting it wrong should never, ever stop your child from trying to achieve anything. A child who believes in himself or herself will never be stopped by the fear of getting it wrong. They will know that in truth, there is no right or wrong way of doing things, but rather just giving their best is the only way to do things. They will go ahead, every time and with confidence, just do it. Confident kids believe they have what it takes to get the job done. Confident children accomplish all things wonderful.