We all want more confidence as adults, yet when we think back to childhood there was a time when we were insatiably confident and assertive – indeed, this is how we learned to walk. We received the unconditional encouragement of our parents and despite failing time and time again, we picked ourselves up and kept on trying until finally we could walk… now, when we first started out, we looked a little funny and it wasn’t particularly smooth, yet the world didn’t laugh at us and criticise us. It praised and validated our effort, making us feel like we were the cleverest toddler in the world.
Similarly, if we had a rash on our skin, our parents would go to the doctor and ask the question what is baby acne, then do all they could to resolve the issue without embarrassment or judgement. Indeed, you could even poo your pants and still be treated with dignity and as the most precious person in the world.
Yet, somewhere along the way… the tides turned, you were told no more than you were encouraged and the unconditional love, acceptance and encouragement began to feel more conditional – and within this, we lost our confidence and self-esteem.
In this sense, the process of growing up is a process of deprivation; meaning, something that was once so abundant (unconditional love, acceptance and encouragement) tends to be replaced with a more conditional love based on whether we have been a “good boy” or a “good girl” – whether we have eaten all our peas, for instance, or done our homework.
With this in mind, modern parents are very aware of the impact childhood experiences have on their children as they grow up, in terms of the the long term impact their childhood will have on their mental fortitude, mindset and emotional health; and many parents endeavour to create confidence within their children… but, confidence is not really something that can be given to a child, as a gift, it’s something that must be generated.
In this sense, confidence is like a muscle, and as with any muscle, for it to grow it needs to be exercised, tested and challenged.
Also, it’s important to realise that when we talk about confidence there’s a huge difference between the two types of confidence; in that there is an inner confidence associated with certainty and stability deep down, then there’s the outer confidence that is the opposite of shyness.
Having good social skills doesn’t necessarily mean a child is confident, as external skills can be taught and learned quite easily, indeed many people develop high levels of external confidence as a coping mechanism to make up for their low levels of inner confidence and self-esteem.
So, when it comes to creating this deep internal sense of confidence and self esteem within your children the following three aspects will point you in the right direction.
A sense of stability in one’s home life is imperative. The majority of emotional issues in later life stem from an unstable childhood; whether this is from the practical aspects of moving around a lot, or a divorce, or something more emotional such as distant parents that weren’t always emotionally present and understanding of you.
The idea of a stable home has many connotations, but a home is much more than the bricks and mortar that keep four walls around you – home is more of a feeling and an emotional state of certainty that allows people to feel safe, secure and at peace.
There are simple things you can do to ensure your child feels more certain, such as setting up a regular bedtime routine, which doesn’t change – or having breakfast at a particular time where everyone is intellectually and emotionally present.
Children from stable homes and upbringings tend to feel more confident in later life. Therefore, try to ensure a stable home environment for your child in order to help them operate from a stable and solid foundation within.
MAKE THEM FEEL HEARD
A lot of times, disruptive children are seeking attention, and we “punish” them in a way that meets their need for attention. Unfortunately, children will find ways to meet their emotional needs – no matter what – and some ways are productive, whilst others are not.
If your child is craving attention there’s a chance they are suffering from a feeling of not being heard, validated or significant. The best thing to do here, therefore, is to make the time to listen to your child to ensure they are validated and feel emotionally understood.
The other aspect is to focus on the positive and ignore the negative; see attention as a gift to your child and therefore only offer it when they are doing something good – as this way, you will condition them like Pavlov’s Dogs to associate pleasure with doing something good and pain with being naughty.
FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE
As mentioned above, children are attention craving by nature and when parents focus their attention on the bad behaviour children will unconsciously link this with a “reward” of attention… even if it’s negative attention. Indeed, many children become conditioned to associate being naughty with a way to get their parent’s undivided attention which is why they will often push and push until breaking point – not out of malevolence, but out of hunger for attention.
You therefore want to focus your attention on rewarding the positive, and trying to ignore the negative. Of course, you might need to reign them in from time to time, but the point is make sure your child feels congratulated and validated when they do good things – and somewhat ignored when they are behaving badly.
In summary, confidence is a muscle and like any muscle it needs exercise in order to grow – that said, putting your child in confidence enhancing situations such as karaoke contests or paying for groceries at the store are not of themselves enough to develop confidence. You need your child to develop a firm foundational base; and the best way to achieve that is to provide stability, encouragement and validation of their feelings.