Teaching Self Worth and Confidence
We all want our children to be self-confident, but there is a fine line between self confidence and arrogance. Certainly, praising our children is the best way to instill self-confidence, as I have always done, telling them that they were capable of anything, if they worked at it. However, I also pointed out their challenges. When one of my sons behaved like a bully, I was right on top of it. When another son was allowing himself to be bullied, I dealt with that, too, not by stopping the bullies, but by helping him find his strength to stand up for himself. In that way, a child feels their self-worth and gains more confidence. My own mother always tried to fix everything which made me feel weak and incapable of taking care of myself. When I became an adult, I struggled to find my inner strength that would protect me from attacks. As a result, I went overboard with my daughter and eldest. I urged her to speak up for herself and ask for what she wanted at a very young age. Maybe she was a little too young when, at age three when we were at a fast food restaurant, I insisted she go up to the counter and ask for the extra ketchup she wanted herself. She did it though, and is now one of the strongest women I know.
In addition to the encouragement, we need to acknowledge that everyone has weaknesses, including our children. We don't do them any favors by ignoring those flaws. The more they can acknowledge where they struggle, the more their confidence will build and grow. One of my grandchildren is quite arrogant, believing they can do nothing wrong and have nothing to learn. I can see how that will hold them back in life. We grow through learning and are constantly learning new things, no matter how old we are. We do ourselves a terrible disservice in not recognizing that. As a grandparent, I can try to point things out, but in some cases the damage has already been done, and they will have to learn the hard way.
Often I hear parents praise every little thing that their children do, no matter how minor. That's great, but it also instills an expectation of being praised. Of course, it's important to celebrate milestones like rolling over, first steps and the like. We are thrilled, and so are they. We want to clap for their achievements, and we should. But once those milestones have passed, those things should be normalized. Children should learn to progress because it is joyful to them, not to please us. They should be learning to love learning because it makes them grow and feel good, not because they want to please us. When we are trying to please others, we forget about ourselves, and it actually undermines our self-worth. We can be encouraging without being doting.
With my dad, I felt as though nothing I did was ever good enough. It wasn't until after he died that I learned how proud he was of me and my accomplishments. I definitely could have used more praise from him. My mother, on the other hand, smothered me, never allowing me to live my own life and make my own mistakes. My life was made very difficult in trying to navigate these contradictions. Now, I make plenty of mistakes, but they are mine to make, and I learn from every one. I hope you will let your children do the same while you stand by supporting them, picking them up and dusting them off when they fall and always loving them throughout.
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