Even as an adults, most of us often feel nervous whenever we enter into a new environment, may it be starting a new job or moving to a new place. Imagine being a child, it takes tremendous confidence to be a kid. Kids are often thrown into many strange situations where they have absolutely no control over. Their parents sign them up to for karate lessons where they are expected to learn moves and then spar with another kid, or piano lessons where there are endless recitals and concert performances in front of strangers. These situations no doubt can be quite stressful to a child.
So how do we as parents instill a can-do attitude and a sense of competence in our child so that they can brave new challenges and over time their confidence in themselves will grow? As we know, no matter how often and how much we tell our child that they are “great” and “awesome” it takes more than that to grow their confidence. A child needs to achieve and through these achievements do their sense of competence grow.
Kids need to do things for themselves in order to build their sense of confidence. For a toddler it may be being able to button up his or her own shirt, wearing their own socks and shoes, for a preschooler it may be learning how to ride his bike or even being able to go to the potty by themselves.
Building confidence in a child begins very early in life. When babies learn that they can “roll over” or toddlers learn that they climb out of their bed or feed themselves with a spoon, they get the idea of “YES I CAN DO IT”. With each skill learned a child becomes more and more confident.
As parents we can help fuel our child’s confidence by giving them plenty of opportunities to practice and master their skills. When your child is struggling to wear his or her underwear after going to the potty, let them struggle and learn. When they succeed, praise them and respond with excitement when he or she shows off their achievements. Reward your child with praises when he or she takes the initiative to do things, even if it is something as simple as helping to set the table during meal times.
Let them do small things such as making their beds, perhaps helping you take the dishes to the sink after a meal or folding the laundry. These seemingly small achievements will help when more important challenges present themselves in your child’s life.
Supervision is important when your child is attempting to do new things but do not hover over them or take over the task when they make a mistake. Give them room to make mistakes. If he or she is trying to make breakfast for you and they spill milk all over the counter top while trying to pour it, do not criticize them. Teach them how to wipe it up and then encourage them to try again.
Sure it may take double the amount of time to get something done with your child’s help but nevertheless it is well worth it.
Sometimes a child may get frustrated and wants to give up. Help them learn that often obstacles can be overcome, by encouraging him or her to keep trying. As parents we may fight the urge to do things for our kids and make life easy for them but do realize that if you do everything for your child, you may be harming his or her self-confidence and hence his or her sense of capability to do things.
Remember doing everything for your child is not necessarily considered love, in fact when your child is not dependent on you all the time, your bond is indeed stronger because now you know your child loves you not because they need you to do things for them.
About the Author
Kopi Soh has a MA in Psychology, Specializing in Marriage, Family and Child Counseling. Her area of specialty is in working with children, adolescents, couples and families. She is also an artist and has published two self-help best sellers distributed by MPH, available in all bookstores throughout Malaysia.