Are you raising Confident kids or “Cling-on’s?”
By Dwight Bain
Every stage of life can be stressful whether you are two or twenty-two. So how can a parent instill greater strength to help their son or daughter move forward through those stages with confidence instead of being needy and insecure? Here is a formula to show you the extremes in behavior of children and why it’s important to see little decisions as great opportunities to grow up strong.
Peer pressure---> Individual strength
No direction---> Focused with direction
Identity from parents desires---> Identity from God’s design
The last category is the most important to prevent emotional needy or clinging behavior. When a child is over-protected by their parents they often feel safe and comfortable because they don’t have to face any fears. It can feel wonderful to a child, for a while. Then as their peer group moves forward with confidence it leaves a child feeling extremely insecure. Here’s an example. Think about your first day of school – most of us can remember the feelings from leaving our mom or dad on the sidewalk to march into the school bus or school building… alone. Were you scared, or kind of excited? Kids who have been over protected sometimes describe this as one of the worst days of their life which is so sad because it didn’t have to happen.
If a child has been prepared to face the normal changes and challenges of preschool or early elementary, they can anticipate and feel excitement about the process of being a ‘big kid now’. Children want to grow up strong – God has placed inside the heart of every child the desire to mature, that’s why when you ask little kids ‘how old are you?’ that they won’t tell you they are 6… no, they will tell you that they are 6 and ½.
Overprotected children don’t develop early strength and often feel shy or scared of the decisions that they, (or their parents) will one day have to face. Here is a quick parenting formula to build confidence into your son or daughter at any stage of life, which spells out the word, ‘NICE.’
N – Notice
Pay attention to the needs of your child, especially their maturity or ability to manage new tasks. If you want your daughter to successfully attend swimming lessons, then start talking about the benefits, how other kids love to go to swimming lessons, maybe even find a children’s book on the subject to start the discussion, which reduces the stress, (or customize “1 fish, 2 fish, red fish, blue fish” and make it about your children having a grand adventure together swimming).
I – Involve
Keeping kids involved in the normal changes and decisions by asking them questions, showing them pictures, maybe going on short trips to visit places ahead of time, (that’s why ‘meet the teacher’ events are so very important for children. It builds their confidence and emotional strength to leave the safety of being with mom or dad to venture forward past the shyness to feel secure in this gradual growing up process. This works with simple changes children face like getting a ‘big boy bed’ or spending a few special days with grandma. Talking about the process takes away stress.
Wow is this one important. Children need their parents help because they won’t get it right the first time and may take many times to learn new behaviors. Gentle, but loving correction is how kids can learn new skills without feeling like a failure. Don’t yell at a child for making mistakes, rather use your words to instill the belief that you know they can do it, give them the instructions, show them what you expect and then step back and see how they do. Learning to ride a bike is a good example of trial/error but in the end they can zoom forward and yell, “mommy watch me go!” And you will have given them a new skill for a lifetime, instead of the insecurity of having quit before mastering a new ability.
This is essential for parenting confident children. They need to know that you believe in them. Notice I didn’t say love them. Loving a child is essential for self worth, but love alone won’t give them strength in stressful situations. Your words of affirmation give your child courage to face their fears and insecurities, like sleeping in a room with the lights off. Saying “you can do this” will give your son more strength than just telling him you love him. Just look at the word with a dash inserted… en-courage, which means to build up courage, and your child will need that ability their whole life.
Bottom line – confidence comes from doing things. It’s a step by step process of facing little fears, and if done in little steps it gives a child the inner strength to move forward to whatever the future holds. The good news is that every experience can give new excitement about becoming who they were designed to be. When you follow this process you won’t just be raising a child, you will be raising a confident young adult ready to make this world a better place, and have the time of their life in the process.
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About the author- Dwight Bain is dedicated to helping people achieve greater results. He is a Nationally Certified Counselor, Certified Life Coach and Certified Family Law Mediator in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on managing major change.