Are we sabotaging confidence building?
Some parents who read my article -‘5 Tips to Building Confidence’ have asked if there are specific actions parents take that negatively impact confidence in our children and whether we can avoid doing them.
The answer to this question is, yes, absolutely! Although, for those of you who know me, you know I’m going to make suggestions of what you can do, rather than what to avoid!
Every day we actively work hard to help our children improve themselves, to have more than we do and be better than we are. This is an honourable aspiration but herein lies the problem. To have that desire often implicitly means that we are not happy or satisfied about who we are and what we have. Pushing our children to be better due to our own fears, limited beliefs and insecurities is unconsciously saying to them that they are not good enough.
So, how can we do it in a more positive way?
Here are my top 3 tips to eliminate confidence sabotage:
Consider the impact of your own insecurities
If we feel insecure about ourselves, we show it. If someone gives a compliment, we brush it away. If we feel particularly bad about ourselves we may then go on to highlight something we feel even more insecure about.
‘You look lovely in that dress.’
‘What this old thing, I only threw it on as it hides the size of my stomach.’
Does that sound familiar?
I watched a friend of mine interact with her 13 year old daughter last week. She stood in front of the mirror complaining about her ‘ample hips and bum”. She turned to her daughter and said ‘it runs in the family, you’re Nanna was this shape too.’ As she said these words she looked apologetically at her daughter. Instantly, in that moment, mum’s insecurity has rubbed off. In one sentence she unintentionally told her daughter it’s not a good shape and she has most probably inherited it. This was just one interaction of this type in one small portion of the day. How many times a day does the daughter actually hear those concerns or something similar?
Make yourself a deal. Look into the mirror through your child’s eyes; see yourself as they see you. Notice your beautiful eyes that look at them with complete love, your kind smile that acknowledges when they do something well or your lovely arms that hug so well. Then when you’ve noticed how beautiful these attributes are, comment on them and tell your child how beautiful their eyes, smile or arms are.
Allow them to grow
As adults our mental growth has considerably slowed down. It feels harder to take on new knowledge and recalling information learned in our formative years can, at times, feel impossible. So it’s realistic to assume that our children’s mental growth is catching up with ours at a very fast pace and it won’t be long before they are teaching us (if they’re not already doing so). You remember the times when you had a ‘dependent’, relying on you to show them how to do everything and now you look at your ‘independent’, absorbing and implementing their new found information and skills at lighting speed. This can lead us to feel inadequate, surplus to requirements or even remind us of a time when the actions of another led us to believe we were inadequate or incapable.
I watched an interaction between members of a family in a local coffee shop earlier this week. Mum, dad, older sister and brother, sat together discussing plans for the weekend. I watched mum, her strong public persona battling with her inward lack of significance, her own need for growth. She had to be right about everything. She needed to be the most knowledgeable and best at everything they discussed. I could see the conversation was doing wonders for her confidence but to the detriment of both of her children. Every time she proved she knew the answer was a victory for her, however either or both of her children became a little more deflated and a little less confident about what they were saying.
Sometimes our children need us to bury our own ego in order to promote theirs. Imagine instead that we listen to what our children tell us. We then go on to ask the kind of questions that make them really think about what they have learnt and encourage them to go and find out even more. How much would that boost their confidence? Imagine too how much more you could learn by doing this. Our children don’t need us to be the best, they just need us to be great role models and guide them to become capable adults.
Sometimes in our eagerness to help we forget how our ‘helpful comments’ are being communicated to the recipient.
My husband is a ‘straight talking guy’; he prides himself on being honest. A fantastic trait to have although sometimes when I have slaved over a piece of work, I’m looking for gentle rather than brutal honesty! He doesn’t understand why I start to bristle when the first words out of his mouth are ‘that doesn’t look right’. It’s always easier to find the negative in something – to notice the bit that’s missing, the spelling mistake or when someone has gone off topic. It’s more difficult to suggest what can be done instead.
So, how could my husband provide feedback more positively? He can start by telling me something that’s good about what I’ve done – anything (clutch at straws if necessary). Then as I begin to feel pleased that my hard work wasn’t in vain he can go on to tell me how I can make it even better. Hey presto, we’re working together on creating a masterpiece. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe in telling children they’ve done something amazing if they haven’t. I do however believe in encouraging growth by helping them feel good about what they have done and then suggesting further improvements. This can be done in three easy steps:
- Tell them something they have done well.
- Make suggestions on how they could improve what they have done.
- Give them overall praise for the task they are doing.
If your child regularly gets cross when you help them with homework or is reluctant to listen to your suggestions, take time to put these steps in place. Notice the difference this feedback makes and how your child is much more receptive to making changes.
To ensure we don’t sabotage confidence our children we need to be kind to ourselves first. Be proud of who we are, believe in ourselves and not let the things we were taught in our past negatively influence our future and that of our children. Remember we are doing the best we can with the resources we have. So be happy with who you are and what you have, then find additional resources if you want to become even better. Once you do this, you can mirror the same actions with your child, praise them for who they are and what they have done before suggesting how they can become an even better version of themselves.
If you have a story you would like to share with me about building confidence in your children or you just want to say hello, then drop me a note at Debbie@emotions-im.co.uk
As always – I look forward to hearing from you!