12 Ways to help your Child build self-confidence9 September 2011 in Uncategorized
Here is Strategy 1-3 of the 12 Ways to help your Child Build self-confidence. 4-12 will follow next week.
Self-esteem is your child’s passport to lifetime mental health and social happiness.
It’s the foundation of a child’s well-being and the key to success as an adult. At all ages, how you feel about yourself affects how you act. Think about a time when you were feeling really good about yourself. You probably found it much easier to get along with others and feel good about them. Parents who want to learn more tips like this can find information about the best online schools out there from Guide to Online Schools.
Self-image is how one perceives oneself
The child looks in the mirror and likes the person he sees. He looks inside himself and is comfortable with the person he sees. He must think of this self as being someone who can make things happen and who is worthy of love. Parents are the main source of a child’s sense of self-worth.
Lack of a good self-image very often leads to behavior problems
Most of the behavioral problems that I see for counseling come from poor self-worth in parents as well as children. Why is one person a delight to be with, while another always seems to drag you down? How people value themselves, get along with others, perform at school, achieve at work, and relate in marriage, all stem from strength of their self-image.
Healthy self-worth doesn’t mean being narcissistic or arrogant;
it means having a realistic understanding of one’s strengths and weaknesses, enjoying the strengths and working on the problem areas. Because there is such a strong parallel between how a person feels about himself and how a person acts, helping your child build self-confidence is vital to discipline.
Throughout life your child will be exposed to positive influences builders and negative influences breakers. Parents can expose their child to more builders and help him work through the breakers.
1. PRACTICE ATTACHMENT PARENTING
Put yourself in the place of a baby who spends many hours a day in a caregiver’s arms, is worn in a sling, breastfed on cue, and her cries are sensitively responded to. How do you imagine this baby feels?
This baby feels loved; this baby feels valuable. Ever had a special day when you got lots of strokes and showered with praise? You probably felt like queen for a day and hopefully you behaved accordingly. The infant on the receiving end of this high-touch style of parenting develops self-worth. She likes what she feels.
Responsiveness is the key to infant self-value. Baby gives a cue, for example, crying to be fed or comforted. A caregiver responds promptly and consistently. As this cue-response pattern is repeated many hundreds, perhaps thousands, of times during the first year baby learns that her cues have meaning: “Someone listens to me, therefore, I am worthwhile.” A stronger self emerges.
Of course, you can’t always respond promptly or consistently. It’s the predominant pattern that counts. You will have days when you are short on patience. Babies pick out the prevailing parenting style and form impressions. As baby gets older it becomes important for him to learn how to deal with healthy frustration, as this will teach him to adjust to change. The important thing is that you are there for him; that’s the message on which baby builds his sense of self.
The confidence-building aspects that result from attachment-parenting pay off especially with high-need babies. Because of these infants’ more intense demands, they are at higher risk of receiving negative responses. When attachment parenting produces mutual sensitivity between connected parents and high-need babies, they learn to see themselves in a good light.
Because of responsive nurturing, the connected baby knows what to expect. On the other hand, the disconnected child is confused. If his needs are not met and his cues unanswered, he feels that signals are not worth giving. This leads to the conclusion that “I’m not worthwhile. I’m at the mercy of others, and there’s nothing I can do to reach them.”
We emphasize the importance of early nurturing because during the first two years the baby’s brain is growing very fast. This is the period when a baby develops patterns of associations – mental models of the way things work. The developing infant’s mind is like a file drawer. In each file is a mental picture of a cue she gives along with the response she expects. After a certain interaction, the baby stores a mental image of what happened. For example, baby raises her arms and a parent responds by picking her up. Repetition deepens these patterns in the infant’s mind, and eventually emotions, positive or negative, become associated with them. A file drawer full of mostly positive feelings and images leads to a feeling of “rightness.” Her sense of “well-being” becomes part of baby’s self.
Infants who get used to the feeling of well-being they get from attachment parenting spend the rest of their lives striving to keep this feeling. Because they have so much practice at feeling good, they can regain this right feeling after temporary interruptions. These secure infants cope better with life’s setbacks because they are motivated to repair their sense of well-being, which has become integrated into their sense of self. They may fall down a lot, but they are likely to wind up back on their feet. This concept is especially true for a child who is handicapped or seems to come into this world relatively short-changed in natural talents. Children who do not have this early sense of well-being struggle to find it, but they are unsure of what they are looking for because they don’t know how it feels. This explains why some babies who get attachment parenting in the early years manage well despite an unsettled childhood because of family problems. Consider the famous case of Baby Jessica, the two-year-old who because of a legal quirk was taken from the familiar and nurturing home of her adoptive parents whom she had known since birth, and given to her biological parents who were strangers to her. She is likely to thrive because she entered a strange situation with a strong sense of well-being created by early nurturing. She will spend the rest of her life maintaining that feeling despite the trauma she endured.
But what if I didn’t practice all those attachment styles of parenting, you may wonder? Don’t be too hard on yourself. Babies are resilient and, of course, it’s never too late to start building up your child’s self-image. Getting to know your child and seeing things from his point of view will help you help him learn to trust himself. This kind of nurturing cements together the blocks of self-worth, and can also repair them. Still, the earlier the cement is applied, the smoother it goes on and the stronger it sticks.
2. IMPROVE YOUR OWN SELF-CONFIDENCE
Parenting is therapeutic. In caring for your child you often heal yourself. A mother with a high-need baby in our practice once declared, “My baby brings out the best and the worst in me.” If there are problems in your past that affect your present parenting, confront them. Get psychological help if they are interfering with your ability to remain calm and parent effectively.
Heal your past
A child’s self-esteem is acquired, not inherited. Certain parenting traits and certain character traits, such as anger and fearfulness, are learned in each generation. Having a baby gives you the chance to become the parent you wish you had. If you suffer from low self-confidence, especially if you feel it’s a result of how you were parented, take steps to heal yourself and break the family pattern. Try this exercise (therapists call this “passing on the best, and discarding the rest”)
- List the specific things your parents did to build your self-image.
- List the specific things your parents did to weaken your self-image.
- Now resolve to emulate the good things your parents did and avoid the rest. If you find it difficult to follow through with this exercise on your own, get help from a professional. Both you and your child will benefit.
Don’t be too hard on your parents
They probably did the best they could given their circumstances and the prevailing advice of the times. I remember once hearing a grandmother say to a mother, “I was a good mother to you. I followed exactly the schedule the doctor gave me.” This new mother felt that some of her present problems stemmed from the rigid scheduling that she endured when she was a baby. She was determined to learn to read her baby’s cues. I reminded her not to blame her own mother because the prevailing parenting practice at the time was to follow the “experts’” advice on childrearing. The mother of the 90’s, however, is more comfortable becoming the expert on her own child.
Polish your mirror
No one can put on a happy face all the time, but a parent’s unhappiness can transfer to a child. Your child looks to you as a mirror for his own feelings. If you are worried, you can’t reflect good feelings. In the early years, a child’s concept of self is so intimately tied up with the mother’s concept of herself that a sort of mutual self-worth building goes on. What image do you reflect to your child? She will see through a false facade to the troubled person beneath. Matthew, on a fill-in-the-blanks tribute to his mother, wrote: “I like being with my mother most when she’s happy.” Children translate your unhappiness with yourself to mean unhappiness with them. Even infants know they are supposed to please their parents. As they get older, they may even come to feel responsible for their parents’ happiness. If you are not content, they must not be good (or good enough). If you are experiencing serious problems with depression or anxiety, seek help so that you can resolve these feelings before they affect your child.
3. BE A POSITIVE MIRROR
Much of a child’s self-image comes not only from what the child perceives about herself, but from how she thinks others perceive her. This is especially true of preschoolers who learn about themselves from their parents’ reactions. Do you reflect positive or negative images to your child? Do you give her the idea that she’s fun to be with? That her opinions and desires matter to you? That her behavior pleases you?
When you give your child positive reflections, he learns to think well of himself. He will also willingly rely on you to tell him when his behavior is not pleasing. This becomes a discipline tool. “All I have to do is look at her a certain way, and she stops misbehaving,” said one mother. She had saturated her child’s self awareness with positive feelings, and the youngster was used to the way he felt being on the receiving end of these strokes. When mother flashed a negative reflection, the child didn’t like the feeling it produced. He changed his behavior quickly to regain his sense of well-being.
You can’t be up and smiling all the time and still be human. Your child should know that parents have down days, too. Children can see through fake cheerfulness. Your sensitivity toward him will increase his sensitivity toward you, and someday he may be the one lifting your self- confidence.
Putting Humpty-Dumpty Back Together Again
You spend the early years building your child’s self-confidence. You spend the later years protecting it. Many thin-skinned children need protection from situations they find overwhelming. I was examining five-year-old Thomas for his school-entry physical. Thomas was a sensitive child whose mother had spent years helping him build a strong sense of self-worth. We were engaged in a philosophical discussion of the long-term benefits of attachment parenting and Thomas was understandably bored. He began hanging on my scale—an expensive scale that is built into the top of the examining table. My first thought was the safety of my table. To me it was more at risk than Thomas, so I firmly asked, “Thomas, would you please stop hanging on the scale?” Just as Thomas was about to crumble from my unintended put-down, his mother interjected a saving, “…because you’re so strong.” She knows how to get behind the eyes of her child.
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