Ways to Build Your Child’s Confidence
Mansour Ahmadi never earns gold stars on his school tests. His class-mates tell him that he is stupid, and he does not argue. Ahmadi a 9-year-old, has already given up on life.
Susan is an overweight 10-year-old. She has no friends and is nicknamed Fatty. Susan hates the world and herself.
These children are victims of the flawed standards society uses to assess the worth of children. Not everyone is seen as worthy or is accepted. Instead, we reserve praise and admiration for the few who have been blessed from birth with the characteristics we wrongly value most highly — beauty, brains and riches. It is a vicious system, and we must counterbalance its impact by helping young people to develop self-esteem.
All children are created worthy and are due the right to personal respect and dignity.
But how can we, as parents, build strong egos and indomitable spirits in our children? There are strategies by which we can instill confidence and self-worth.
Examine your own values
Are you secretly disappointed because your child is ordinary? Have you rejected him, at times, because he lacks charm or is awkward? Do you think your child is stupid?
A sizable portion of a child’s self-concept emerges from the way he thinks you see him. When the child is convinced he is loved and respected by his parents, he is inclined to accept his own worth as a person.
Many children know they are loved by their parents, but don’t believe they are held in high esteem by them. A child can know that you would give your life for him, yet still detect your doubts about his acceptability. You are nervous when he speaks to guests. You interrupt to explain what he was trying to say, or laugh when his remarks sound foolish. Parents need to guard what they say in the presence of their children.
Parents must also take the time to introduce children to good books, to fly kites and play football with them, listen to the skinned-knee episode and talk about the bird with the broken wing. These are the building blocks of esteem.
Teach a “think positive” policy
One characteristic of a person who feels inferior is that he talks about his deficiencies to anyone who will listen.
While you are blabbing about your inadequacies, the listener is forming an impression of you. He will later treat you according to the evidence you have provided. If you put your feelings into words, they become solidified as fact in your own mind. Therefore, we should teach a “think positive” policy to our children.
Constant self-criticism can become a self-defeating habit.
Help your child compensate
Our task as parents is to serve as a confidentally, encouraging when children are distressed, intervening when threats are overwhelming, and giving them the tools to overcome the obstacles.
One of those tools is compensation. An individual counterbalances weaknesses by capitalizing on his strengths.
It is our job to help our children find those strengths. Perhaps a child can establish his niche in music. May be he can build model airplanes or keep rabbits or play football. Nothing is more risky than sending a child into adolescence with no skills, no unique knowledge, no means of compensating. He must be able to say: “I may not be the most popular boy in the school, but I’m the best football player in the team!”
I recommend that the parent assess a child’s strengths, then selects a skill with the best chance for success. See that he gets through the first stage. Reward, push, bribe if necessary, but make him learn it. If you find you have made a mistake, start again on something else. But don’t let inertia keep you from teaching him a skill.
My own father decided, when I was 8, to teach me tennis, though I would rather have been with my friends. He would hit me a ball and I would whack it over the net. I tried to be involved. “Do you think I’m getting it, Dad?” I would say, as another ball flew straight up.
Then one day, a fellow asked me to play. I beat him - and I liked that! Through school and college, tennis was my source of self-confidence - thanks to my father who helped me compensate.
A parent who opposes the stress placed on beauty, brawn and brains knows his child is forced to compete in a world that worships those attributes. Should he help encourage his “average” child to excel in school?
I can give you only my opinion. I feel I must help my child compete in his world as best he can. If his teeth are crooked, I will see that they are straightened. If he is struggling at school, I will seek special coaching. We are allies in his fight for survival.
But while helping my child to compete, I also instruct him in the true values of life: love for mankind, integrity, truthfulness, and devotion to Allah.
Discipline with respect
Does punishment, and particularly spanking, break the spirit of a child? The answer depends on the manner and intent of the parents. A spanking, in response to willful defiance, is a worthwhile tool, but belief in corporal punishment is no excuse for taking out your frustrations on little Johnny; it offers no license to punish him in front of others or treat him with disrespect.
It is important to recognize, however, that one way to damage self-esteem is to avoid discipline altogether.
Parents are the symbols of justice and order, and a child wonders why they let him get away with doing harmful things if they really love him.
Keep an eye on the classroom
Make certain a child has learnt to read by the end of his second year at school. Self-esteem has been assassinated more frequently over reading problems than over any other aspect of school life. Extra coaching may help a child through other academic rough spots.
The slow learner is even more likely to have self-esteem problems. What can parents do? De-emphasize academic achievement. Anything your child cannot accomplish, despite his best efforts, should be toned down in importance.
Too many parents want their “average” children to become scholarship winners.
Preparation for responsible adulthood is derived from training during childhood. A child should be encouraged to progress on an orderly timetable, taking the level of responsibility appropriate for his age.
Each year a child should make more of his own decisions. A 7-year-old, for example, is usually capable of selecting his own clothing for the day. He should be keeping his room tidy and making his bed.
An overly protective parent allows the child to fall behind his normal timetable.
As a 10-year-old, he finds it hard to make decisions or exercise self-discipline. A few years later, he will steamroll into adolescence unprepared for the freedom and responsibility he will find there.
The importance of parental concern in a child’s development of self-esteem has been confirmed by numerous studies. There are three important characteristics which distinguish those with the highest self-esteem:
1) The children were more loved and appreciated at home.
2) Their parents set firm guidelines.
3) Their homes were characterized by democracy and openness.
These are the ways to teach a child to appreciate his genuine significance, regardless of the shape of his nose or the size of his ears or the efficiency of his mind. Every child is entitled to hold up his head in confidence and security. This can be done.
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