Building Self Confidence

Successful people are not those who never fall
but those who keep getting up after their falls.
Instead of feeling fear,
they feel comfortable with falls
and inspired to keep going.

There have been quite a few interesting threads on RCU list recently. They got me pondering on my own thinking errors, relationship with and influence in my children. Anxieties about How will they ever learn? or They will take advantage of me come from my past, projected as fear into the future. These are grist for the mill of my personal development and have nothing to do with my children. Be here now with them and I'll know how to honor who they are and to cherish the moment with them. Listen to who they are rather than to voices from my past and pressures from friends and family. My delight in them will result in their self-esteem.

(PHOTO RIGHT: Little Bear brought to you earlier today at Crystal Peaks Horse Rescue Ranch where we volunteer) My children's spirit can shrivel without actual verbal abuse; it's the more subtle ways of diminishing their senses of self that often escape my scrutiny. Here is a reminder list that helps me focus on their senses of confidence and self-worth:
1. Help them only when they ask and only as much as they ask. Uninvited help is likely to cause them to conclude that they are incapable because the silent message they receive from me is I don't think you can do this on your own. You need my help. You are not capable.

(PHOTO LEFT: Say Hello to Molly, sweetest gal on the ranch) 2. Provide them with the freedom to try things on their own even when I know they cannot do them (as long as they are safe and, when not, provide an alternative.) Grant them the opportunity to fail or err. They will learn from such personal experience that she is strong and capable in the face of difficulties and that they can rely on themselves.

3. Support their choices without expecting specific results. Accept outcomes with neutrality and emotional expressions with respect and care. I can validate their frustration, joy, or disappointment--but keep my opinion about their actions to myself--or at least make sure it doesn't sway them away from their own convictions: My view is different and I enjoy seeing you going on your own path.

(PHOTO RIGHT: My Irish friend Cathi and her sweatpeas Aine & Arling) 4. Express gratitude and avoid correcting or criticizing their actions. If they offer to sweep the floor and I then redo the sweeping, they are unlikely to offer their helps again and will see themselves as incapable or even clumsy. If DD#1 mowed the lawn (which she just did two days ago) and I express dissatisfaction--because it's a little uneven--or if their spelling or reading errors are pointed out when they didn't ask for it, their self-esteem and development will undoubtedly suffer. One who makes an effort to do something helpful need to hear only gratitude, not evaluation, and one who learns new skills needs trust and sometimes acknowledgement, not criticism. My children will improve their abilities with time, provided they feel good about themselves and receive the learning tools they ask for (classes, books, tools, feedback, etc.)

5. Avoid praise and instead mirror their expressed feelings and share in their joy. This is particularly difficult challenge for me personally. Praising children for behaviors (You are so helpful, Dear!) and achievements (I'm so proud you won first place in the contest!) causes them to do things for the sake of getting the kudos rather than for their own sake. They may do anything to win my praise and may become dependent on external approval and achievement-based acceptance. Thus, ironically, praise and rewards can lower their self-esteem just as surely as criticism can.

6. Let go of my agenda for them and cherish them exactly the way they are. Expressing expectations as in Say Hi to Auntie Cathi can leave them feeling inadequate especially if they force themselves to comply with my wish. Even achievements must be their agenda, not mine. If I say You will be such a great performer they may fear they could not live up to my standards and give up or they may devote themselves to music theater work to please me. They may then lose their authentic motivation or even their passion. It's best to just avoid making suggestions or creating expectations for achievement. My joy in who they are and in their points of view is a vote of confidence that is by far more likely to preserve their natural motivation to excel.

7. Avoid negating their expressions and direction as much as possible. Saying NO too often or contradicting their ideas can wilt their assurances in themselves because they may conclude My choices seem to be the wrong ones. I can't trust myself. Even if they can't have what they want, their choices are still valid and worthy of consideration.

8. Avoid comparing them to anyone else. Allow them the burden of responsibility based on their readiness and interests. When I do everything for them, selecting what they should wear, suggesting what they should do, or reminding them of tasks and obligations (when not asked to) I undermine their senses of responsibility, fostering a loss of self-reliance. By being responsible for their own choices and actions, they will develop a sense of self-trust.

9. Listen to them and validate their emotional expressions. Their self-esteem will grow from knowing that their feelings and how they express them are valued.

10. Respect their knowledge and wisdom. If they ask questions, don't turn my responses into lectures or tests. Such act often leaves them feeling humiliated or bored and therefore less willing to inquire again. They will share their knowledge and interest with me more often when I don't probe and teach.

11. Treat them as my equal. Equal doesn't mean the same. They lack experience and deserve to have their limitations respected as well as enjoyed. Entering life later than someone else doesn't render anyone less worthy or deserving of full respect. My children are always doing the best they can, just like me.

12. Spilled milk isn't an invitation for criticism but for help in cleaning it up. When they make mistakes, stay neutral or helpful.I must focus on what is needed in the present (I can investigate my thoughts later for my own sake.) If they are upset, listen, validate, and reassure them of my love and appreciation. If they do something that seem to me stupid or clumsy, keep the criticism to myself (it's material for my own self-discovery) or reflect on their feelings they may be pleased with themselves or they might feel embarrassed, angry or confused. If they express self-doubt, I can validate so they know such things happen to everybody and are part of being human.

13. Devote time to them. Be a focused and engaged companion. If I tell them I have no time to do this with you or I'll play with you later regularly, they will see themselves as unimportant.

14. When I am with them, follow their leads and participate in their world respectfully. I can lead when they ask me to. Make sure they know how happy I am to be with them...and I really am!

15. When they ask for assistance, respond as promptly as I can and with a joyful spirit. Don't make them conclude in any way they are a nuisance to me.


3 encouragements:

Kaylynn's Mommy said...

thanks for sharing sarah! I am soaking this all up!

Kaylynn's Mommy said...

Sarah, I keep coming to your blog to read this post. I am pondering the part about giving a child praise. Isn't it difficult not to praise a child? -Just Curious- I find your posts intriguing...but so different than how I was raised.

Kaylynn's Mommy said...

Thank-You Sarah, you are exposing me a whole new world with your ideas. I grew up in an authoritarian household, and I didn't realize how it has impacted my thought process until I came across your blog. I am now rethinking my upbringing. Don't get me wrong...I love my parents dearly....but I felt controlled as a child. I don't want my daughter to feel controlled by me. In essence, I feel like my parents steered me into teaching because it was a "femine" job. Reading your posts is teaching me to be mindful of my thoughts. I love my daughter for who she is and who God created her to be. I want her to make her own choices. Thank-you for speaking your mind because it allows people to escape their "rut". I am very open to different viewpoints. I like to challenge my beliefs...especially when it affects how I am going to be as a parent.

True learning-learning that is permanent and useful,that leads to intelligent action and further learning, can arise only out of the experience, interest, and concerns of the learner.
John Holt
Real heroes are men who fall, fail and are flawed, but win out in the end because they stayed true to their ideals, beliefs and commitments.
Actor Kevin Costner

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