Things I Say And Do To Help Build My Kids’ Confidence
BY SELENA MILLS
Oct 10, 2017
Last weekend my seven-year-old son had his second round of tryouts for the rep baseball team. If you don’t know what that means, I didn’t either up until six months ago, because I thought he was already playing baseball, but apparently there are many levels to this business. Without going into too much detail about the learning curve required by all of us as we dig into this mode of ‘sports culture’, let it be known: My kid loves baseball.
So when the joy seemed to start fizzling out after one competitive try-out after another, playing against the best of the best, we took pause. We got caught up in a moment wherein our boy vehemently did not want to continue with the tryouts. So, we as parents found ourselves walking that fine line of wanting to instill the confidence in him to persevere, to face this challenge and honour his commitment. This was a teachable moment to help him build his strength of character, we thought. How do we stay positive and pump him up to stay the course, we wondered to each other. Well, we lost the plot a bit in the company of his sorrow, but he (we) will be back at it for the final round this weekend. I think.
You'll Also Love: Teaching Kids How To Be Resilient
Raising capable, confident, committed kids who are grateful for what they have and the opportunities provided to them in a time where entitlement seems to rule supreme, is no easy feat. We want to equip them with enough confidence, strength, resilience ― often chutzpah ― to not only survive, but thrive, but without the sense of entitlement.
Whether or not our boy were to continue with his baseball tryouts, we can still have the discussion about commitment, doing hard things (especially when it involves something they love), that they won’t always win, or there won’t always a reward for what they do (even when it’s really hard), and that yes, they are indeed pretty dang lucky to have these opportunities. So. How to do all of this while still being respectful and sensitive to our kids’ feelings, walking that fine line between cultivating their independence and sense of freedom, and recognizing their ideas and their abilities on making good/healthy choices?
Damned if I know outright, but here’s what we've been doing:
What We Do: Forgo The Reward System
Instead of: “Three more bites of broccoli and then you get dessert!” It’s: “No dessert until you finish your broccoli.”
The mighty food wars are a slippery slope, one which I’ve learned can lead to a collapse in the parent-child dynamic. But by eliminating the reward element to meal-time, my kids are learning to make healthier choices while also discovering they’re not going to get rewarded with a toy or treat for every little thing.
What We Say:
“I knew you could make a good/kind/healthy choice.”
“There’s a party in your tummy now. You never cease to amaze me.”
What We Do: Give Them Undivided Attention
We already give our children so much time. Morning-time, lunch-time, dinner-time, bed-time, wipe-their-bum or change their diaper time, bath-time, park-time. All the day-long-time. I get it. But as you may have gleaned, fully-focused, one-on-one time is the ticket here. Everything else is put aside — including smartphones — and we connect on every level through a simple activity like reading, going for a short bike ride, playing Lego with them, playing at the park with them. Colouring with them. Even if it's just for 10 minutes if that’s all we got.
What We Say:
“Spending time with you is SO important to me.”
“I have so much fun with you!”
“I know it’s hard to be patient and I really appreciate you making the effort.”
What We Do: Celebrate Successes
If we want our kids to grow up having a strong foundation of self-love to lean on, we've got to mirror that (as in, genuinely have it). Whether we get a big contract/client, get a promotion at work, run a marathon, or volunteer for a cause we’re passionate about, we can celebrate our successes with our kids and take the opportunity to talk about the skills, effort and patience we needed to achieve those goals or accomplishments.
What We Say:
“Even if you get frustrated, you always keep trying.”
“Your hard work is really paying off.”
“I'm so proud of what you’ve worked to accomplish.”
What We Do: Have Them Help Out
Helping out with chores at home has been an effective way for us to help our kids learn about accountability and life-building skills. Our kids are six and seven and they’ve been getting an allowance for over a year for going above and beyond in their chores to save money for an expensive toy, or to buy someone a gift or just to keep saving. There are layers of gainful opportunities here: Learning about money and saving, basic chores and life skills, are a few, yes. But also: Tossing out the expectation(s) that we’ll do all of that stuff for them, or that we’re going to buy them every item of name-brand clothing, tech gear or toys they desire.
What We Say:
“I know you can do it.”
“You’re absolutely capable of _________ (vacuuming your own room, putting your own dishes in the dishwasher, clearing the dinner table, etc.)."
So I know you’re all wondering, the real question remains — are we gonna go for ice-cream this weekend after our son goes to his final round of tryouts? Well, obviously — I want to be consistent, not a tyrant!