Before we start, what makes me think I can write a worthwhile blog on this topic? Is it worth reading? Am I an expert? Well I have 3 young children, but no, that’s not why. I was a painfully shy child and very self-conscious teen, but no that’s not why either. The main reason I want to share tips on confidence, is because I’ve life-coached hundreds of children since 2012. I’ve found that confidence is quite often an underlying issue, and when we give kids confidence building tools, it can help them deal with many tough situations. It’s the foundation on which to build everything else. So why not help your child or teen to build the skill of confidence, starting today.
6 Powerful Confidence Building Tools
– Even though this is not a tool per se, I think it’s important to firstly mention trust, because as parents and adults, some hover over kids over-protectively, by doing this, we are not allowing them to make mistakes and learn for themselves. We can so easily pass on our own anxieties and fears to our children. I once coached a 12 year old boy who was having a hard time with bullies, we talked about his confidence (and how he wanted to deal with them). He mentioned to me that he never felt trusted by his Mother and therefore had no confidence in himself. When we dug deeper he said ‘…she won’t let me grill sausages on my own, when she’s upstairs’. His mother was concerned for his safety, and had no idea how these types of decisions were affecting him. The point is – this was his interpretation on the situation. He picked up on his mothers worries, but in his head he translated it into ‘My Mother doesn’t trust me’ and this was knocking his confidence. Show your children you trust them, and encourage them to do brave things, within reason using common sense of course. (I could write a book on this topic, so more on this next week when I review how both the Danish and Dutch claim to be raising the happiest kids in the world.)
– When your child or teen is feeling low on confidence they are most likely telling themselves a sabotaging thing. For example, a girl I coached was struggling to leave her Mum at School every morning and, she wanted to go to a friends birthday party but when she got there she held on tight to her Mother and wouldn’t go in, she was saying to herself in her head ‘I want to be with Mum’ over and over, needless to say she was missing out on lots of fun things. If we can get children talking and opening up about what it is they are saying to themselves and why, and what they would rather say to themselves, that is an important lesson. (We all do this, sometimes we’re hardly even aware of it.) We agreed she would change to saying ‘Everything is okay, I’ll see Mum later’. A true affirmation is something that we repeat to ourselves over and over again helping us to feel better and get over that fear or worry. It sinks into our subconscious mind if repeated over and over, and allows us to break bad habits and feel better without too effort.
– This is when we picture something in our mind, an image or vision of what you want to happen. Visualizations are also very powerful, since they sink into the subconscious mind and are accepted as something that has really happened. So how can you use this tool to your child’s advantage? Let’s say your child was having problems in the school yard making friends / not having anyone to play with; at night time you can get them to take 10 deep relaxing breaths (to relax and quieten the mind). Then you would ask them to imagine they are in the yard and feeling happy and confident, ask them what they see… and help them create a positive image. For example encourage them to imagine they are smiling and saying hi to other children, then chatting and playing games. Your visualization has to be realistic for it to be accepted so allow them to lead.
Correcting internal dialog
– similar to the discussion about affirmations above, this is the internal dialogue that can ruin our lives if we allow it to. It is important to teach our children what self awareness is. That there is a difference between having a thought, and that thought being true and believing it. Some children pick up things about themselves when they are young for example ‘I’m fat’, ‘I’m not beautiful’, ‘I’m shy’ ‘I’m not very clever’ etc and live under that shadow their whole lives. If a child is called names or labelled at home, they go on believing that is who they are for ever more. As Parents, we need to get our children talking about who they are, and what they are like, and identify and correct any mistakes in their belief systems, as early as possible. Coaching is a valuable tool to unlock this if you are struggling with your child. Never miss an opportunity to realistically compliment and positively affirm your child’s strengths and talents. Lots of children live with the constant comparison of a sibling, believing they are not loved as much, they are not as clever, as pretty or as ‘good’ in their behavior, talent or academically. It takes work to change your opinion of yourself, but it can be done.
– The strongest most powerful tool we have as a Parent or Adult is to love unconditionally. Children and teens need to know they are unconditionally loved by their Parents, /Guardians and other adults in their life. Confidence grows in a place where we feel safe and secure to be who we really are; Knowing that our opinion is valued and we are really listened to. This can be hard to master in our society, where us Parents are so busy and stressed just getting through the day to day workload. Also isn’t it easy to show them love when they are behaving themselves? doing what they’re told and everyone is having a good day? but what happens on those bad days, when they’re displaying unacceptable behavior, how do you show your child you still love them, no matter what they do? I try to remember to tell my kids ‘I love you no matter what, even when I’m angry, even when I lose my temper, even when you’ve done something you shouldn’t, and we’re arguing, I still love you.’ Remember actions speak louder than words and material objects don’t show our children how much we love them, spending time with them, listening to them, staying calm /controlling our temper (as much as possible) and one to one time is much more powerful. None of us are perfect, all we can do is try our best, and catch ourselves when we can, and take a deep breath to get back some calmness. Which brings me onto the last point…
– Unfortunately, we are not taught to love ourselves. It is not something that parents generally teach their children to do, because most of us were not taught this as children. As parents and human beings we need to realize the power and value of saying ‘I love myself’ and knowing deep down, that we are worthy and valued individuals. If you ask a child ‘Who is the most important person in your world?’ they will probably say one of the parents, family member, a best friend, but in my opinion, they should be taught to answer ‘Me, I am the most important person in my world and in my life’. ‘I am the only person that can make me happy’! Self love needs to be taught first before loving others, after all, you are the only person you can depend on for your entire life, you will always be there for yourself, to pick yourself up and keep going during hard times. So by being kind to yourself and not hard on yourself, your children will follow your lead. Self love and acceptance comes from loving the true person you are, including all your imperfections. Teach your children to say ‘I love myself’ regularly and show them that there is no such thing as ‘perfect’ and let them know you don’t expect perfection from them, and you are not perfect yourself.
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By Caoimhe O’Grady Tegart
Child & Teen Life Coach