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How to Build Brave, Confident Children
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How to Build Brave, Confident Children
April 5, 2018
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How to Build Brave, Confident Children
April 5, 2018
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It’s an unwritten rule of parenting that your children will constantly surprise you.  So it was when our then-two-year-old daughter started nursery. At home, she brimmed with confidence, opinions (so many opinions) and chat. But at nursery, she was shy, quiet and anxious; reticent to raise her hand or initiate games.

Of course, our hearts ached for her. Of course, we wanted to fix it. You want your children to be brave, to have the confidence to look life right in the eye. But – another ‘of course’, here – you simply can’t fix everything; and so we embarked upon Project Confidence. It’s still a work in progress, but our ‘confidence crib sheet’ is coming along nicely (and so is she).

Let Them Do Things Themselves

The temptation to help is almost overwhelming (but they’re so small!). You just want to make life easier for them (and maybe to, ahem, speed things up in the morning so you can get out of the house…). But let them put on their own shoes. Tackle that climbing frame. Pour a drink. Whatever it might be. Don’t impose limits on them. Instead, let them try – secure in the knowledge that you’re there, believing in them, waiting to catch them if they need you.

 

Praise The Effort (Descriptively)

Praise is a parenting hot potato. It’s either a ‘Very Good Thing’ or ‘Very Bad Indeed’. Tiger parents look away now: I’m a fan of descriptive praise. Instead of non-specific praise (“You’re wonderful” – although obviously your children are wonderful), it’s sincere, specific and encouraging (“You put away your toys all by yourself. Well done!”). It fosters good behaviour (bonus) and makes them less afraid to fail – because it praises effort as well as achievement.

 

Help Them to Find Their Voice

Ask for – and listen to – their opinions. Easier said than done when life is so demanding, I know. But encourage them to speak up, order their own food in a café or thank the bus driver. When they’re little and reaching for the words to voice their thoughts, resist the temptation to finish their sentences. My son is at this stage now. He utters a long “ahhhhhh” with his big eyes raised to the sky as he searches for the word he wants – and I love finding out what he’s thinking (“If I dropped Zebra in a puddle, it wouldn’t be good, would it? It would be [thoughtful pause] a disaster [delivered with an enormous, triumphant smile].”).

 

Help Them Find Their Spark

I read about this when my daughter was still tiny – and it’s stayed with me, not least because their ‘spark’ is a source of happiness and joy. It makes their eyes light up and their heart beat faster. Think of a spark as being like a gut-instinct i.e. deep-rooted. But be warned: it may not be immediately obvious and it can be anything – creative, emotional, intellectual, physical. It’s up to us, as parents, to give our children the opportunities and adventures to discover their spark – and the encouragement to pursue them. Think of your relationship and conversation as the oxygen their spark needs to flame: cheesy, yes, but true. Find your child’s spark and you give them purpose, direction – and you make them brave, confident – ready to take on the world.

Natasha Poliszczuk
@wearandwhere
Mama to Claudia, 7 and Archie, 3
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