How do you support your children

to cultivate confidence?

Do you find that sometimes your children are scared to experiment, feel shy, sensitive, or on the other hand don't take time to reflect jumping in, over confident and then get frustrated and give up. How do you balance and teach them how to experiment, how to fall over and make mistakes to pick themselves up, try again, develop self confidence and reassure them that you are there to support them?

Helping your children grow with confidence and resilience is not an easy task. We all have that protective instinct in us to want to keep our children safe and when they get to the age of exploration, testing and experimenting. It can be hard to balance how much freedom to give them. You may find you are always looking over your shoulder hoping they won't get hurt, running behind them. How much freedom do you give them to trust they have the capacity to learn by themselves and be ok? How much freedom is too much and dangerous? Not fall off the climbing frame or off the swing. How do you cope with those moments? How do you allow them to develop their own self confidence to continue to develop self esteem and trust in their own capacity for later in life, rather then teach them fear or to avoid pain. Its all about balance.

This exploration period is a vital time to help your children build self confidence, to allow their curiosity. It is during this time that they need to be encouraged and supported, however we sometimes run around telling them don’t do this or don’t do that, be careful. Which can have the opposite effect of boosting their confidence !! Why? because it can instill fears and limits which very often are our own fears and limits.

Confidence after all is having the ability to trust in ones own capacity to accomplish and do what we want to do and if we don't know how, to learn. This can be instilled from a very young age.

How to cultivate confidence

How can we help our children, and why do some children dare and others don’t?

The simple answer is to be an example for your children, not do as I say but do as I do, and have a look at how you yourself deal with your own fears, and feelings, and what you might be teaching your child.

Children are learning from us all the time until they begin to develop their capacity to make their own opinions and become responsible, which they begin to formulate from ages 12-18 in early teens, a sometimes very conflictual period for all. The most significant phase of learning is between 0-6 years when they have not developed the capacity to analyse as yet, only to learn. During that time they take in from everything in their environment and especially from those people that are important to them, learning, mimicking, replicating, . From age 6 on they then begin to form cognitive abilities to slowly analyse, to transform things, add things, separate things, order things. It is not until and from the age of 12 onwards that they begin to think about possibilities, form new ideas, consider many points of view, become aware of their own or others thought processes, to understand if what they have learnt corresponds.

During these early periods in life they want to gain our approval so as to continue to feel loved.

It is therefore an important time in which we we need to learn how to validate their efforts not as good or bad but as a way to help them learn, to be ok to fail and to guide them to try again. Helping them to begin to believe in themselves and their own abilities.

It is also during this time that we teach them how to act and feel, understand themselves and their emotions. One of the biggest emotions that destroys confidence is fear. Fear is partly innate and partly learnt effecting how we feel about ourselves and our self trust. There is much research into whether we are born with fear or it is learnt, varying opinions. However scientific research says that there are only two real innate fears, the fear of falling and loud noises. The rest are learnt from evolution from our ancestry or fear of a future event, the thoughts of what might happen. Therefore certain fears are an illusion or imagined, although we don’t always understand that.

So what does this mean and what can we do?

When you don't acknowledge your own fears about what is happening for your children, or for you, they then do the same and your fears become theirs. If also you don't acknowledge the fears of your children nor have compassion for what is going on for them they begin to feel rejected and begin to lack confidence to trust themselves

.Many of us have not been taught how to accept our own feelings, perhaps they were never acknowledged when you were younger. Emotional Intelligence (being aware of our emotions and being able to acknowledge and express them) is very new, we are only beginning to learn more about it since the nineties. School didn't teach us.

You may then be doing the same to your children that you do to yourself covering up your fears, laughing them off, saying things like don’t be scared, there is nothing to be scared of, how silly “what are you scared of”? Have you heard yourself saying those things to your child?

It can be these, our own fears that then stop our children from experimenting or trying. Instead of instilling confidence and security that we trust they will be ok experimenting, guiding them and being the safety net if they fall climbing the climbing frame, or jumping off the rocks. we often say no or stop them doing it.

What happens is that Instead of teaching them to trust their own capacities or intuition or to experiment we teach them to doubt themselves. Later that may also effect their motivation.

We ask our children to do things that we ourselves may be scared of, because we ourselves might lack a bit of confidence, scared to fail, worried about other peoples opinions or tell ourselves inside don’t be scared when really we are.

So what can you do?

Start by learning how to be compassionate in acknowledging your own fears in life, to be prepared for what might happen, and then begin to learn how to acknowledge your children's, to teach them to do the same and help them step by step until they feel comfortable and safe. 

How do you begin to acknowledge your kids fears?

Let me give you an example:

I was with one of my clients a child age 6 boosting their confidence and self esteem through play. Whilst at the park the child wanted to go down the firemans pole and I could see that he was wary, scared. That innate fear of falling coming up!!

Instead of telling him not to be scared I acknowledged his fear to reassure him that it was ok to be scared, with words such as “I can see that it is difficult for you, that you are scared, but I believe in you, that you can do this and I'm here to help you". The first time he shyed away, then as I reassured and acknowledged his fear and I gave him some tips, he began to feel better to want to try. The second time I stood by him and guided him, we did this a few more times. Slowly he found his own confidence and finally did it alone. You could see how proud he was with himself.

Do you know that feeling of being proud when you have achieved something, confident that you succeeded when you never thought you could, maybe supported to get there, it’s a wonderful feeling. It reinforces your self confidence. You see confidence is not about waiting until you believe you have it to start, it’s about starting and then confidence is built, experimenting, adjusting and learning how.

If you can guide them, they will gain confidence in themselves, in their capacities to be supported and able to work it out. That learning lasts a life time. 

Being with compassion and listening to our children and saying “even though you are scared, I believe in you” can be some of the most powerful words that you can say to your child. It is essential that they are heard and understood in what they feel because when they aren't it feels to them like you are rejecting or judging them to be wrong in what they feel and who they are in their very essence. By taking a different approach the child will learn to accept themselves and all their feelings and not feel unloved for feeling what they feel and will begin to face their fears alone to try until they succeed. Even f they don’t succeed the first time, they won’t be scared about making mistakes. Once they have won and felt certain those skills are integrated they begin to trust themselves in the future.

Remember to not push your children to try and achieve things before they are ready, or to compare them to others. Understand that sometimes they are slower in one area then others.

Take time to see your own child and what level they are at, to compare them to themselves and what they are feasibly able to do. We often push them to be better because we want to be proud of them. However if you give your children challenges that are too hard, pressure to do more then they feasibly can without acknowledging that the child might have fears or reservations, shyness or is not at the same capacity to learn as others, instead of confidence it instills failure in the wrong way. They feel they have not lived up to your standards, may feel inadequate or criticised and it teaches them to give up on their projects. This will continue in later life.

Lets give our children this gift of time to guide them, validate their fears or feelings, encourage them to dare, make their own mistakes and try again and not be scared to experiment or feel wrong, and perhaps by supporting them that way we can teach ourselves to do the same thing.

I offer classes to create confident happy children or training for teachers with strategies for Calm & Emotional Intelligence. To find out more contact:

Tel: +61 497062902

skype: elsa.tarantino


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