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The role of confidence in children is difficult to overstate. It is a key ingredient in the recipe of strong individuals — an attribute that enables children to form healthy relationships and resist temptations of our day such as engaging in sexual activity or using drugs. There are many things parents can do to help their children naturally gain confidence.
Here are five principles I have adopted in an effort to provide my 11-year-old daughter with increased confidence that you may find helpful as well.
1. Encourage individuality
In the adult world, we talk of creating “buy-in” among those with whom we interact. Those who have a say in what happens tend to have a great interest in seeing it brought to fruition.
In this sense, children are no different than adults. They tend to find greater happiness and fulfillment in things that make them happier and more fulfilled — even if that means they don’t grow up to be the football player or ballerina we may have secretly hoped they would become.
The National Association of School Psychologists emphasizes “a child is more likely to learn and retain information when he is intrinsically motivated.”
Children lacking a sincere interest in what they do may find it difficult to develop confidence. Conversely, there is a special joy that comes to parent and child alike when children are allowed to embrace their individuality.
2. Embrace mistakes
Last year, as my daughter and I were cooking Tuna Helper together, she decided to carry the tuna fish cans across the open floor to the stovetop instead of carrying them across the countertops. As a result, when her grip slipped and she dropped the cans, gravity assisted the cans four feet down to the floor — instead of four inches down to the counter.
Tuna fish and tuna juice sprayed the floor and walls of the kitchen. It was everywhere.
I wasn’t thrilled, but I could also sense the anxiety my daughter was feeling. Instead of letting my frustrations show, I knelt down on one knee so we were roughly eye-to-eye and repeated our mantra: “Accidents happen.”
We talked about how the mistake could have been prevented, and why we had practiced carrying open containers to the stove the way we had.
When all was said and done, my daughter felt freedom to make mistakes while also understanding how following rules and guidelines could prevent mistakes.
“As parents, our responsibility is to keep kids unharmed,” states research psychologist and author Peggy Drexler, Ph.D. “That doesn’t mean shielding them from all possibility of defeat. It means letting them fail safely.”