I have two children at home, my daughter is 15 and my son is about to turn 13. My daughter is extremely confident in herself, while my son is going through an awkward phase where he worries about his body, his popularity, and his capabilities. I came up with some things to instill more confidence in my son without him realizing what I was doing.
Find a Project: My son really wanted to fix up an old car so that it would be ready on his 16th birthday. His father lives across the country and I admit, I know nothing about cars. I realized that this project was something he wanted to do on his own. I let him work on it and tell him how great it’s looking, without butting in but I’m there if he wants my help. Find a project for your child that let’s them “do it themselves”. While we may not want our children to grow up, it’s important to let them discover things for themselves. Having a project that’s all their own will give them a sense of satisfaction and appreciation for a job well done. Trial and error can be discouraging for some children, but that’s our opportunity as parents to show our children to never give up.
Even if your child is younger, you can do a “do it yourself” project on a smaller scale. It doesn’t have to be a huge expensive thing. Just the feeling of, “I did it,” and your praise will make your child feel wonderful.
Ten Times the Praise: Sometimes, a child’s confidence can waver from nothing more than a comment at school or my son, for instance, takes things very literally and takes them to heart. If someone says something in a joking manner, he sometimes hears it as “the truth” and in a negative way. A good rule of thumb…and I personally tried this one out…it works, is to praise your child ten times more per day than you criticize. Even constructive criticism can be taken wrong by a sensitive child. I’m a pretty mellow person, prone to laughter, and soft spoken, but even so, my son can seem to make a mountain out of a mole hill when it comes to any sort of suggestion about improvement.
If you really think about it, how often are you saying, “Your room is a mess!” “You aren’t listening this morning!” or “Why are you grumpy?” I decided to pick my battles and start praising the little things, but only make sincere compliments. Children are smart and can see through a phony complement. It took about a week but I noticed a huge improvement in his behavior. He seemed much more inclined to believe the positive things I was saying to him. He seemed more confident in himself.
Healthy Team Activities: I really believe in team work. My son was in Boy Scouts for some time as a younger child, but seemed to lose interest as he got older. I guess it isn’t ‘cool’ to be a Boy Scout anymore. So, instead of forcing him to do something he really wasn’t interested in, I let him choose a couple of team activities.
He’s really had a huge spike in confidence since joining the football team. The coaches seem pretty hard on the boys but when they are praised for a great effort, they really believe that praise. Less popular among junior high kids, is band. My son is very musically inclined and plays three instruments. His confidence has improved so much that he doesn’t care if anyone thinks it’s “dorky” to be in band, he loves music. Any team activity you can get your child into, where they are accepted and praised is going to improve their confidence in themselves.
These are just suggestions that I wanted to share because they worked really well for my son. We had gone through a hard time because I was diagnosed with cancer. It truly was very hard on the kids. I felt my son just had no idea how to deal with it and like it really knocked his confidence down a notch or two. While we can’t go back and erase that time, we can allow it to make us a stronger family. Best of luck to you.