Another Tangent on Confidence

This time it’s about the kids.  I read this post  yesterday and loved it.  LOVED.

The distinction between raising children with high self-esteem vs. high self-efficacy is a subtle one, but I find it very important.  Would it be nice to have a kid who likes himself? Absolutely.  But, it’s even nicer to raise a child who believes in himself.

Nancy’s suggestions for how to raise a child with self-efficacy (Provide Kids with Reasonable Responsibilities, Model Problem Solving, and Allow Kids to Make Decisions) are great ones that we try to practice every day, and here are a few more I wanted to add: 

We let him struggle and we let him lose.  As Nancy calls it, I’m not a believer in the “everybody gets a trophy” philosophy.  Handing him success is not preparing him well for adulthood.  Allowing our children to feel the pride that comes from working hard and overcoming is an important gift.  Not to mention, if we swooped in and helped him at every struggle, the only message it would send is that he isn’t capable.  That he needs help and that he can’t succeed on his own.  So yeah, when we play games, I play to win and sometimes do – he doesn’t deserve anything less.

Love is unconditionally given, but praise isn’t.  A few months ago Sprout noticed that his classmates could write their names.  So he started scribbling some lines on paper and would say “Look Mommy! I wrote my name!”.  My knee-jerk reaction was to respond with a “good job honey!” and go on about my chores…but that wouldn’t have been doing him any favors.  So I stopped myself.  I did commend him on wanting to write his name but was honest that those markings didn’t quite look like letters.  I sat with him and taught him and helped him practice and practice and practice. 

Last Tuesday when Sprout was done coloring a picture, he flipped it over and very slowly pulled the crayon across the paper.  I’ve never seen him concentrate so hard.  When he was done, he lifted it up to show me with a “now THAT’s my name!”.  And it was – clear as day.  He got a well-deserved “good job!”…and I also cried.  I couldn’t help it – I’m just so proud of that boy!

Instead of telling him, I’ve begun asking him why he’s special/capable/kind.  For the longest time, we had a mantra for Sprout.  A series of statement we would shout when he was scared or whisper into his ear at bedtime.  It included things like “You are safe! You are strong! You are special!” This was a tool developed by our attachment therapist and it was great for him at the beginning,  but now we’re ready to push it a bit.  Instead of telling him he’s special or strong or smart, I ask “What makes you special?”  “What makes you smart?”  Let me tell you, the gems that will come out of your child’s mouth are amazing.  Here are a few things I’ve heard recently:

– “I’m kind because Mickey’s sick but I can still make him purr.”

– “I’m capable because I run fast.”

– “I’m special because I’m brown and have race cars”

– “I’m smart because I asked the teacher for a new seat when my friends next to me were talking during circle” (true story!)

Tell me that’s not worth it.

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3 Comments to “Another Tangent on Confidence”

  1. Love all of this! It’s so true.

  2. This is fantastic. I’m so glad to find others who are working on these skills. I love the fact that you encourage real achievement…and how hard it is sometimes to not praise every little thing. After all, we do love their every little thing.

    I let my kids lose too, sometimes.

    Love this blog, now following.

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