“Behind every child who believes in themself is a parent who believed in them first.” – Matthew Jacobson
As parents, we want to help our kids feel confident so they can handle challenges without fear. But sometimes it can be tricky to know what to do when our little ones face difficult situations, like not being invited to a party. Ouch. It can be easy to rush into protection mode with our kids, but is that really the right approach for inspiring confidence?
We spoke to author Avril McDonald to learn how to navigate these sorts of parenting bumps. Her book series Feel Brave is designed to help 4 to 7 year-olds explore emotional intelligence and positive psychology. The books help children deal with self-confidence, anxiety, bullying, worries, change, loss and grief. This collection of ‘little stories about big feelings’ can help children develop the resilience they need to effectively cope with these important issues as they grow up.
We’ll be doing a 5-part article series with Avril to address real-life situations kids may face, and the simple coping strategies to deal with them. This week we’re focusing on self-confidence.
What do kids need to be Confident?
- A strong sense of self and belonging
- Clear boundaries
- Playtime with friends / Playtime alone
- A personal passion
- A self-assured stance
These five fundamental pillars can help you raise confident kids:
1. A strong sense of self and belonging
“Every human being has to feel a part of a tribe. It’s programmed into us. And you have to feel that you’re contributing to something.” – Steven Hatfill
“Unconditional love and a sense of who we are and where we come from gives us emotional strength,” Avril says. “We can build this through talking about where we are from, building family trees, and creating traditions and rituals.” A sense of belonging is a human need, just like the need for food and shelter. Feeling accepted by others can help us cope with painful emotions, and belonging to a group can boost our self esteem. Helping our kids to feel a part of the ‘tribe’ can support them on the road to higher confidence.
Let your kids know they’re accepted, that they are valued, and that they are contributing in their own unique way to the family team. You might also want to consider helping your child find an extracurricular group or club to join so they can meet new kids and feel a sense of belonging outside the home environment too.
2. Clear boundaries
“What you allow is what will continue.” – Anonymous
“When we model boundaries, for example: ‘If you do that, you are choosing to have time out,’ then actually following through on those consequences, we are teaching our kids to have good boundaries themselves,” Avril says. “Then, when another child or adult tries to pressure them into doing something they feel uncomfortable with, they will feel confident in pushing back and making their boundaries clear, as opposed to feeling vulnerable or getting into situations that go against their values.”
Avril believes that enforcing clear boundaries in the family household will help children make the right friends, because they’ll feel empowered to stand by their choices. By modeling self-assurance in our own expectations, we show kids that they too have a ‘voice and a choice’, and they’ll be more likely to set healthy rules of engagement in their own lives. That’s definitely a sign of confidence.
3. Playtime With Friends / Playtime Alone
“Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning.” – Mr. Fred Rogers
“It’s very important to give kids enough real-life play practice time, so they can act out adult’s role modelling,” Avril says. “Kids need to create responses, test the water, and try things for themselves.” Social playtime can build confidence because when kids play together, often there is less direct supervision or interaction from adults. Kids can’t rely immediately on an adult telling them what to do, and instead they have to organise themselves. This means kids will need to gain the confidence to take leadership roles, voice their opinions and think independently. Playtime lets kids practice life skills and communicate effectively with others.
“I was never less alone than when by myself.” – Edward Gibbon
It’s important for kids to know how to make their own fun. “As parents, we are often worried about our children playing on their own,” Avril says, “but if they are content with their own company, they will never be alone!” There are many benefits to kids playing alone. Their imagination and creativity will be sparked, they’ll develop better self-direction skills and they’ll be able to innovatively solve problems. Kids who are accustomed to entertaining themselves will develop the abilities necessary to face challenges in life. Self-confident kids are less susceptible to peer pressure, and are more likely to be a positive influence on others.
4. A Personal Passion
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt
If you have more than one child, you’ll know that sibling comparison is often unavoidable. One child might be naturally gifted in one area, which can cause another child to feel inferior. This can happen in peer groups too, regardless of whether kids have siblings or not.
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein
It’s important to help kids discover their own personal passion, and celebrate what makes them unique. Everybody has a special talent! “Especially in cases where kids might be comparing themselves to others, it’s key to take time to think outside the box and identify your kid’s ‘super power’,” says Avril. By exploring their own interests, kids can develop a sense of identity, which is a fundamental part of building confidence. Additionally, seeing their talents grow will raise self-esteem. If you’re looking for a book to get your kids thinking about their passions, try “Penguin’s Hidden Talent” by Alex Latimer, which follows the story of a penguin who goes on a journey of self discovery to find his own talent. Avril recommends this book, and we absolutely love it!
5. A Self-Assured Stance
“A hero can be anyone.” – Batman
When your kiddo is feeling unsure, encourage them to pose like a superhero! Show them how it’s done and ask them to join you. Place your hands on your hips, spread your legs, lift your chest, and gaze up to the sky. In as little as two minutes, a superhero stance can elevate your confidence. It actually triggers hormone production and creates chemicals in your body that make us feel more self-assured and strong. So strap on that imaginary cape and strike a positive pose!
For a great conversation starter about what to do if your little one is feeling left out, check out Avril’s storytelling of “The Wolf is Not Invited” below. For more strategies on how to handle big emotions, check out the range of Feel Brave videos and songs on the Azoomee app.
Speaking to Avril made us realise that self-confidence is the foundation for everything. We’re inspired to model self-confidence more, and we hope you are too! The more we do, the more our kids will realise they are a lot braver than they may know.
Avril McDonald is the best-selling, award-winning author of the Feel Brave series of books and founder of www.feelbrave.com which aims to give all children access to tools that help them manage tough emotions and reach their potential. Avril resides in Australia with her partner and their two children, three cats, and one very large dog.