May 11, 2013

How to Instill More Confidence in Your Child

[Guest Post]

In collaboration with Monsters Under the Bed, we would both be sharing certain articles from each other's websites periodically. And what is Monsters Under The Bed you ask? They are a creative writing school, that encourages children to imagine and create characters and stories. Well, all I can say is that Ash can do with more creativity in his composition writing in school!

We certainly have a few events lined up for our readers, thanks to Monsters Under the Bed... so do stay tuned! For now, enjoy this very apt article reproduced from their website.

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Ego is a fragile thing. One sharp comment can shatter a child's confidence. And like broken bones, confidence either comes back stronger, or is forever weakened. In this article, we look at how to nurture self-esteem.

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Why Does Confidence Matter?

It's not because confidence magically translates to success.

Motivational coaches teach dozens of ways to build confidence, from fire-walking to visualization. But does any of that stuff directly mean success? Walking over hot coals and chanting mantras won't turn you into, say, a star writer.

In fact, confidence doesn't impart skill, knowledge, or anything of immediate value. So why bother?

Because of Failure

Confidence is about dealing with failure. It gives us the guts to try, even if there's a chance we'll fail. It gives us the ability to pick ourselves up, and keep going after a series of crushing defeats. Or as Rocky put it:

"Life is not about how hard you can hit, but how much you can get hit and still keep moving forward"

Confidence is indirectly related to success. It's the fuel that keeps us going, every single time life chews up our dreams and spits them in our face. And children, being at the very start of their lives, have a whole host of failures they're about to run into.

So giving your children confidence won't turn them into overnight successes. You won't see test scores improve by next week, or even next month. But in the long run, you'll see a child with the right attitude. A child who's able to succeed in life, even if she doesn't ever do well on those tests.

There are three important steps, to building confidence (and hence resilience):

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1. Building a Strong Voice

Self-expression and confidence are intertwined. When anyone (not just a child) can't be heard, they start to feel insignificant.

In a world full of blogs, TV shows, magazines, pop stars, etc. who will hear their voice? They could feel like Kundera's shadows: Dead in advance, moving through life while leaving no trace. They're never the ones on stage, never the ones who move or rally others. They're never the hero; just the one who claps and throws confetti as the real heroes walk by.

And that's the foundation of a lifelong defeatist attitude: Believing they can't be heard.

How to Get a Voice

Visual arts. Writing. Music. Almost any sort of expressive, creative activity will do. The first step is to convince your child that she could have a voice. That her expression can make a difference to the world.

The second step is to actually start developing that voice. No one likes to say this, so I will:

Believing that you have a voice is unrelated to actually having one.

Without skill and experience, we can't be heard over the din. Simply having a passion for self-expression isn't enough. We need the actual, technical skills to write, sing, draw, etc. And that, of course, is where coaching and education matter.


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2. Learning to Take Criticism

Refusing to accept criticism isn't preserving confidence. It's being delusional. The only way to improve is to learn from criticism, without being crushed by it.

That's a delicate balancing act. It means being open to getting slammed...but not taking it personally. This is a three step process:

1) Learning to separate constructive criticism from meaningless personal attacks

2) Understanding that, just because our work may be bad, it doesn't mean that we are.

3) Learning to like and seek out constructive criticism

How to Learn It 

Praise what's good in a child's work, don't just pick out the negatives. And when you do highlight the negatives, always offer solutions.

"This is bad, your story is too slow" is useless criticism to a child. An adult would go off and tweak it, but a child is more likely to just give up. You want to posit solutions, like:

"The story is a bit slow in the middle. Maybe you should include a part where the finance editor get slapped by an angry parent. Because no one wants parenting advice from a finance expert, even if he taught in like a gazillion schools."

This motivates your child to constantly approach you for help (criticism). They need to trust that you'll make their work better, the same way you'd help them assemble a 500 piece Lego kit. And as they grow older, their skin will thicken into the rhino hides required to survive a Singaporean workplace.

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3. Learning to Talk Back (Intelligently)

Most of us would rather not have sassy backtalk from our children. It gets irritating.

But you don't want to take the fight completely out of your child. You've seen what happens: The office pushover, the bullied kid, the damaged human beings that cringe in the corners of society...that's the eventual consequence of lacking fight. Of children who are taught to just roll over all the time.

For developing children, learning verbal self-defense isn't an option. It's a necessity and a right.

I don't mean you should encourage them to spew four letter words and shout. But you can teach them to retort and argue intelligently.

"Talking back" can build a child's resistance to peer pressure. That's useful, whenever their friends start discussing a stupid or lethal idea. And it develops the good habit of thinking and researching, before the mouth goes into gear.

Image Credits:
greenloons.com, thechangeblog.com, kaywalten.com, jobinterviwcoaching.org,

How do you teach your child confidence? Comment and let us know!

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Original article can be found HERE.


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2 comments :

Pei Shan said...

Useful article for parents. Thanks for sharing.

Cheekiemonkies said...

Thanks Pei Shan for dropping by! :)

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