Not long ago, I witnessed a situation that made me very sad. At a school where I worked as a substitute teacher, there was a boy who didn't follow the rules. During recess, the young 10-year-old boy was a bully and constantly called for attention by hitting other kids and making fun of them. During class time, he could not sit still and there was no way to motivate him to work.

When I asked one of my colleagues what was going on with this kid, she answered, "His mother calls him silly, she always says that he is a 'Good for nothing.' I realized that when a child does not receive love at home, he grows up to be insecure and manifests his anger by bullying other kids."

As I listened to her, I thought, "Are there parents that treat their children like that?" I realized that perhaps the boy's mother had been treated the same way during her childhood and that is what she learned. I felt sympathy for her. The saddest thing for me was to realize that this boy was growing up with a lack of love and confidence, believing that he wasn't good at anything.

It is important that we reflect on our behavior, feelings, emotions or negative beliefs that we drag with us from our childhood. The more critical we are, the better we will be able to understand our fears and challenges. By understanding ourselves, we will become more conscious about the example we provide for our children and search for tools that will contribute toward the development of their self-esteem.

What attitudes should we develop in order to help our children grow with happiness and confidence? Let me share a few tips with you:

1. Cherish a child's insight

When we were growing up, we were often told, "Be quiet, the adults are talking." Of course, children need to learn respect, however, it is important to allow them time to express themselves freely. This will provide them with confidence.

2. Avoid mocking a child

Although children are young and have a lot of lessons to learn, it is important for us to respect their emotions, desires and goals. For example, I know a teenager who told her parents that she had fallen in love with someone. Mockingly, her parents laughed at her and asked, "What do you know about love?"

3. Provide your children with tools to express themselves appropriately

Art is one of the most effective ways for children (and for all human beings) to express themselves. Children can use music, dance or drawing to see their finished work, to value their efforts and to express their emotions. This is not only healthy for them, but it also helps them develop a greater amount of self-esteem because they will see their goals become fulfilled. In addition, journals are a great tool for children to write about their experiences and feelings.

4. Avoid comparing your child with other children

If you have more than one child, avoid committing the mistake of comparing them to each other. Some parents say, "If you were like so and so ... " which may create rivalries and feelings of inferiority - especially if the children are very close in age.

5. Avoid labels

When parents make comments such as, "Johnny is terrible, stubborn and mischievous," they only worsen certain characteristics of the child's personality. This happens because the child ends up believing what he or she has been told and will be determined to fulfill this role.

6. Discipline your children with love and teach them to learn from their mistakes

Help your children to see challenges as a learning opportunity to grow as a person. Cheer them up when they make mistakes. Reassure them that they will be able to overcome obstacles.

7. Treasure your child's efforts

It is essential for parents to be there for their child at each learning stage. Show your happiness when he is successful. It is important to verbalize your happiness by complimenting and hugging him.

8. Show each child your love

Parents love their children but sometimes it is hard to demonstrate this love. Oftentimes parents think their children already know they are loved. Nevertheless, it is important to express love in all human relationships. We can show our love with a word, a smile, being attentive and listening to children's needs, fears or desires - accompanied with a hug or an expression such as, "I love you."

9. Never say, "What are people going to think if they see you doing this?

Most likely, everyone heard these words when they were growing up. Another expression is, "You are being watched. Behave!" These phrases create insecurity. As adults, we must teach our children to behave because it is the right thing to do and we must explain to them why. Thus, little children will act correctly without fearing what other people may say.

Besides practicing these tips, it is essential that we make a sincere effort to show confidence when making parental decisions. We must show calmness when facing trials and happiness at all times. Thus, we will set a good example for our children to develop their confidence and self-esteem. Moreover, they will become happy individuals who know their strengths and weaknesses in order to overcome any obstacles they may face in life.

I invite you to share these tips if you find them useful and to let me know what you and your family do to raise confident children.

Published in Ser Padres by Maia Fernandez on September 20, 2013

Translated and adapted by Anders Peterson from the original article "9 consejos para criar hijos con confianza," by Maia Fernandez.

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