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Cultivating Courageous And Confidence In Kids

Another day, another after-school Zoom training to deliver, and my 7 year old has entertained himself (again!) without complaint.

I rewarded him (and myself) by taking him out for dinner, which is a favourite thing for both of us.
It was just a pub with a beer garden and play equipment, which he immediately made a bee-line for.

Ideally, this is the bit of my day where I should be able to relax myself but instead, I was painfully aware that, as an only child, he’s the kid with nobody to play with.

I could see him itching to make friends but not sure how to and, while he’s a very easy-to-get-along-with child, he’s also sensitive and gentle, and so this kind of thing is hard for him.

There can be so much guess work in ‘getting it right’… I was resisting the urge to either go be his playmate, or broker a friendship for him, while questioning whether doing neither was the right thing to do.

He’d be coming home, either having had a great time but with no more friendship making skills, feeling ‘embarrassed’ at having found nobody to play with (as he tells me so much makes him these days) or having solved the problem himself and feeling competent.

Eventually, that’s exactly what he managed to do, and I could breathe a little sight of relief.

But watching this episode play out got me thinking about how easy it is to assume that our kids can work out their own difficulties just because they’re ‘old enough’.
‘Speaking up for themselves’ in general is one such problem. 

I’m sure I’m not the only parent whose kid comes home from school and asks me a question that really should be directed at his teacher… And I say ‘why didn’t you ask at school?’
And he says he was afraid of getting it wrong, his raised hand went unnoticed, or he was just too shy in the moment.

There are no silver bullets with circumstances like this. Some kids just have personalities that aren’t compatible with getting heard or noticed easily, or fitting in without working at it.
I might be talking about your child here, but sometimes situations just arise that rattle their confidence.

Either way, here are three ways to strengthen their self-assurance (and yours in them!)

Be what you want to see
Telling our kids to do the same thing over and over can be frustrating for us, and uncomfortable for them if they don’t feel ready.
It can be a test of patience, but modelling the behaviours that you want them to learn, without any intentional ‘teaching’, often pays off, eventually.

It may not be apparent for a while that your kids are learning much, but bit by bit, trust that they’re soaking it up.

Break the ‘task’ down
For ‘failure aware’ kids who aren’t willing to risk it, it’s easy to step in to assure they don’t. But ideally, we want then to feel equipped to handle themselves.

Instead of focusing on the hairy, scary end-result, break the whatever the problem is down into small steps.
Absolutely be available to help out, but challenge them to take just the next step on their own.

Not only does it feel less risky, they’re more likely to achieve it and thus get a little ‘I can’ message from themselves. That makes the next step easier to take.

Role-play, rehearse, repeat
Your kids may know exactly what to do in theory, but we all know that – even as an adult – putting theory into practice can be something completely different. So give them the practice.

Rehearse the difficult conversations they’re too uncomfortable to have.
This doesn’t have to be uber-serious; in fact you can hide a lot of learning in being light-hearted and playful with it.

Ask them to speak out all the words they’re afraid of hearing, so you can show them all the different ways to respond with confidence.
Help them experiment with different solutions so they’ve got other options if the first one doesn’t work.

So often, building our kids’ confidence and courage has to start with what they observe and learn from us…
How can they expect and grow confidence in themselves if we don’t have it – and express that – first? 

So, instead of stepping in (which is sooo easy to do!), decide now where you need to have the courage to step back, so you’re ready to help your child find their courage to step up…

Dare greatly on their own.....jpg