All parents and teachers want to help children while also allowing them the freedom to figure things out on their own, make mistakes, and develop problem-solving skills. The more practice children have in managing their surroundings and overcoming obstacles the more confident and competent they will become.
However, it can be hard to find the balance between protection and independence. In today’s culture, many parents are accused of being “helicopter parents” – they hover around and provide very few opportunities for children to learn through disappointment or friction. Here are a few tips from parenting experts on reframing your thoughts to foster confidence and self-reliance in your child.
1) Think of yourself as a coach instead of an engineer in control. As a coach, you take an active role, but you’re still on the sidelines as your child plays and learns. You don’t do things for your child, but with them. You don’t need to intervene or improve on your child’s play unless safety or boundaries are being tested. As a coach, you ensure that your child knows the rules and the right way to use the equipment, and then you step back to watch the game unfold.
2) Think of yourself as an assistant instead of the boss. Let your child try things on their own from a very early age. You can and should be ready to step in if they need help, but encourage them to try first without you. When they accomplish something, be congratulatory, praise them with something like: “I knew you could do it by yourself! Well done!”
3) Think of yourself as a role-model instead of a figure head. Children are always listening and watching – imitation is a giant sign of learning in early childhood development. Demonstrate what you are doing in slow, narrated steps, and watch as your child takes the initiative to copy you. This is also important in the way you talk about yourself and other people. If you talk highly of yourself and your efforts, as well as praising others when they succeed, your child will often emulate these traits.
4) Think of yourself as a cheerleader instead of a judge. All human beings need comforting and encouragement when things go wrong. When children get this encouragement at an early age, it helps to develop an inner monologue of confidence and resilience that will last throughout their lives.
5) Think of yourself as project manager instead of emergency rescue. Help your child organize things each day in a way that makes sense to them, and resist the urge to take over their tasks. Focus on effort as your child works through things, and give feedback praising things they have control over – like hard work and attention – instead of things they can’t control, like being smart or athletic.
At the end of the day, we can teach children confidence by letting go of our own anxiety and allowing them to experiment and explore.