EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fifth installment in a series based upon the book “Building Resilience in Children and Teens.” Find Parts 1-4 at www.tahoedailytribune.com, keyword “Resilience.”
Last week, I covered the foundational C of developing competence. The second C of confidence is rooted in competence. Young people need confidence to be able to navigate the world, think outside the box, and recover from challenges.
Why is confidence so important? It feels good, of course, to know that you can do something well. Confidence is especially critical to children because it is necessary to navigating childhood and adolescence successfully and safely, a journey that involves taking risks every step of the way-walking into a new school for the first time, trying to make friends, or looking foolish by speaking up in class or not making the team.
Without authentic confidence, children will not take necessary risks. With authentic confidence, they will feel like they have some degree of power over their environment and are more likely to persevere and have an optimistic outlook instead of feeling passive and powerless.
Ginsburg takes great pains to differentiate between confidence and self-esteem. He feels as if the self-esteem movement may have done more harm than good over the past 30 years, in that it is externally driven by parents and teachers.
It is as if adults can construct a child’s self-esteem by telling him three times a day that he is terrific, beautiful or brilliant. Children are not dumb; they can see through empty words and labels. Ginsburg has nothing against self-esteem, but he wants it to be deep-seated, authentic and permanent.
Children who experience their own competence and know they are safe and protected develop a deep-seated security that promotes the confidence to face and cope with challenges. When parents support children in finding their own islands of competence and building on them, they prepare the kids to gain enough confidence to try new ventures and trust their abilities to make sound choices.
According to Ginsburg, there are three major ways that we can instill confidence in our children-catch them being good, offer genuine praise, and set reasonable expectations.
In thinking about your children’s degree of confidence, consider the following questions:
So I see the best in my child so that he can see the best in himself?
Do I clearly express that I expect the best qualities (not achievements, but personal qualities such as fairness, integrity, persistence and kindness) in him?
Do I help him recognize what he has done right or well?
Do I treat him as an incapable child or as a youngster who is learning to navigate his world?
Do I praise him often enough? Do I praise him honestly about specific achievements or do I give such diffuse praise that it doesn’t seem authentic?
Do I catch him being good when he is generous, helpful, and kind or when he does something without being asked or cajoled?
Do I encourage him to strive just a bit farther because I believe he can succeed? Do I hold realistically high expectations?
Do I unintentionally push him to take on more than he can realistically handle, causing him to stumble and lose confidence?
When I need to criticize or correct him, do I focus only on what he is doing wrong or do I remind him that he is capable of doing well?
Do I avoid instilling shame in my child?
Next time: The 3rd C: Connection.
Teri Andrews Rinne is the children’s services librarian at the Truckee Library, 10031 Levon Ave., Truckee. Call 530-582-7846 or visit www.mynevadacounty.com/library.