When I was a teacher, on occasion, I’d conduct a little social experiment with my students. I’d say, “Raise your hand if you think you’re my favorite student.” Each time, every hand, with just one or two exceptions would reach high into the air. I’d follow up with a smile and say something to the effect of, “Well, 22 of you are right.” I’d then tell my students that every single one of them was my favorite, and that they were each special and unique, contributing to our classroom in their own way. We wouldn’t be the same without each and every one of them.
I would then make it my goal to pay a bit of extra attention to the few students who did not raise their hand, desiring for them to learn in an atmosphere that gave them confidence, knowing that their teacher found them to be special and of utmost importance. Every child in that room needed to feel like #1. They deserved to feel that way.
You see, kids (and adults) cannot begin to develop their creativity, talent, and path to fulfillment until their self-esteem needs are met. Almost always, the kids who didn’t raise their hands, were kids who were under-performing, and not reaching their full potential in the classroom. They lacked that inner belief that they were good enough to be on top. Think about it for a minute. Consider if there is something you’ve always longed to do. Maybe you’ve wanted to show your paintings at a gallery, open a cupcake shop, or go back to school. What’s holding you back? Other than money, the answer is typically fear and/or the belief that you’re not good enough. It’s all very Maslow….take a look:
*image from simplypyschology.org
My point with my students was less about being my favorite, and more about gaining confidence. I knew that if they walked into our classroom every day with the knowledge that their teacher believed in them, thought they were special, cared about them, recognized their achievements, etc, that they would have the ability to expand their creativity and accomplish so much more as learners (and humans!) We need to know that we have the ability to conquer anything. Self-confidence is VITAL to personal growth and creativity.
I do my best writing on days where I feel good about myself. Days where I find myself living in Comparison Gulch or Fear of Failure Lane, I can’t squeeze a word out. Fear seizes my brain and I stop trying. The way I feel on those days, is the LAST thing I ever want any of my children to face.
So, how can you apply this at home? Think about your kids. Do they know hands-down that you believe in them?
1. Give positive reinforcement any chance you get.
Recognize their accomplishments, efforts, and attempts. Make your praise specific and TRUE.
(Ie- If your 6 year old scribbles on a piece of paper, don’t praise them for it. However, if your 2 year old does, the praise is appropriate. Also, say things like, “I am so proud of you for trying your best” when a child is in a situation that may make them feel like a failure (strikes out, loses a spelling bee, fails their driving test, etc.) Try to extend the praise beyond something generic like “Good.” Be thoughtful and mindful about your words of praise.
Remind your children frequently of their inherent capability. Let them know what you admire about them. Fill their esteem cup to the brim with reminders of their character.
2. Don’t set your child up to fail.
Do your best not to put crazy expectations on a child. Don’t tell your child that they HAVE to be valedictorian in high-school, win a medal at the Olympics, or run a Fortune 500 company when they’re older. Because, when they don’t….they’ll feel less than, and like they’re not good enough….and the creativity, and self-fulfillment will stop.
Instead, let your child know that you believe they can do anything they set their mind to. Inspire them to achieve their best, letting them know that you fully believe in them. Make everything a “You can” instead of a “You have to.”
3.Believe in THEIR dreams
Support your child in whatever floats their boat. It can be disappointing when your child doesn’t show an interest or have a knack for whatever it is/was that you love(d). We may want our child to excel in sports, love art, or be the next chess prodigy. However, when their interests begin to develop, it is important to encourage them…whatever they may be. Forcing a child into an activity that he/she does not enjoy can set up the belief in their head that they are only “worthy”, loved, or “good enough” if they are engaged in and successful at said activity.
We all want our kids to be happy, healthy, fulfilled human beings. As their parents, we have the ability to either help or hinder their progress towards reaching their full potential. Let’s strive to make sure their self-esteem needs are always met, allowing our kids the freedom to develop and nurture their need for creativity and personal fulfillment.
So ask yourself today, “Does my child feel like #1? Does he/she KNOW of their inherent capability? Does my child know that I believe in and support them no matter what?”
If you can’t give a confident “Yes!” to each of those questions, thoughtfully consider ways in which you can build your child’s confidence and esteem in the coming weeks. Look for opportunities to recognize their effort and accomplishments. Be mindful of their good character. Encourage them to develop their interests and creative pursuits. Letting your child know that you are supportive of their passions and dreams is a big boost to their confidence. (Don’t you feel more confident when you know that someone who loves you is behind you and in your corner? I sure do!)
Be and advocate for your child’s esteem. Their fulfillment and creative development depends on it.
*If you’d like to hear more about this topic, I would love to speak to your group. Bekki Lindner is available for group events, conferences, meetings, as well as video lectures. I would love to share more on building confidence and meeting the needs of our children with you.