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Give Your Child A Confidence Boost With Grainne Ryan

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

How to know when your child is lacking in confidence and the do's and don'ts of building their self esteem.
It is well known that a child with good self-esteem has the confidence and wherewithal to try new things and make friends. It is then inevitable that the child will go on to have stronger relationships both with you and others. But finding the balance between a self-assured, self -confident child and a pompous, self - important child can be difficult. Today we look at how to find that balance and how best to boost your child's confidence.

Grainne Ryan - Parenting Coach
Presenter of Baby on Board Series 2. Grainne is a public health nurse and midwife and mother of three children. Areas of interest child development, parenting issues, adolescent development and post natal depression and works as a public health nurse in Ennis Co. Clare.

What confidence issues are out there when it comes to children
As parents we all aspire to raising confident, independent, sociable and happy children. Healthy self-esteem is a child's armor against the challenges of the world. Kids who feel good about themselves seem to have an easier time handling conflicts and resisting negative pressures. They tend to smile more readily and enjoy life. These kids are realistic and generally optimistic.
In contrast, kids with low self-esteem can find challenges to be sources of major anxiety and frustration. Those who think poorly of themselves have a hard time finding solutions to problems. They may say things like" I'm no good" or "I can't do anything right," they may become passive, withdrawn and retreat. Faced with a new challenge, their immediate response may be "I can't." Sometimes they may even become aggressive, attention seeking, "Clowning".

Whether these behaviours are learned or innate
There are biologically based personality traits that are unique to every child and which influence their experiences in the world. However temperament does not exist in isolation and is influenced by the parent - child interaction, in particular the parents responses towards the child. Your child may be shy (slow to warm up) but once nurtured in the correct environment will not influence her self confidence.

What age we should become concerned as behaviour continues
When your child is not adjusting well to the situation. Friendships are an important part of his development and are a good barometer of how he is doing. If he always seems to be alone, talk to the preschool teacher, child-minder or teacher: it may be that you are not seeing those moments when he's happily interacting. If they agree that your child is having more trouble socializing than most kids his age or if your child is unhappy it may be time to start working on building your child self-confidence.

The difference between shyness self -confidence
Some children are shy from birth and have a genetic predisposition to be that way. Other children are shy during certain situations that make them uncomfortable or afraid:-
. Meeting new people
. New situations
. Being singled out or being centre of attention.

Children also feel shy when they don't have the social skills necessary to feel comfortable during a particular scenario. A child, who hasn't spent much time around large groups of people, is more likely to want to avoid them. Watching for triggers and understanding any anxieties better, you can talk them trough and work together on ways to overcome them.

On the other hand self-esteem is how one feels about oneself; how much a person likes, accepts, and respects him or herself overall as a person. What one thinks about oneself determines how he feels. Behaviours and actions reflect those feelings, whether positive or negative. The overall happiness and success of children primarily depends on parents building self-confidence in their children and having high self-esteem will have tremendous impact on a child's success and independence as adults.
You may be shy and have high self esteem, however low self esteem inevitably could lead to shyness.

How to recognise signs of low confidence/self esteem:-

Children with High Self Esteem are Able to....
. Act independently and responsibly
. Take pride in their abilities
. Deal with their emotions
. Willingly accept new challenges
. Deal with problems well

Children with Low Self Esteem...
. Feel unloved and unwanted
. Blame others for their mistakes
. Avoid taking on new challenges and tasks
. Put themselves down
. Are easily influenced or manipulated by others

Tip: Many parents do far too much for their children, so much so that their children get unspoken message that they are incapable of doing things for him or herself.

How best to talk to your child when it comes to the issue
You appear unhappy; do you want to talk about it?
Incorporate it in to a conversation at night and bring up about the day at school or at home.
What was good about it?
Avoid putting unrealistic demands i.e. success in exams, success in sports
Know that success will not happen overnight
Tell your child how important he is and focus on his abilities.

How sustained low confidence can affect your child later in life
Not all children with low self esteem engage in anti social behaviour. Acting out, conduct disorders, mood disorders, isolated, withdrawn, clingy behaviour can result however from low confidence.
Children with low self esteem may become more easily influenced by their peers in adolesence so may succumb to peer group pressure (smoking, drinking etc).
They may become withdrawn so parents and not discuss issues with their parents.
On the other hand low self esteem may not hold you back academically however people with low self esteem may not interview well for jobs
People with low self esteem may have difficulty in maintaining functional relationships

The Do's and Don't of encouraging your child to be more confident and self assured

. Watch what you say.
Kids are very sensitive to parents' words. Remember to praise your child not only for a job well done, but also for effort. But be truthful. For example, if your child doesn't make the soccer team, avoid saying something like, "Well, next time you'll work harder and make it." Instead, try "Well, you didn't make the team, but I'm really proud of the effort you put into it." Reward effort and completion instead of outcome. Don't compare to siblings or friends.
. Be a positive role model.
If you're excessively harsh on yourself, pessimistic, or unrealistic about your abilities and limitations, your child may eventually mirror you. Nurture your own self-esteem, and your child will have a great role model.
. Identify and redirect your child's inaccurate beliefs.
It's important for parents to identify kids' irrational beliefs about themselves, whether they're about perfection, attractiveness, ability, or anything else. Helping kids set more accurate standards and be more realistic in evaluating themselves will help them have a healthy self-concept. Inaccurate perceptions of self can take root and become reality to kids. For example, a child who does very well in school but struggles with math may say, "I can't do math. I'm a bad student." Not only is this a false generalization, it's also a belief that will set the child up for failure. Encourage kids to see a situation in its true light. A helpful response might be: "You are a good student. You do great in school. Math is just a subject that you need to spend more time on. We'll work on it together."
. Be spontaneous and affectionate.
Your love will go a long way to boost your child's self-esteem. Give hugs and tell kids you're proud of them. Give praise frequently and honestly, without overdoing it. Kids can tell whether something comes from the heart.
. Give positive, accurate feedback.
Comments like "You always work yourself up into such a state!" will make children feel like they have no control over their outbursts. A better statement is, "You were really mad at your brother. But I appreciate that you didn't yell at him or hit him." This acknowledges a child's feelings, rewards the choice made, and encourages the child to make the right choice again next time. Focusing on the behaviour not the child.
. Create a safe, loving home environment.
Kids who don't feel safe at home will suffer immensely from low self-esteem. A child who is exposed to parents who fight and argue repeatedly may become depressed and withdrawn. Also watch for signs of abuse by others, problems in school, trouble with peers, and other factors that may affect kids' self-esteem. Deal with these issues sensitively but swiftly. And always remember to respect your kids.
. Help kids become involved in constructive experiences.
Activities that encourage cooperation rather than competition are especially helpful in fostering self-esteem. For example, an older child helping a younger one learn to read can do wonders for both kids. If they are not sporty find an activity that they are good at drama, art, horse riding. All children are individuals.

. Expect too much or too little from children.
. Shout at or criticize children, especially in front of other people.
. Criticize children more often than praising or showing appreciation.
. Call children clumsy, thoughtless, stupid, lazy, etc.
. Tell children who have made mistakes that they are failures.
. Overprotect or neglect children.
Special tips for parents
. It is important to look after your own self-esteem too. It is part of good parenting to let your children see that you feel good about yourself.
. Take time out for yourself regularly. Do some things you really enjoy or feel proud of. For example take a bubble bath, join a team, read a book, go for a walk or run, go to a movie, learn something new.
. Spend some time with friends who support you and help you to feel good.
. If you have a partner make sure that you keep regular time to be together.
. If your children are growing up, start thinking about branching out into new interests for yourself.