*This post is part of the Raising Resilient Children series, which features advice from Mental Health Professionals. Find tips for helping your children remain strong through life’s challenges, manage anxiety and overcome stress.
Rose and Katie are playing on the swing set. Rose runs up the slide and stands confidently at the top. She calls to Katie, encouraging her to do the same.
Katie examines the slide. Determines that it is too risky to climb. She stays on the ground. But inside, she feels conflicted. While she feels safe on the ground, she also has a longing to know what it’s like at the top.
Some children are cautious by nature. They have a strong sense of danger, right and wrong, or potential hazards. Being cautious can be a good thing, but it can also limit our children socially, academically and personally.
As a parent, our goal shouldn’t be to change who our child is or force them to be something they are not. Instead, we want to equip them with ways to accomplish challenging tasks, initiate conversations and take appropriate risks that will enrich their lives. We don’t want our kids to live in fear, but we should encourage them to see other options and possibilities. We want them to feel confident!
Five Ways to Help Your Child Feel Confident
1. Teach Assertiveness: Explain the difference between an aggressive, passive, and assertive tone of voice. Talk about how “aggressive” is loud, angry, bossy and demanding. “Passive” is timid, shy, uncertain and not convincing. “Assertive” is a firm, focused, just-right tone that is easy to hear. Take a sentence (like, “You are sitting in my chair.”) and say it in one of the three ways. Have your child guess if it is aggressive, passive or assertive. Then, switch roles!
2. Body Language: Building on tip #1, explain that aggressive, passive and assertive each look different in our body. “Aggressive” is big, “puffed up,” and often too close to others; sometimes it includes fists closed, jaw clenched, wide arms and legs “Passive” is small, rounded, slumped shoulders, head hanging low, eyes down, slow moving. “Assertive” is close, but not too close to others, shoulders back, head and chin up, eyes forward, arms at your sides. This time, demonstrate one of the three postures and see if your child can guess. Then, switch roles!
3. Positive Self-Talk: Now that your child knows what assertive looks like and sounds like, it’s time to work on changing their internal dialogue. Cautious children often second-guess themselves, doubt their abilities, or make things worse than they appear. Create a list of positive phrases your child can say, then practice saying them assertively out loud. Phrases can include: I am strong, I am friendly, I am confident, I am safe, I have done this before, I have good ideas.
4. Practice at Home: Give your child opportunities to practice being confident before they have to do it on their own. Think of a scenario where your child’s caution usually interferes. Then, use stuffed animals, Barbies, or draw out it on a piece of paper, and practice being confident in that situation. Emphasize the body language, tone of voice and internal self-talk. Move on from there by finding times during the day to encourage your child to make choices or try something that usually makes them cautious.
5. Embrace the Journey: Moving a child (or an adult!) from an overly cautious to confident mindset can be challenging. It’s not going to happen overnight, and there will be many set-backs. If you notice your child struggling, talk it through together: “I noticed that you didn’t join in when the kids were playing tag. What’s up?” Listen to their reply. Then, work together to brainstorm ways to do it differently next time: “I’ll tell myself, â€˜Tag is fun, those kids are nice,’ then stand up straight and use a big voice to ask if I can play too.” Role play it together.
Not all caution is bad. You want your child to think before jumping off the couch or striking up a conversation with a stranger. If your child tends to be more cautious, this is part of their nature. It is who they are as a person. We don’t want to eliminate all caution from our children’s lives. Instead, we want to focus on the times when caution interferes with their education, friendships or personal growth.
Encourage your child as you see them grow more confident. Talk about the benefits of confidence and the opportunities it brings. Empower them to feel confident in who they are and what they can accomplish!
*This post is part of the “Raising Resilient Children” series. Click the picture below to find more resources for parents from Mental Health Professionals!