Think back a million years ago to when you were a kid. Do you remember that one kid in school who was just oh-so-confident? Yeah we do too. It’s funny, rarely do we ever hear someone say, “Oh yeah, that super-confident kid? That was me!” Most of us had to pretend that we weren’t nervous, embarrassed, or knee-knocking in social situations. Most likely, that kid who we thought was oh-so-confident actually wasn’t, and today is trying to teach their own kids about confidence!
Building confidence starts early. If you’re mindful of your child’s confidence level and wanting to help them be more self-assured, we salute you. One of the kindest things we can do for our children is help them build a solid emotional base. Self-trust is a major component of that solid base, the bedrock in which their confidence will be anchored. And speaking of being mindful, let us introduce you to mindfulness.
How Having Control Over Your Thoughts Builds Self-Confidence
In our “Mission I’m Possible” series, we suggest small, distinct tasks. These self-confidence activities are then, and perhaps as importantly, followed up by a question designed to help them internalize the experience. By asking them to think about how it felt, for example, to smile at three people or to write a thank-you note, we’re helping them be more aware of their internal landscape. This awareness or mindfulness allows space for our kids to reflect on their experiences. By intentionally considering their thoughts and feelings, they’re practicing mindfulness. This opportunity to reflect builds confidence in kids because it shows they can guide their own thoughts and manage their own feelings and not the other way around. They are the agent not only in the missions, but in their own lives.
One way that mindfulness helps to remove barriers to confidence is by helping kids learn to trust themselves. Lack of confidence is often caused by negative thoughts or negative self-talk. By promoting mindfulness, we help kids realize they can begin to harness their thoughts. Our emotions can also negatively impact confidence In a mindful state, it is easier to stop allowing our emotions, especially negative ones, to control us. This is not the same as denying they exist; we don’t want robots! However, becoming more aware of what emotions are and what triggers negative ones can be a powerful tool in becoming a self-assured person. The experience of identifying thoughts and feelings lets our kids practice some control over these thoughts and feelings. Practice makes perfect and as they practice this skill, they will learn to trust themselves more.
Put One in the Win Column with Positive Reinforcement
Take a page from our “Mission I’m Possible” playbook and give your kids simple tasks that they can complete with just a little guidance. And it may sound corny or patronizing to us as adults, but be sure to PRAISE them, especially the first time. From simple tasks like putting something away or tidying their rooms, to more complex skills like dressing themselves, tying their shoes, or mowing the lawn, acknowledging their success creates positive feelings of self and self-trust. By “putting one in the win column,” they begin to trust themselves that they can do new things. It may not always seem like it, but what you say matters to your kids. Even if the dishes aren’t put away perfectly or they pick an outfit that doesn’t match, still point out what they did right even as you teach them to do something different for next time. Instead of “you never do things the way I tell you” say something like, “I think it’s easier to do it this way.”
Acknowledge Wow Moments
Confidence can be described as having faith in your abilities. Kids gain confidence by doing something repeatedly until they are comfortable doing it. When attempting something they’ve never done before, they are aware that they are not competent at it. As they learn more about it and practice it, they move towards unconscious competence; eventually they don’t even think about it. Over time, they forget that it was ever difficult.
When beginning a skill, help them be mindful that their attitude towards it is entirely for their choosing. Remind them about skills that they now take for granted. If they are very young, they may not realize that they had to learn to walk. Take the opportunity when there are little ones around, to point out, “That was once you. Now look at you!” Help them have those “wow moments.” If they’re a little older, remind them of a time when they had to work really hard at something like tying their shoes, jumping a rope, riding a bike, or swimming. Help take them back to the time they were practicing that new skill and to remember how it felt to be frightened or frustrated.
Teach a Young Dawg a New Trick
A fantastic way to build confidence is to teach someone else. If younger siblings, cousins, or neighborhood kids are in the picture, keep an eye out for opportunities to have your child teach them something. This builds patience and people skills as well as confidence. When we explain something, we draw on our experiences and memories. In order to teach, we necessarily have to trust ourselves that we can do it ourselves. Giving encouragement like, “I thought I’d NEVER learn how to ride a bike,” builds mindfulness by reconnecting to those memories and by modeling confidence to those they are teaching. How to play a game, throw a Frisbee, shoot a basketball, climb a tree – there are limitless opportunities to teach others. Instead of just mixing the chocolate milk for a younger sibling, say to your older child, “Why don’t you show your brother how we mix the chocolate milk.”
Practice Mindfulness with Your Kids at Home
Here are some self-trust and mindfulness building activities to help develop confidence. Be sure to have fun with the activities you choose, and above all, remind your kids to be aware of what is “going on inside” as you do them.
Learning to make eye-contact is a major factor in confidence. Over 70% of our sensory receptors are in our eyes. The eyes dominate all the senses; they are far more powerful than all our other senses put together. So when we look people in the eye, they naturally look back at us and connect with us. “They cannot escape your gaze!”
- Print out several full page photos of famous people’s faces from the internet. Back them with cardboard and prop them up, like an audience. Have your child practice looking them “in the eyes” as they tell them a story or practice introducing themselves. Have them make up things and encourage silliness: “I’m so-n-so, I invented…” “I was the first person to…” “I’m the most famous…”
- Play wordless charades. Write down emotions on slips of paper. Take turns conveying those emotions to each other with only your face/eyes.
- Staring contest!
Sheriff Buford Pusser certainly exuded confidence by Walking Tall (look it up!). However, being mindful of how we look to others can be a jarring experience. A colleague recently recounted a memory of seeing himself in a mirror at a school dance and was shocked to see how much he was hunched over. If we sit and stand up straight, we project a heightened version of ourselves, literally! It may seem cliché, but the ol’ balancing-a-book-on-the-head exercise is fun, silly, and effective. While balancing a book on their heads, have them:
- Practice walking across the room, towards a mirror or reflective surface, if possible.
- Practice sitting down and standing back up.
- Play tag with you or siblings or friends.
- Obstacle course!
Teaching kids to slow down when they speak is a challenge. If they are very excited about something, they tend to speak more quickly. But also when they are nervous! A skill they will use for the rest of their lives is being mindful of not rushing when speaking. Have them make up a story about a stuffed animal or doll or action figure. Have them tell the story to you with the rule that they must take a DEEP breath between each sentence. Each time they forget, remind them. Breathe with them.
Luke, Do You Have Any Sixes?
When we act, we tap into different parts of our brains. Speaking in a false accent, singing, or imitating a famous person are ways that speech-pathologists help kids who have a stutter. Speaking in a deep tone gives the voice a quality that suggests strength and confidence, even though one may be feeling insecure. Play a game, like Go Fish, that requires speaking. Each player must speak in their lowest voice possible. Pretend you’re Darth Vader! “Dad, do you have any sixes?” This self-confidence activity requires mindfulness and will deepen (har!) their self-trust. It sounds silly, and it is, which is why it’s fun!
You’ve Got This!
It’s a long process, but if you trust yourself and are mindful of the process, you can raise confident children. Creating confidence-raising activities, like those suggested above, will create that solid foundation of self-trust. Reach out to trusted sources for ideas and guidance, like our Mission I’m Possible program. By talking with the people around them and performing little acts of kindness, missions will help them to better understand the thoughts and feelings that pop into their heads and to better understand what’s going on in their friends’ and classmates’ minds too.
Most of all encourage them by helping them:
- Learn a new skill.
- Teach a new skill.
- Practice at home.
- Put one in the win column by giving small tasks with clear completions.
- Help them trust themselves.
- Remind them of skills they once didn’t have.
Feel free to contact us with any comments or questions you may have. Generally, we respond to emails within two business days. And if you found this blog post interesting, please feel free to share it on your social media!