As parents we can help our kids develop and succeed if we embody these key points.
Self-confidence is one of the mainsprings of education. But how does it arise in children, or how can we instill it in them? Here are a few things to think about that will help you support it in your children …
So many parents and educators think that to encourage and stimulate a child, it is necessary to show them their failures, to scold them, to punish them, but most often this is a recipe for disaster. On the contrary, it is simply a question of giving them back their confidence: to the little one who falls in their first steps, we give them a happy “bravo,” “good job”; to the clumsy one who breaks a plate we give a smile of thanks for their intention to serve; to school difficulties—only the progress should be emphasized.
Confidence is contagious
We should start by having confidence in ourselves, and especially in our own abilities to be good parents. When we compare what we would like to be to what we actually are, we feel like we don’t measure up. We all dream of being perfect parents! But perfect parents do not exist, and our children cannot have better parents than us, because the Lord has chosen us for the job. And if He knows our limits and our sins, He also knows, better than anyone else, all the talents we possess and the graces we have been granted to fulfill our mission as Christian educators.
Confidence is a demanding attitude
Confidence is demanding for both the person who encourages it and the person who benefits from it. Having confidence in a child is not about letting them do whatever they want. It’s about making a pact: “I expect something from you: I know you can do it and you can count on me to help you.” This double certainty—I can succeed, and my parents will be at my side—is a powerful engine that allows the child to progress continuously.
Confidence and trust must be measured and progressive. Toddlers need to feel that we trust them. But we’re not going to have the same confidence in an infant as we do in a 15-year-old teenager. If our confidence is not adapted to the real capacities of the child, it will crush them instead of helping them grow. Twelve-year-old Juliette is very capable of babysitting her younger siblings, yet her parents haven’t yet entrusted her with babysitting in the evenings because they know she has an anxious temperament.
While confidence and trust can work wonders, fear of disappointing that trust can lead to disaster: entrusting too much is asking too much. In other words, if we set the bar too high, our children will refuse to jump.
Confidence is given and received
Confidence and trust are not “all or nothing.” When our son seriously lied to us, we were tempted to say: “We don’t trust you.” But we should also add: “It is up to you to regain our trust.” Trust “capital” is not like a bank account, it is inexhaustible … at least it should be!
When we can’t trust a child in one thing or another (because they lie, because they are absent-minded or clumsy, because they can’t control their anger, etc.), we should highlight the areas where we can rely on them. There is always something we can rely on them for, even with the most difficult child or the most rebellious teenager.
It’a important to establish a climate of trust around our children. They need us to have confidence in them, but also that we trust others who care of them in one way or another: teachers, catechists, educators, grandparents, uncles and aunts, friends. Yes, we must be vigilant and not entrust our children to just anyone; and yes, placing our trust—in the teachers, for example—does not mean passing off all educational responsibility to them. But let’s not sift through everything with suspicion! Vigilance must be in tune with benevolence. Otherwise, the children will be the first to suffer!
God trusts us: do we truly comprehend this? If He did not make us capable of doing our best, He would not ask it of us. And that best consists first of all in letting ourselves be loved by Him, unconditionally, just as we are. This best consists of putting all our trust in Him for everything and forever.