Seeing our kids struggle with self-esteem is hard, especially since we can see how amazing they are! How do we help our kids with self-confidence?
I (Liz) have an eight-year-old son who has been struggling with confidence this year. This is the first time in his life that this has happened. He has even had moments where he has pretended to be sick to avoid doing things that cause him fear and anxiety. I have to admit that when I observed this in him, I was totally shocked and did not know what to do! It scared me to see him dealing with fear. I want my son to be confident and I want to know how I can help him get there. I have joined with my friend, Wendy Munsell, who is one of our mentor moms for this discussion.
After I shared this with Wendy, she shared with me that she once had a quiet, shy, and sensitive eight-year-old boy who is now a twenty year-old black belt in Karate and top of his class in college! Boy did I appreciate this perspective! One of her pieces of advice that stuck with me was this: “It’s important as parents to understand that kids mature at different rates. We need to give them time to grow, develop, and succeed at their own pace.”~Wendy Munsell
So let’s take a deep breath sweet mamas – this whole process is going to take some time, and the overall result are, of course, not in our control. Our kids will grow at their own pace and we need to give them time. We also need to remember that God is co-parenting with us. There are things that He is doing our children that we can’t even see. We need to trust.
But let’s also be honest – it scares us when we see our children being fearful! I know that I (Liz) need some practical advice on some things I can do to help my kiddo! One of the things that helped me in the beginning was to identify and verbalize what it is my kiddo was afraid of. I needed to put my finger on it. I noticed that he was afraid of the following things – the unknown, failure-disappointing himself and others and his own emotional response to losing.
My son is a wrestler. He goes out onto the mat and faces his opponent, he is by himself, and this is a tough sport! I have seen him beaming with pride and confidence when he has won his matches, the referee holding his hand up in the air – and I have seen him crumble with sadness, crying inconsolably at a loss during a match where he worked really hard to win. I have to admit that at times I have just wanted him to quit the sport altogether. My husband is his coach and I observe him as he lovingly and confidently encourages my son to keep going. This is real tough stuff for this mama would much rather keep her children comfortable. So my conclusion in identifying what my son’s fears are- the fact that he does not know who his opponent will be (the unknown), whether or not he will win the match (more unknown+failure), and how to deal with feelings of failure that feel out of control (emotional response to losing).
Wendy shares that one of the most powerful things we can do is to help our children learn how to recognize and then verbalize their fears. She said – “If we are honest with ourselves, even as adults, we find ourselves controlled and driven by emotions that we may not even be aware of.” ~ Wendy Munsell
Helping our children to identify what it is that may be controlling and driving their emotions is very empowering!
- that we follow this up with role playing and/or brainstorming strategies for addressing scary or challenging circumstances with them
- ending the conversation by praying with our children
- rejoicing with them as prayers are answered.
Let’s go back to the example with my son. Taking Wendy’s advice, I can sit down and help him understand what it is he’s afraid of. I can then brainstorm with him ways that he can handle his fears.
For example – when he meets his opponents, which he will when they are all getting weighed in, he can pray for them and recognize that they are probably just as scared as he is, while they are waiting to wrestle, he can ask them questions to get to know them/break the ice over a conversation about favorite video games or sports teams, when he thinks about not knowing whether he will win or lose, he can remember that after the match is over, the most important thing is that he tried his best (and maybe that he has a special reward waiting for him for working hard; i.e.- a favorite candy, a movie night, etc.), and when he worries about the fact that he may cry and not be able to control his emotions, he can make a plan to go to the bathroom, take some deep breaths, have some favorite songs ready to listen to afterwards as he walks around the hallway or goes outside, and he can ask me to tell him his favorite joke.
We can work together to make a plan for how to deal with these fears.
He can help to develop this plan and thus take ownership over it.
I hope that these suggestions are helpful for others out there! I hope to continue this conversation with even more practical things that we can do to help build her children’s confidence, overcome their fears and become all that the Lord has created them to be!
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