Raising confident children

Remember that Always advert? It was the first time I welled up at an advert about sanitary towels (blame pregnancy hormones), and although that may have left me feeling like slightly less of a person, it does still pop into my head years later. So I guess that ad exec really earned his bonus that year.

In any case the ad, for those of you who haven’t seen it and don’t feel like watching a YouTube video about sanitary towels in the middle of an office / while looking after small children – the ad focuses on the phrase ‘like a girl’. The director asks adults on camera to run like a girl, throw like a girl – and it has the perjorative edge – throwing like a girl = throwing with a limp wrist. Then they cut to young girls, who interpret it with confidence, so that ‘Run like a girl’ = running as fast as they can.

Anyway obviously it’s not exactly breaking new ground or saying anything we don’t already know in spades, but it is a salutary reminder of a sad state of decline in our openness and confidence as we get older. Particularly for our sense of female achivement.

But I was thinking about this in a less female-focused and rather broader context this morning, about children and confidence, as I brushed my newly-5 year old daughter’s teeth. As I brushed, she pulled away to say “they’re pretty great teeth I’ve got, aren’t they?!”

Moments later I passed my 7year old in our bedroom, with his arms up in a muscle man pose in front of the mirror, impressed with his own strength.

My 2 year old often admires her own curly hair with total joy.

I hate the idea that their belief in themselves will be eroded! I mean obviously I wouldn’t want them wandering around telling everyone how great they are (not all the time anyway) but I do want them wandering around feeling like they can achieve anything they want.

Here are some of the things I think might be important along the way;

Trying new things and failing

We hear this as adults all the time, that we should try things and not be afraid to fail – but a lot of the time we shelter our children from this eventuality. Just like Rosie Revere, Engineer (lovely story), sometimes a failure is a great moment for children. The perfect learning opportunity to see how supported and loved they are even when something doesn’t go to plan. Happiness requires some risk taking.

Trying new things and succeeding

Failing all the time wouldn’t be quite so dreamy. A good mix here means identifying something your child really enjoys and is good at, then sitting back and watching them succeed. This could be anything! My 5 year old is a terrifyingly competent cyclist so if she seems at a lower ebb I often ask if she’d like to go for a ride.

Making sure home is homely

I can’t control how their days at school go, or whether their friendships are going to plan. But I can always make sure that home is as restful and cosy as possible. So amidst trying to make the house look pleasant (for me this would, ideally, be a fairly stark minimalism) – amidst that, I try and make sure it is cosy, and as peaceful, or restful, as a house with 4 small children terrorising each other can possibly be. Or, you know, at the very least, a cosy and noisy familial chaos.

The right mix of routine and novelty

Not that I know quite what this golden ratio is – but it seems like children are at their most confident when there is the right balance of familiarity and routine, along with the odd bit of novelty.

Let’s just say that moving internationally is enough to tip the balance on those scales pretty intensely and I worried for a while that it might affect their confidence. Luckily a few months of very routine and predictable time as a family seems to have kept the balance in check so far.

Being bored

Boredom, the engine of invention and essential part of being a child? I love lazy days when the children go through a phase of boredom and come out of the other side having invented some crazy game that makes them far happier and proud of themselves than if I had dragged them straight out for some organised fun.

Feeling loved

An obvious but fundamental component. We have some pretty stellar tantrums around these parts, with 4 people vying to be heard. Rather than try to avoid this (I mean obviously I try to avoid multiple tantrums and constant drama) but rather than try to completely quell the meltdowns or totally avoid the points of conflict I hope that this noisy living gives them chance to practise having a shout or a cry and realising that everything remains the same; that they are still as loved as ever.

So, failing/succeeding, routine/novelty. With some love and boredom. Simple…?!

I’m really enjoying hearing your opinions, either in the comments or via my contact page. What do you do to make sure your children keep their confidence levels high?


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