to Build Self Confidence in Your Children
by Barbara Minton
TBYIL articles by Barbara Minton
media recently reported the story of a 9 year old who acted quickly and
decisively to save the life of his teacher who was having an terrible asthma
attack. Experts were full of praise for the boy's actions, but the real
story is about his parents and how they managed to raise a child like that.
Those parents really know what they are doing. They have managed to empower
their child to face an unpleasant situation, make a decision quickly, and
act on that decision. Their child has confidence.
Building self confidence in children was once a matter of common sense. It
wasn't so long ago that most children were raised to be confident
individuals. But recently a new kind of parent has emerged who can be
detrimental to the healthy development of their children: the over-parenter.
Over-parenting is a style as well as a mindset. It swung into high gear
after the tragedy on September 11, 2001 and the following series of
terrorist alerts that turned up the heat on the national paranoia. Of course
we want to protect our children from horrendous experiences.
We turned up the heat on each other, too. Parents now seem to regard
over-parenting as a sign of good parenting. If you don't over-parent your
child, you may be viewed by others as being a poor or neglectful parent,
even as a parent who is willing to endanger her child. In other words, you
have been made to feel really guilty if you don't over-parent your child.
Peer pressure among adults can be as intense and destructive as it is among
children. This peer pressure has made us question our intuitive parenting
skills and undermined our levels of self-confidence.
What is over-parenting?
Over-parenting is based on a belief that in order for a child to be happy
and secure, he must live a sterile life and be protected from any experience
he may find unpleasant or challenging. In an over-parenting family, the
child comes first, and most activities revolve around him. He is allowed to
do whatever he wants and have whatever he wants, because telling him 'no'
would be unpleasant for him. The over-parented child is viewed by his
parents as needing their constant vigilance and protection, because the
world is a scary place.
Over parenting is seen when parents drive their children to school even on
nice days and even though they live only a short distance away. It's seen in
the parent who waits for the school bus in the morning with the child after
the child becomes capable of getting on the bus alone. Parents who drive
their child to the school bus stop and wait in the warm car with them until
the bus arrives are over-parenting. They may bring a special lunch to school
for their child, because he does not like the lunch being served that day.
By today's standards, these examples may not seem outside of the norm, but
there is more to over-parenting than such excessive indulgence.
Parents who over-parent make all the decisions for their children. They may
not be allowed to dress themselves, choose their own friends, or have any
spare time for playing or daydreaming. Chances are that these children's
lives outside of school will be programmed down to the minute by their
Over-parented children can be seen running around in restaurants annoying
other guests who wonder why the children are not being made to sit down and
be quiet. One reason may simply be that the children might not like sitting
down and being quiet. Over-parenters believe their children must be
constantly indulged in order to grow up to be happy people.
Over-parenting is seen when parents solve their children's problems rather
than giving them a chance to overcome the problems themselves. It occurs
when parents allow their children to avoid legitimately challenging
situations so they are not inconvenienced and so they do not experience
discomfort. It can also occur when too much control or too much order is
imposed on the child by the parent.
Over-parenting is increasingly seen in affluent families, but it can occur
in any socio-economic group. It may be found in large or small families. And
it is frequently seen in families that have experienced a death or other
The over-parented child is a protected and spoiled child. He lacks real
confidence and is unable to take risks or make decisions. He avoids new
situations, and hides behind his parents when a challenge arises, because he
has been taught by his parents that they are the only ones who can make
decisions. Over-parented children may be any age, but this over-parenting
often becomes apparent in the middle grades of primary school when
challenges start to increase.
Such things as divorce or change of circumstances can lead to over-parenting
or overprotection as a form of compensation for the unhappiness or
inconvenience that has occurred. Over-parenting may allow a parent to escape
feelings of guilt, but in the long run, it undermines the confidence of the
How to kick the over-parenting habit
Your ability to break the habit of over-parenting is directly linked to your
level of self-confidence. Parents who are able to allow their children to
make decisions for themselves, to use their free time in unstructured play
or daydreaming, or to go about in the world without them, are really
expressing a level of trust and confidence in the world and a belief that
things will turn out all right. When a parent exhibits this level of
confidence, the child will learn to be confident too.
Breaking from a pattern of over-parenting may be difficult, especially if
your social network and you child's school staff endorse over-parenting. You
may find yourself standing alone, or trying to fend off that peer pressure.
However, if your child is at the point where he relies on you to think, plan
and do for him, it is time for you to take action.
You can start by acknowledging your feelings of guilt and the pressure from
your peers. Once you are actively aware of the forces working on you, you
will be better equipped to deal with them. Then little by little you can
pull back on the over-assistance, decision making, and monitoring. You might
start by allowing your child to walk to school, even on days when it is cold
or rainy, or to get himself up in the morning without your assistance. When
a new behavior becomes normalized, go on to another area to withdraw your
When your child is faced with a challenge, help him with ideas, tips or
techniques to cope rather than allowing him to escape from the challenge.
Help him develop a 'hang tough' attitude.
Cut back on the lavishing of material possessions. Spend your money on
yourself for a change. If your child finds this hard to handle and nags for
more spending money or possessions, make it clear that the money you earn
belongs to you, and that you will decide how it is spent. Explain that your
goal for him is to finish school and become financially independent, so that
he then has the freedom with his money that you now have with yours.
Instead of freely handing out money spending money, give your child jobs to
do. No matter how much he complains, doing chores will give your child a
sense of empowerment, know-how and completion. Chores build confidence.
Children who do best at school and beyond are those who have parents who
respond by teaching and supporting rather than protecting or compensating
when social, physical or intellectual challenges occur. The greater the
level of confidence you can show in your child's ability to cope and deal
with the world himself, the more confidence he will gain. Develop the wisdom
to see when your child really needs your help rather than jumping in to give
it from the start.
Remember that modeling is a great teacher. When you act in a positive,
decisive and confident manner in your own affairs, your behavior will be
modeled by your child.
Learning to build self confidence in children is not easy. It can be tough
to walk the balance between fostering real independence and yet not placing
too much responsibility on your child. Children need to be guided,
protected, and provided for. But this doesn't mean that children should be
coddled and spoiled. Being an effective parent requires you to balance head
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