Kunmi Lolade could not avoid crying sometime in 2019 when she discovered she had been the cause of her 7-year-old daughter’s low self-confidence at school and elsewhere.
According to her, the girl’s teacher at school had always wondered why she was always timid in class, unwilling to answer even questions that she knew the answers to. The mom-of-2 told PUNCH,
“So, sometime in 2019, the teacher met with my daughter and asked her some personal questions. To the teacher’s surprise and my surprise too, my daughter said I was the one always ordering her to keep quiet all the time.
“My daughter also told her teacher that I always compared her with her brother – how brilliant but quiet he was. My daughter also said I always shouted at her to hurry up while carrying out certain tasks.”
When the teacher spoke with her, Lolade said that she burst into tears, realising that she had been the cause of her daughter’s timidity and low self-confidence. She said,
“I did not realise that I was hurting my daughter’s competence all this while. It was true that I always told her to keep her mouth shut because she talked a lot. I failed to harness the talent for her good.
“After realising my fault, I had a hearty talk with my daughter and promised to change my attitude towards her going forward. I also showered her with plenty of gifts to apologise for my wrongdoing.”
Since that time, Lolade said she always told her daughter stuff like, ‘You are a good orator and you can be a great communicator like Michelle Obama.’
“My daughter always smiled when I told her that. I changed the way I talked to her and since then, her teacher told me she had improved significantly in class. I never realised I was the one damaging my child’s brilliance,”
In her 1975 book, ‘Your Child’s Self-Esteem,’ psychologist, marriage, family and child counsellor, Dorothy Briggs, said self-esteem was the mainspring that positioned every child for success or failure in life.
She added that it was thus a crucial job for every parent and every teacher to affirm and build self-esteem in each child.
“As parents, our responsibility is even greater than that of a teacher’s, who comes in at a very close second, because we are the single most significant influence in our children’s lives,”
American child development expert, Katherine Lee, also said in her article on Very Well Mind magazine that healthy self-esteem or (-confidence) was one of the most important characteristics of healthy child development.
“In fact, a child’s social, behavioural, and emotional health will play a crucial role in how they handle setbacks, peer pressure, and other challenges throughout life,”
As experts have identified self-confidence as the gateway to a child’s success, the following are tips to help grow children’s self-confidence.
Show your child unconditional love every day
According to Lee, knowing how much you love your children gives them a sense of security and belonging crucial to their view of themselves. She said:
“Your unconditional love lays the groundwork for all the healthy and strong relationships they will form later in their lives.”
On how to show love, Lee said,
“So hug your kids when you say goodbye, snuggle together and read a book, and express your love every single day.”
“As your kids grow, this foundation of love will help them as they continue to build their own social circles, make friends, and form bonds with teammates.”
Play together and have fun
When you play with your child, it shows them that you like spending time with them and that you value their company. Just having fun with your child has numerous benefits for both of you.
“Not only do kids develop confidence in their ability to be an interesting and entertaining person who can form solid social bonds, but studies have shown a child’s odds of being happy increases and their risk of depression and anxiety decreases when kids engage in healthy play,”
Praise your child, but do it wisely
Of course, it’s good to praise kids. Your praise is a way to show that you are proud of them. But some ways of praising kids can actually backfire.
A child psychologist based in Pennsylvania, the United States, Dr D’Arcy Lyness, wrote on kidshealth.org how to praise your child: She said,
“Don’t overpraise. Praise that doesn’t feel earned doesn’t ring true. For example, telling a child he played a great game when he knows he didn’t is hollow and fake. It’s better to say, ‘I know that wasn’t your best game, but we all have off days. I’m proud of you for not giving up. Tomorrow, you’ll be back on your game.’
Lyness also asked parents to praise efforts made by children on any task, advising to avoid focusing praise only on results or qualities. She said,
“Instead, offer most of your praise for effort, progress, and attitude. For example, tell your child, ‘You’re working hard on that project,’ ‘You’re getting better and better at these spelling tests,’ or, ‘I’m proud of you for practising the piano – you’ve really stuck with it.’”
“With this kind of praise, kids put effort into things, work towards goals, and try. When kids do that, they’re more likely to succeed,”
Give your child responsibilities and chores
According to Lee, being responsible for doing age-appropriate chores gives your child a sense of purpose and accomplishment. She said,
“Even if they don’t do something perfectly, let them know that you appreciate their efforts. Praise them for all the things they do well and reassure them that over time, they’ll get better and better at many things, including their chores.
“Having chores and responsibilities also gives kids a sense of control over their lives. And in a time when things are unpredictable, having responsibility for small jobs around the house can go a long way in building confidence and resilience.”
Refrain from insulting your child
A Lagos-based child development expert, Dr Funke Adegoke, said even when a child misbehaved or did something that annoyed the parents, the parents should always refrain from insulting that child. She said,
“There are many homes that you would see parents insulting their children. It feels disgusting when I witness such. I mean, it is important to separate the behaviour from the child. Engaging in name-calling or shaming your child is not proper at all.”
Instead of insulting a child for misbehaviour, Adegoke advised talking to the child with respect.
“Don’t yell at your child. Take the emotion out of your discipline. A good way to do this is by using natural and logical consequences and speaking to your child in a pleasant and friendly tone,”
The primary school years are a time of fast-growing independence in kids. By the time they reach the secondary school years, many children are starting to spend time alone at home, walking to school by themselves, and helping younger siblings.
Hence, Lee said,
“It’s important that you allow your kids to grow increasingly more independent, letting them figure out how to talk to teachers about any problems on their own, organising homework assignments, making sure their soccer uniforms are packed and ready, and so on.
“So-called helicopter parenting undermines kids’ abilities to do things on their own and negatively impacts their self-esteem. It also robs them of autonomy.”
Let them create, show off their works
Let your child display their works around the house. When they create artwork, write a story, or put together a project for school, invite your child to tell you about their works. Ask what they want people to think or feel and what they like best about their creations.
According to child psychologists, giving children a chance to show off what they make or to talk about the things they create lets them know that their hard work is worthy of attention, and also communicates that their opinions and thoughts matter.
Make setbacks learning experiences
Knowing the fact that being human means making mistakes and not being perfect, Lee said it was important to teach one’s children to view setbacks as opportunities for improvement and growth.
“Be patient with your child when they make mistakes. And, if you find that they tend to act out at school or experience behaviour problems, do what you can to turn those situations into opportunities for growth.
“Doing so will help build your child’s confidence and demonstrate that making mistakes is not the end of the world as long as they address it in a healthy way,”
Watch technology use
In today’s environment, people, including students and parents, are consistently connected to devices. Mobile phones, tablets, and laptops allow people to text, post to social media, conduct business, do schoolwork, and check email on a regular basis.
According to Lee, this connectivity is both a good thing and a bad thing. She said it’s positive because people could be more productive and stay connected to others from the comfort and safety of their homes.
However, she said this development could come at a cost if it interfered with family relationships and communication – as too much screen time could impact on physical activity.
“As a family, decide what type of online activity is necessary and what is pure entertainment. Then devise a plan where you all learn to balance your daily screen time with healthy activities like going for walks, riding bikes, reading, and playing games together,”
Be a good role model
Above all, Lyness said a major way to build children’s self-confidence is for parents to be good role models. She said,
“When you put effort into everyday tasks (like raking the leaves, making a meal, cleaning up the dishes, or washing the car), you’re setting a good example. Your child learns to put effort into doing homework, cleaning up toys, or making the bed.
“Modelling the right attitude counts too. When you do tasks cheerfully (or at least without grumbling or complaining), you teach your child to do the same. When you avoid rushing through chores and take pride in a job well done, you teach your child to do that too.”