In order to live a productive and unfettered life in this world, our children must have a strong sense of self confidence. They must know they can do all the great things God has called them to do—and do them well.
Here’s an uncomfortable truth: Children live up to what we believe about them and measure up to what we expect of them. Sadly, most of the time, they measure down to what we expect of them.
If we don’t trust that our children brushed their teeth and we require a breath test, they know in their heart of hearts we don’t believe they are honest. We are telling them what their character is. They’ve been labeled unworthy of trust and respect.
And they will live down to our lack of trust in them.
If we don’t believe our children finished a job and must check to be sure, they know we don’t believe they are good enough.
If we use a tone that drips with lack of trust—“Are you SURE you loaded all the dishes? Are you SURE you did every problem on the page? Did you REALLY put all your clothes away where they belong?”—they feel our lack of confidence in them. Our words and tone have conveyed our hidden beliefs.
If we want our children to have self confidence we must believe they are people worthy of our respect and must treat them as such.
Charlotte Mason tells us,
“A due respect for the personality of children and a dread of making them incompetent to conduct their own lives will make us chary [cautious] of employing a means so dangerous, no matter how good the immediate end.”
Ms. Mason is saying not to choose what’s expedient by always telling our children what to do, but to use the better approach that respects the child’s ability to decide autonomously and independently to do what needs doing. The telling, telling, telling is dangerous because it tends to make a child incompetent to do without being told.
A friend once sent me the most amazing quote that says,
“Speak to your children as if they are the wisest, kindest, most beautiful and magical humans on earth, for what they believe is what they will become.”Brooke Hampton
This quote should be printed and pasted every place you look regularly.
There are so many ways we can undermine our children and quell their growing confidence and competence. One way is what Charlotte Mason warns against: intervening too much.
When we constantly intervene, our children think we don’t trust them or believe they are capable. Questioning, nagging, hovering and checking up on our children communicate to them, “You don’t believe I can do it.”
Showing frustration demonstrates a lack of respect for them and belittling reveals a lack of faith in them.
The more we do for our children, the less they believe they can do for themselves. They expect us to do everything for them and fix everything for them, and though it may be easier for us, it breeds insecurity and a spirit of dependence in them—the opposite of the self confidence we desire to see cultivated in our children.
Slowly but surely, our children should be handed the reigns of their school schedules. I gave my children ages six and up more control over their education and spurred their independence by giving them control of their schedule.
On a whiteboard, I created a list of everything each of my children needed to accomplish that day. A few things they needed my help with, and a few school subjects we did together as a family, but the rest, they were in charge of.
They never had to ask me what to do.
They could choose when to do their spelling curriculum and when to do math. They knew only that they needed to get it done and were proud of each moment they could go up to the board and smack a big checkmark on the item.
I never asked my children if they “really” got it done. They knew I trusted them. And they never tried to slip one past me.
It was expected that they would accomplish it all, and do it well.
This brought great freedom to our homeschool and empowerment to my children. The self initiative they developed carried them through their high school and college years with much greater ease than friends who were not used to making their own decisions—and especially if they were not trusted to do so.
Raising self confident children requires us to believe in them enough to stand back and give them space to blossom. It entails treating them as if they indeed are “the most magical humans on earth”— because in God’s eyes, they most certainly are. After all,
The LORD your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17
Let us determine to reflect God’s attitude toward our very precious children and rejoice over them with singing, bolstering their self confidence to pursue excellence in all they do.
For more insight on raising self motivated children read here.