I would love to say I have been confident my entire life; however, the truth is, when I was a young man, I was scared of most everything. In today’s world, most would say my parents were helicopter parents. For better or worse, they believed that the rest of the world (outside of school) didn’t have much to offer us as young children. In retrospect, I think they were more right than wrong. We weren’t hermit’s; however, I wasn’t allowed to have a job, get engaged with afterschool activities (except basketball for a couple of years ~ a post unto itself), or date. One could argue that my being 5’2″ tall (152 cm for our friends across the pond) had something to do with the dating; however, at this point in time, I will blame my parents.
It wasn’t until my siblings and I were pushed into performing as a band(…yeah….a boy / girl band in the 80’s) that I started to come out of my shell a bit. I am sure you have heard of us, “The Caldwell’s?” We played at Our Lady of the Moose, Amway, and Veteran’s Conventions; High Schools and Jr. High Schools throughout the northwest; and County and State Fairs. If you would like to download our album, it can be found here………Sorry, I wouldn’t do that to anyone. We were 5-10 years old. If you have ever been asked to go to an elementary school band concert, you know what I mean. Anyway, back to my budding confidence as a rock star.
Let your kids make decisions
My wife and I often say that our parents did well, either because they were brilliant, they were lucky, they had great role models or a little of all of that. The first thing Mom and Dad did to build our confidence was let us make some decisions about our music, the arrangements, etc. Sadly, dad was in charge of the dance routines. More on that later.
I can remember hours on end where my brother, David, and I would go through songs together and figure out how we were going to perform them. When does Dave get to do the drum solo? (He always seemed to have a drum solo) Where would I add the saxophone to the arrangement? When would DiAnna add the guitar? All questions that we were allowed to make.
Laurie(wife) is awesome at this. Each week, she gives our boys one additional thing for them to do. It can be as simple as wet sponges so they can clean off the cabinet faces, a job to empty their plates in the garbage can when they are done, or carrying a tool to the back yard. We are in the process of redoing a room and Eli, our four-year-old, put down thin-set mortar for one of the tiles. He was pretty impressed and has walked into the room a couple of times and pointed to his work.
Feed their self-image
From the time I can remember, Eli will look in the mirror and say, “I look good.” Now, if he was 14 and still saying this, I might curb his enthusiasm; however, at the age of 4, I think it is critically important for Eli to think well of himself. Eli struggles with physical coordination issues. I call him the Jack Sparrow of 4-year-olds. If you have ever seen Jack Sparrow in the Pirate’s of the Carribean movies, you will understand what I mean. Because of that, Laurie and I are always thinking of ways to improve his physical coordination. When he hikes, we say things like ‘I am amazed at the four miles you hiked’ or ‘I can’t believe you are so strong.’ I hear similar things in most parents I am around, so this is not a shocker, probably, but take some time today to notice any time you help feed your child’s self-confidence. It should be noted that authenticity in this area is of utmost importance. You also have to be able to age-appropriately focus the conversation. When Eli first started looking in the mirror, it wasn’t and still isn’t about how he ‘looks’ as much as it is about the animals / cartoons / camouflage / etc. on his clothing. If you child is 13, they probably won’t care what you say they look like, period.
One purposeful thing we do is change “I am very proud of you” to “You should be very proud of yourself.” It is a slight nuance to the same message; however, it instills self-confidence more effectively (from our perspective.)
My wife Laurie says, “We should expect their decisions to not fit what ours would be; the results to sometimes be messy but full of opportunities to learn from poor decisions; and for them to come out more confident whether they made a poor choice this time or not, simply for being allowed to try on their own.” Brilliant.
Play to your child’s weaknesses
What a jerk, you say? When we spend time together as a family, we do things that are challenging for our kids. Eli has coordination issues. Because of that, we hike a lot, we walk a lot, etc. If you find that your child struggles with reading, then have them read more. My father always asked, “Wouldn’t you rather I tell you bad news than your friends?” It is better to be challenged in a safe place, full stop. Make sure you meter these challenges ONLY to the point where it is beneficial. I have seen parents push their kids too hard in sports way too often, resulting in the opposite of confidence.
Use the Refrigerator
We haven’t seen our refrigerator in months. It is covered with artwork and drawings our kids have done. The sad thing is, as our kids get older, we stop using this medium for a wall of fame. As a statement to how far Laurie goes to celebrate what our boys have done, she wore a necklace made from painters tape out on our last date and has even worn a belt made out of ponytail holders made by her niece.
The point here is to simply remember to recognize performance and let their kids see that you recognize it. The trickiness lies in the balance between creating self-confidence and attention-reliant kids.
Focus on your child’s network
My parent’s brilliant idea, to keep me locked up at home, prevented me from being exposed to a series of things in my life that really wouldn’t have made me more self-confident or even more mature.
I was stunned when I learned a good friend of mine let his daughter, who is eight, have a cell phone. I found this out when she was ‘snapchatting’ when we were all together. I am technically inclined and consider myself to be somewhat ‘with it’; however; there is NO way my children will have a cell phone at the age of eight. Why would you expose your kids to the ‘outside’ world so quickly? The network available, both good and bad, I struggle when I see parents who feel that engaging their kids in every sport, every activity, every technology, in some way gives them the leg up.
When it comes to self-confidence, you want to make sure the people and organizations around your kids are supporting your desire to create a self-confident child. If you child’s friends partake in bullying (even if it isn’t your kid), or self-destructive behavior, or negative activities, the fallout for your child’s self-confidence could be significant.
As a way to keep tabs on what is happening in your child’s network, be the ‘center of friend activity.’ You might have more work to do, cleaning up, recovering from noise, etc; however, it is easier to do the work now than to suffer the consequences when your child may not have the self-confidence to say no in the future.
Provide a safe port in the storm
Confidence requires children to take risks. To take risks means they will undoubtedly fail. Because of this, it is extremely important to work on the home. If you are a single parent, a couple, a divorcing couple, a non-traditional couple, working on reducing the amount of chaos and discord in the home is extremely important.
If you are fighting, get counseling. If you are too busy, cull your activities. If you are anxious, pray for peace. The most important thing is home should be safe REGARDLESS of what is going on in the kids life. My brilliant wife tells me, “Our home has to be a place where acceptance isn’t based on making only right decisions or getting the best grades, the most soccer goals or passing certain milestones like potty training by a certain age. It is just home, period.” (I married up)
I am saddened by the homes in our world where it is just impossible to be calm and to be safe. Today, kids are afraid to leave their home because people with different ideologies threaten physical harm to them or their families. Today, kids will be hurt in their homes because someone decides they don’t agree with their religion or the way they look or the way their parents live.
In all you do, please work to make your home the safest possible place for your kids. They will prosper when they feel like they are safe.
So, there are dozens of other things parents are doing to encourage self-confidence in their children; however, these are some of the core things my wife and I do. Please feel free to comment below providing your own ideas and techniques you use with your kids.
Religious Corner (…for those so inclined)
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.”
Wow, wouldn’t this be wonderful if it was always like this? Sort of like Google Maps for life? I struggle with this daily. In my meetings, when there is a crisis, I just can’t say, “Trust in the LORD with all of your heart…” it might be the last day I work.
My father’s dad was one of the kindest gentlemen I have ever known. I can not remember a single bad thing ever expressed from him towards anyone else. Dad, who was a minister, references a story when he was younger and they were on the farm. A grass fire broke out at the top of the hill beyond Grandma and Grandpa’s farm. The wind was blowing the flames down the hill, putting everything near and dear to my grandparent’s heart in danger of burning. Grandpa was fighting the flames by hitting them with blankets. My father, fresh out of his apprenticeship said, “Dad, we must pray.” Grandpa’s response was “Praying is fine son, but God expects us to beat this fire with these blankets. Now, Get Busy.”
So, I think God wants us to have confidence in him, but also requires us to make decisions along the way. Decisions that are a testimony to those around us. Decisions that are sometimes wrong. What I get from this passage is simply be calm, be patient, for God is with you. If you are in prison wrongly accused; if you are in prison rightly accused; if you are at work in a stressful situation; if you are home with a stressful situation; if you have all of the money you need; if you have none of the money you need; lean into God as he will make your path straight.
I shared a moment today with a father from Colorado who has sadly been fighting for custody of his daughter and I could say nothing else but, God’s plan is for him to go through this journey, regardless of how it feels and seems at this minute. We are not nearly smart enough to predict where we are going to be, what we are going to be doing, or what God’s message is for us. We must trust and be confident in God’s everlasting and all inspiring love for us.
My prayer this week:
“Lord, this week, I have spoken to dozens of fathers from around the world. They are all in different seasons of their lives. Some are struggling with their career, their family, their role as a father, and maybe even life in general. This week, please pour into the millions of men who are engaged in their kid’s lives a feeling of confidence and a feeling of faith that you are their walking beside them. For the millions of men who are lost and are not engaged with their kids, please connect them to a father role model through what will seem like a random encounter. Help these unlikely heroes share their story in such a way to bring these lost brothers back to you and help heal broken families around the world. Please be with our spouses and let them see a renewed sense of focus on our kids and our role as husband and father. Bless those who read these words, in the name of your son, Amen.”
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