Tips towards raising a secure child
Posted on 8 February 2017
For healthy eyes, we feed our children carrots. For strength, we sneak spinach into their dinners. But what soul food do we serve up for confidence?
Taking care of your child’s emotional wellbeing can be tricky at times, as a bruised self-image isn’t as obvious as a bruised knee. Durban and Umhlanga-based psychologist Paul Bushell lists 5 ways to create a secure environment where your child’s confidence can flourish.
- First do no harm
‘Fear is largely learned, so parents need to take great care not to instil a fear of certain things into their children,’ says Paul. Be mindful of your own reactions to fear and anxiety around your child, and in tough situations, take the opportunity to demonstrate a calm, rational response.
- Foster curiosity
So much is new when you’re a child, and as adults we know that change can be difficult. Childhood is the time to harness your child’s curiosity and allow them to discover and learn at their own pace. ‘Confident children know they can rely on their parents and other people even if things are hard or they fail,’ says Paul.
Confidence is catchy, he adds. An Oxford University study suggests that confident fathers who ‘embrace parenthood’ from the start of their child’s life are more likely to experience positive behavioural outcomes in their child.
- Confidence comes in all shapes and sizes
No two children are the same, and as such confidence looks different in each child. Paul encourages parents to take time to learn their child’s love languages – in other words, the way they express emotions. ‘We often make the mistake of thinking that outgoing or extroverted people are more confident than quiet or shy people,’ he says. ‘Introverts can be very socially competent and confident, but charge their emotional batteries by taking some quiet time. If your child seems naturally more introverted, encourage them to take alone time.’
A child’s self-esteem is often well established by the age of five, according to a study at the University of Washington, but you can develop their confidence as they grow. Exposure to new experiences and environments as well as being able to express their emotions in a safe space can help build their emotional security.
- Encourage emotional intelligence
The ability to correctly identify one’s feelings is necessary for self-confidence. Practice this with your children, Paul advises. ‘Read children stories and watch movies together, then ask questions about what the characters seem to be feeling and how this affects their behaviour.’
- Encourage positive self-talk
Have you heard your little ones having conversations with themselves? That’s a good thing. But their ‘self-talk’ should build them up. Listen carefully to what they say and encourage them to use positive words and phrases when talking about themselves, says Paul.