You Can Do This
Confidence Is Contagious But So Is Lacking Confidence
No one likes cocky, yet confidence is irresistible. There is a fine line between the two, which requires a delicate balancing act — much like effective parenting, particularly in the areas of leadership and setting boundaries.
One reason parents struggle with the confidence aspect of parenting is, consciously or not, they are aware that effective leadership of any sort is tricky. In the heat of the moment, it’s all too easy to become overwhelmed by an array of pressures, decisions and influences. But once parents become frozen in their fear, they’re not leading anymore. Of course, sometimes it’s best to follow (sigh). It’s no wonder parents lose faith. Throw a good public tantrum into the mix, and all hope is lost, too.
But if confidence is key (and it is) to effective parenting, how then do parents develop the right amount of it? Let’s break it all down some more and see what we uncover about confidence.
A primary reason people lose confidence in any aspect of their life is a fear of failure. It’s the same for parents. In the parenting arena, there is no doubt that mothers and fathers will make and have made mistakes. They are inevitable. But if parents can learn to treat each of these mistakes as opportunities for learning — for them and their children — then they have nothing to fear. The key is in the attitude toward those mistakes and in the degree of honesty used in assessing them.
If parents can create an honest dialogue in which they discuss goals and limits openly with their family, then when one parent makes that mistake, he or she can keep the learning flowing by acknowledging it and applying the lesson learned to future endeavors. It’s up to parents to model this attitude for their children, who will follow their lead.
When parents make that fated mistake in their parenting journey, they should talk to their child about what they learned as parents and what they will do differently next time. By accepting that they will fail at times and by seeing the value in the mistakes and by dealing with them honestly, parents actually will experience as much growth in confidence through that failure as they will through their successes.
Confidence is critical in limit setting, too, an area some parents are deficient in simply because they have not examined why they as parents set limits in the first place. Think about the limits you set for your child. Why are you setting them? Boil them all down, and they have to do with health, safety or respecting others — all good things. But these are not concepts that come naturally to young children. In fact, these principles are in direct opposition to a young child’s innate, egocentric desires. It’s the parents’ job to gently but confidently teach their children how to think about others and how to take care of themselves.
Once parents personally acknowledge that the lessons they are imparting are for their child’s own good, they will find themselves somewhat empowered and thereby delivering their messages more clearly and assertively. Anytime someone delivers something clearly and assertively, his likelihood of success — specifically that his delivery will be accepted willingly — improves exponentially. Each time you set a limit with your child, explain why. Be concise and confident. Your confidence will grow along with your child’s understanding.
Confidence can be an asset in addressing conflict, an area where confidence may be prone to wane for some parents for the simple reason they just don’t like conflict. However, conflicts are inevitable, just like mistakes. Kids, in short, want more of everything yet lack the cognitive capacity to consider future ramifications or another person’s perspective. So start by accepting that conflict is unavoidable, and then follow this formula: Model a spirit of encouragement and respect toward your child and others. Make it infinitely clear you are in your child’s corner. When a limit has to be set, state the reasons confidently and directly. If your reasoning is met with unreasonable frustration and drama (as you know, a good possibility), keep in mind: (a) imparting these lessons is a big part of your gig as parents and (b) it’s normal and understandable for children to resist and to take some time acquiring the ability to decenter. Meet their frustration with some genuine empathy and disengage from the conflict. Once they calm down, you can review the lessons in a better light.
It was Vince Lombardi who said, “Confidence is contagious.” But it’s important enough to note, “So is lack of confidence.” Lombardi knew a thing or two about motivation and leadership. Parents all want their children to be confident, happy and successful — however they define it. Start them on that road by supporting them, surrounding them with warmth and love and delivering life lessons with confidence.
Before you know it, you’ll have cocky teenagers on your hands! So much to look forward to.
Tom Limbert (www.parentcoachtom.com) is a parent coach in the San Francisco Bay Area who has been working with families of young children since 1992 and has a new book, Dad’s Playbook: Wisdom for Fathers from the Greatest Coaches of All Time, out. He has a master’s degree in education with an emphasis in early childhood development and is the co-creator of Studio Grow.