The Importance of Childlike Optimism
From The Happy Child set of talks and materials
As parents we strive to encourage a sense of competence in our children; a belief in themselves that they can do what they set their minds to, and that it is worth the effort of trying. But the truth is, when you look at a very young child, these qualities are there in spades! What tends to dent it however, are the messages and experiences that they gather along the way. So take 3 simple steps to helping your child believe in themselves.
When you see the efforts they put into pulling themselves up on two feet and taking those first steps; imagine the grades they could be capable of if they applied this perseverance and commitment to every study session.
But for your child to retain this level of continued optimism needs more than false praise; it is earnt through every experience.
Step 1. Allow your child to experience challenge and solve their own problems as they see their own successes.
Empathise, guide, support, and suggest, but do not take the journey, or their sense of pride in its accomplishment away. Allow them to feel proud in themselves and to see your genuine pride in them. Over time, as they see the actions that trigger praise, they will internalise your standards, so be careful of them. As they get older, they will also look to others for this praise, but the need for parental approval never leaves us, so make sure it is achievable.
Step 2. Support your child to identify and build on their strengths
Find at least one activity in which they feel highly capable, at the same time as offering experiences of the learning process. This encourages a self-esteem that can have positive effects across the board, so value it, even if it is a little unusual.
If your child lacks in confidence, help them to see their reaction to an event in a different way; “My tower collapsed, that means I need to try a different way”. Rather than; “I cannot do it”. Or “My tower is so tall because I have been working hard”. Rather than “Because I am great”. The latter is a fickle commodity that can be easily shaken tomorrow.
Step 3. Offer them the freedoms and support they need to fully express the ‘somebody’ that they want to be
No one should have to prove anything to be somebody, we all have an innate worthiness, an unconditional value, simply by virtue of being human. But sometimes we need to think about how well we are role modelling this for our children. Do we judge ourselves or others for how we look, what we have or what we are doing… even when we think our children are not listening? If we want to ensure our children feel loved, valuable, and worthy as they go about their lives, irrespective of the achievements they do or do not accomplish, we need to be careful of the messages we are giving them.
We should all aspire to hang onto our childlike optimism as long, and as often as we can.
When we feel optimistic about our lives and the world around us, everything else about our minds and bodies just seems to work much better. Ultimately, being happy seems to be the best path to continued happiness. Modelling that optimism offers one of the best gifts you can give to your child.
So stop for a moment and consider how well you are taking these 3 steps to helping your child believe in themselves.
Dr Kathryn Peckham is an Early Childhood Consultant, author and researcher and the founder of Nurturing Childhoods. Providing all the knowledge, understanding and support you need to nurture your growing child. www.nurturingchildhoods.co.uk
DEVELOPING EVERY CHILD’S POTENTIAL