There are two ways to go through this world. You can either follow your own path to the best of your abilities or spend your life worrying about what others think of your decisions. While most people think of this as a personality trait, parents are usually the defining factor in how their children view and respond to the world. If parents are constantly worried about what the neighbors think of them, what grandma will think of them, and what the child's classmates will think of them, the child will take that imprint and become nervous as well. They will constantly question their own decisions and try harder to earn the fickle approval of others.
While it's important to be able to empathize and work together with others, most parents also want their children to be self-confident, independent, and resistant to peer pressure because they trust themselves to make the right decisions. However, achieving this as a parent is a lot harder than it sounds.
Most Parents Today Were Raised to Worry
It's a simple matter of fact that the boomer generation was, as a whole, very preoccupied with the opinions of their friends, classmates, and neighbors. They passed that on to their children, the Gen Xers, Millennials, and the older Gen Z's, who are now becoming parents on their own and trying avoid the mistakes of the previous generation. Parents today saw their own parents cared more about the opinions of others than seemed to actually matter, but it's still hard to shake that feeling that eyes are on your family and that somehow their judgment can change the way you should parent. It shouldn't. And it shouldn't change the way your children think or feel either.
Self-Confidence in Children
A child's mind is built to take a strong imprint from their parent's view of the world as a survival trait. Children are supposed to learn about their environment and it's dangers by watching their parents. They learn what is and is not safe to eat by eating off your plate as toddlers (once it was the same gathered berries and nuts), they learn which of their baby activities are dangerous based on your fear response when you snatch them away from power outlets and stoves, and they learn what environmental threats to be worried about by watching what makes their parents act nervous.
On the flip-side of this, children also learn when to be bold, confident, and what not to care about by watching and learning from their parents. If a child is, for instance, frightened by a loud noise and their parent makes a show of laughing at the scary thing, the child will learn that it's not a serious thing to be afraid of. This is also true in social situations. If you can always remain calm and apparently self-confident (even if you're really fighting your own insecurities) when speaking to and about others, children will learn to be confident in social situations as well.
Self-confidence in children has a certain amount to do with their natural personalities, but it is also related to a number of developmental stages. If they see you reacting to the world as a not-scary place, they are more likely to be confident for the rest of their lives.
Being a Self-Confident Parent (Even When You Feel Insecure)
It's easy to be a bad parent but actually putting in the effort to try and raise your children as best as you understand is a much bigger challenge. You have to trust your instincts, the information you collect and your best judgment on every little issue from which brand of diapers to buy to how to have "the talk" over a decade down the road. During this time, a lot of people are going to tell you how to raise your children. Some of the advice will be good, some bad, and a lot of it will simply not apply to the way you run your family. When the neighbors whisper, when the PTA clucks, or when your children come home saying "But Timmy's family does it this way!" you have to be prepared for two things.
1) Stand Your Ground - Don't let the parenting practices and opinions of others sway you on decisions you've made carefully and intentionally with the best interests of your family in mind. Be ready to reply with something like "I'm sure that works for Timmy's family, but in our family, we eat dinner at the table".
2) Consider Good Points - If someone you're talking to makes a good point about changing your policies or if your child makes a persuasive argument for a change, be ready to reconsider. The key to confident parenting is knowing that you're making the best decisions for your family. Sometimes this means reconsidering in light of new evidence. If your child brings home an idea you have mixed feelings about, don't knock it down or feel thrown-off. Instead, say something like "You've brought up a good point, and I'm going to need a day to think about it."
Teaching your children to be self-confident is an important step in responsible parenting and the natural balancing point is logic. If your child learns from your parenting style to both carefully consider their decisions and to stick to their guns in the face of questioning and ridicule, they will not only become bully-proof, they will also carry that confidence and decision-making ability into their adult lives, careers, and raise their own children to be strong intelligent people. For more advice on being the best parent you can be, please contact me today.