Raising confident kids is most assuredly a desire and goal of parents yet is an achievement not always realized. Often we see timid and hesitant youngsters who appear to lack the boldness and determination to set a goal for themselves and then press on to achieve that goal. Why is this ? I believe that many parents unintentionally make some mistakes that foster insecurity and hinder courageous spirits. I normally steer away from "DO'S" and "DON'TS" lists but feel that this subject requires the specificity that these two lists offer….so here we go -

IF you want to raise confident kids , DO the following :

1.) STRETCH your kids ! This simply means putting them in situations that are not in their comfort zone. Does your toddler think that he cannot climb to the top of the little rock wall on the playground ? Tell him that he can ! When he begins to whimper a bit and refuse, don't simply give up and say " Okay , maybe next time." Oh no- not on your life ! Tell him that you absolutely know that he can and that if he stops trying then he will walk away from the playground feeling a bit disappointed in himself. However if he sticks with it and makes it to the top, he will feel so proud that his chest will puff out and will be able to tell the rest of the family all about it that evening. Tell him that you are not leaving until he proves to himself that he can do it ! Some parents are reading this right now thinking that this is ridiculous to put pressure on a little one like this. Nonsense - it is your job as mom or dad to begin preparing little Johnny or little Susie for every single pressure situation that they may face in life and you can never begin too early. 

2.) EXHIBIT a confident spirit in your own life. Something that I have realized over the years is that children most definitely "catch" our spirits and attitudes. You show me an unsure, self conscious, timid parent and often times you will see the young child of that individual mirroring those same personality traits. When children see us worrying and fearful it just seems to infect them with worry and fear as well. When they see us take life in stride with a feeling of rolling with the punches and a " We will make it through no matter what" type attitude , they seem to take on that positive demeanor as well. Parents , those little eyes truly are watching us and how we approach life.

3.) SHOW your love to your child. Readers may be thinking " What? Of course I love my child " and you no doubt do but do you show that love on a regular basis ? Do you specifically tell them ? Do you say " I love you so much !" directly to your child? How about physical affection ? Is there lots of hugging, kissing, wrestling, tickling, and so on taking place in your home? Some may think that verbal and physical affection of love has little to do with building confidence in kids. That thought could not be more wrong - it has everything to do with it. Kids who never doubt for one second that they are intensely loved by mom and dad are secure kids ! They feel like they can tackle the challenges of life outside the home because no matter what happens on each given day, they can count on a bear hug and a soft place to fall once they get home.

 Now for the DON'TS :

1.) DON'T CODDLE your kids. More parents are babying their children than ever before. They simply don't want to see their kids experience anything unpleasant or fail at anything and this is honestly one of the biggest mistakes that parents make. Some of the best learning experiences a child can have is when he or she is in a situation in which they have to conquer a problem or endure something really hard on their own. If your seventh grader is dreading P.E. class because they are going to be timed in running a mile, tell them that you will be disappointed in them if they walk even one step. Why do I say that? Because any seventh grader should be able to run a mile without stopping ( barring any known medical or physical limitations) that's why. I heard a mom talking about this very thing last year. Her son had to run the mile that day in gym class and he was complaining about it. She told me that she said to him " Don't worry honey, if you get tired , just walk until you feel that you can run some more."  I wanted to scream "WRONG ANSWER" when she said that. It is our responsibility to encourage and push our kids, not make them feel good about failure.

2.) DON'T DOUBT your child's ability to achieve. Sometimes parents are not even aware of the great achievements that their children are capable of. When swimming at a pool , when a youngster is encouraged to put his face in the water when learning to swim, I have heard mom often say " Oh he won't do that…he doesn't like to put his face in the water." Once a child hears that kind of doubt openly expressed my mom you can bet he won't even try that feat now. Another time I was talking to a thirteen year old who was thinking about doing a speech in a fine arts competition at their school. This boy was talking about how he was kind of excited about maybe doing a speech and his dad piped up and said " Well, I'm not sure about that; you have never done that before."  Really dad? That is just the point ! He has never done that before so what better time to try something new? As parents, it is our job to make them think that they can do whatever they put their mind to !

3.) DON'T IMPOSE your own weaknesses and insecurities on to your children. I sometimes hear parents say " Well I doubt that Johnny could do such and such because I never liked such and such."  Another favorite expression is " Johnny's fear of __________ ( you fill in the blank) is something that he comes by honestly because his mom and I aren't good at that either. So what? Last time anyone checked, you don't see Johnny when you look in the mirror, meaning that he is not you. Please just don't shortchange your kids because of your own failures in life.

Well , that's about it. I kept these lists short at just three points each although I am sure that there are many other DO'S and DON'TS that can be listed as these are certainly not exhaustive lists. I simply tried to highlight some of the most glaring positives and negatives that I have noticed over my years of parenting. Please also understand that I have arrived at these conclusions partly because of my own failures as a parent. By no means do I mean to portray me or my husband as having done it all right. To the contrary I am sharing lessons that we have learned that can be shared to help younger parents avoid mistakes and to capitalize on what works. I hope it helps.

We desperately need youngsters who have a healthy confidence in what they can achieve with their God given talents and abilities. Parents can enable and help them in this endeavor or they can be a hindrance.

Which one are you?