Raising kids in today’s landscape is challenging. I don’t know about you, but through the many years I’ve spent raising my kids I’ve always felt that with every step forward I helped them take, they always seemed to take two steps backward.
Oftentimes through no fault of my parenting, I would watch them struggle as a result of the constant daily pressures they faced. Everything from the relentless demands of school with a bar that was unrealistically raised with each passing year to the social pressure to fit into a society that has its own ideology of what’s considered cool to wear, what classes kids should take in school, what grades / GPA are considered “acceptable,” and even how they should approach their future.
So often my kids and I would have candid conversations and they would share with me that “other kids are doing things differently,” or that “some of my friends are questioning whether I’m making the right decision.” Heck, even when I met with the counselors at school, I often found that they would offer advice that began with “most of the students in our school are….”
During the many conversations I had with each of my kids I could see the uncertainty in their eyes and hear the doubt in their voice. And, it’s no wonder. With each passing day, they were given verbal and non-verbal cue’s outside the home that made them feel that perhaps they weren’t heading in the right direction or that maybe everyone else had it all figured out and they didn’t.
What if I don’t want my kids to follow the masses? What if I don’t want them to become a carbon copy of what their school, their friends, other parents or society feels is the epitome of a “perfect” child? What if what I want for my kids is for them to seek their own passions, forge their own path and relish in the talents that they’ve been blessed with? What if I want them to embrace who they are, with all their little idiosyncrasies that make them their own person, and harness the power they have within themselves to be far greater than they could have ever imagined?
Sometimes I feel as though we’ve lost sight of the beauty of individuality. It’s no wonder so many kids struggle with self-esteem. It’s a game they can never win. No matter how hard they try to “fit in” they’ll always fall short because they are, in fact, different. They aren’t the same, they never will be, and…that’s OK.
After many years of parenting my kids I’ve realized that in order to give them the strength and courage to stand on their own and give them the freedom to become who they were intended to be, I need to give them solid advice, reassurance, and encouragement along the way, and stand ready to step in when they question themselves or falter.
Here are five lessons we should teach our kids to help them become strong, resilient and confident.
Failure is a Factor of Learning
Failure is never easy for anyone, but it’s especially hard for teenagers. For the 18 years we have raising our precious kids under our roof, we need to give them the freedom to fail and, even more importantly, we need to view those failures as an opportunity to teach them important coping mechanisms when life gets tough. By creating a “comfort zone” for our kids to make those occasional mistakes, we’re opening the door to interactive dialogue and the opportunity to guide them and pass along valuable life lessons.
It’s OK to Be Different
We live in a world filled with contrasts and differences, and yet, oftentimes, we don’t appreciate those differences until we’re much older. Empower your child now, during the impressionable teen years, by encouraging them to become their own person – a leader, not a follower. Stepping out of “the norm” is especially challenging for teens. However, we need to encourage them to follow their own interests, dress in a way that suits them, and find their own passions to help them embrace who they are. Kids learn from example. Become an inspiration to your kids by stepping out of your comfort zone and give them support and guidance to become an inspiration to others.
Find Your “Voice”
Finding the assertiveness to speak up in a noisy world isn’t easy, especially for teenagers who have relied on their parents to do the talking for them. One of the best ways kids learn to have a voice is by watching. Become a model of assertive (yet calm) communication to teach them the importance of speaking up when needed and necessary. Coach them how to handle arguments with friends, how to speak with teachers or professors and how to effectively communicate their opinions and ideas without being too pushy or arrogant. Also, practice being a democratic family. If your kids’ opinions are valued at home they’ll be far more likely to have the confidence to speak up outside the home.
Focus on the Positive
When the going gets tough kids always tend to focus on the negative. Practice positive parenting by modeling self-love, focusing on your child’s strengths and avoiding criticism. Without going overboard and praising beyond their accomplishments, celebrate their successes no matter how small they may be. Whether it’s getting an “A” on a test, a decision to try a new sport or a problem they solved on their own, every milestone – no matter how small – further reinforces their independence and confidence. Even if kids falter from time to time, they need continual reassurance that they’re moving in the right direction and making headway.
Seek Out New Adventures
Did you know that college admissions officers often look for applicants that have an adventurous nature? That’s because confident kids are always willing to try new things without the constant fear of failure. Foster your child’s love of adventure by encouraging them to always seek out new things to try. Maybe they want to try out for the school play, join a hiking group or take a class that might be more challenging. Regardless of what the adventure is, they’re stepping out of their comfort zone, putting themselves out there and venturing onto new horizons.
They Have Your Unconditional Love
Kids need stability to feel confident. Your child needs to know that no matter what you’ll always be there for them to lean on. If they get stuck in a sticky situation, need advice or reassurance, or just need a shoulder to cry on, they need to know you’re there. They need to feel that they can rely on your unconditional love regardless of the decisions they’ve made. Your unconditional love and acceptance will serve as a powerful, strong and lasting foundation to foster further confidence.