Sometimes parenting means wrestling between conflicting feelings. On one hand, you want time to yourself but then instantly miss your child’s sweet face. You instinctively move to direct their every step, but at the same time know they need to learn to find their voice.
You start to shield your child from playground rejection, but realize that’s how they’ll learn to navigate tough situations.
Parents who have big dreams for their kids know these scenarios too well. But where do you start? Are some parenting styles better at approaching this than others? How do these huge life lessons translate to a toddler’s day to day?
If you want to learn how to raise a confident child, starting early is crucial.
Much like how you introduce age appropriate foods, there are ways to guide your child so that they’re learning how to be their most confident self.
Why is this important?
Confident children are more likely to excel academically and socially¹. This can open doors as they grow and exercise their voice in sports, internships, and beyond.
Learning to be an independent thinker, even in their tiny world, kicks off a domino effect that can take them to great places.
So where to begin, you ask? Easy. Lay the groundwork with just four approaches.
Step One: Set up the Framework
Imagine your newly crawling baby on the loose in your house. No matter how many outlet covers or cabinet locks you have, the thought of letting your baby roam free in the home is out of the question.
Why? Because there’s maybe a bowl of dog food, a set of stairs, sharp corners and any other collection of dangerous things.
The risk of danger runs anywhere from yucky to serious. So what do you do? You set up your baby in a playpen.
There, your crawling and curious mini munchkin can tumble and play, free to enjoy their space.
As they get older, setting up this metaphorical perimeter keeps your child safe, but happy as they explore.
You’ll always be there to make sure they understand their new environment and to help them maintain order and a routine.
Will boundaries be pushed? Oh, you bet they will! But that’s just part of the fun. Your job is to patiently redirect them back into the free space that is all theirs.
That might look like them deciding what order the bedtime routine is. Or getting to pick out a color to paint their bedroom out of three preselected choices.
Step Two: Lead by Example
Newly earned responsibilities are easier to take on when they’re the house norm. If the new chore is putting their dinner plate by the sink when done but not older is doing this, things can get dicey.
You might get some resistance because, as we’ve all figured out, chores are basically no fun. Especially to our youngest and least interested participants.
If only a few family members are participating in chores, you’re teaching a different lesson. And this one is confusing and unfair.
Making a big production on how you complete chores you’re teaching is super effective. When everyone’s on the same page it would be weird to not jump in.
But like all new habits learned, you have to play the long game. Each day might feel like a battle at first but the more this routine is repeated, the more normal it becomes.
This doesn’t mean that there won’t be battles over getting your little one to pick up all their toys before their bath. Remember — boundaries will always be challenged, especially in your strong willed children.
Creating a routine that is constant and involves everyone creates teamwork culture.
Want to throw in an exciting visual to keep up the momentum? Build a chore chart complete with stickers to track daily completed activities.
That long row of shiny stickers, week by week, gives children a sense of accomplishment. And a full month of stickers can be cashed in for a fun treat or special privilege.
All while teaching them that bite sized goals add up.
Step Three: Open the Lines of Communication
Experts have said for years that one of the best things you can do is read to your children from day one. Your baby may drool their way through your reading of Dr. Seuss, but don’t let that stop you.
The first three years of your child’s life are the most important for language development². So going beyond just a bedtime story can boost your child’s communication skills.
Even before baby babbling begins, start engaging them in conversation. Believe it or not, asking them which apple looks best in the grocery store or telling them about the weather can be pretty fun! Even if you get only a blank stare in return.
Luckily, these conversations will get more interesting as they grow.
Children who are read to and spoken with are on track to being better communicators and more secure³.
In addition to that, you’ll be teaching voice inflections and modeling the value of reading. Mastering this in school is huge, so making this a regular part of your lives is awesome!
Step Four: Let Failure Be Part of the Process
The best parenting books agree that problem solving helps kids learn independence. It’s sometimes hard for parents to let go, but a necessary step.
This is especially painful when those tiny hands, that are trying to learn how to tie a shoe, move so slowly. On the day you’re running late. With no coffee. Yikes.
Makes you miss those toddler shoes with the velcro straps, right?
Practice might make perfect but it also makes permanent. Meaning, even if they are practicing a task and failing, the more they do this creates a new habit in itself.
So while it may be oh so tempting to intervene, letting your child work through it is better in the long run. Even if the result is off target.
Children who work through failures can have higher IQs, resulting in better, more well rounded adults⁴.
Training your child to see failure as an opportunity, instead of a point of shame, sets them up for a life of confidence and optimism.