Want to Raise a Confident Child? Then Avoid These Common Labels
By Laura St. John
Photo Courtesy: Flickr / Lars Plougmann
If you want to empower your kids to become a powerful, confident beings, then be careful with how you label them now. Without realizing it, most of us naturally label each child differently -- the smart one, the athletic one, the shy one -- and negative labels stick just as easily as the positive ones. Before I had my own kids, I taught hundreds of children and was always shocked to see how blatantly parents labeled their kids. I figured I would never do that.
Boy, how the tables have turned! Now that I have 3 very different children of my own, I know first-hand how hard it is not to label my kids, and I bite my tongue daily to stop myself from comparing each of them to one another, which inadvertently points out weak traits. So personally, I turn to the same effective strategy that my parents used on my sisters and me:
Back in the 70's, my parents decided it would be fun to have 3 girls within 3 years. Needless to say,we got plenty of labels wherever we went. "Oh my, look at those girls," people would comment, then ask, "Is she the shy one? ..and oh that little one (yes -- that's me)... is she your handful?" Like a broken record, my mom and dad would always reply -- making sure we overheard -- with the same exact response, "All 3 of our girls are so good, so creative, and so smart. We are so lucky." They seriously tricked us - and it worked. My sisters and I naturally rose to their expectations of how luckymy parents thought they were. I'm sure that all three of us are strong, capable, confident women today because of this label we all got early on.
Let Your Kids Overhear Your Positive Talk
I learned as a child that overhearing my parents say how great I was to other people was way more powerful than receiving any praise from them directly. Somehow, it made it way more believable.
Erase This S-Word From Your Vocabulary
Pay extra close attention when you're describing your child with labels that can have the same effect in a negative way, such as the s-word -- "shy." When I was a teacher, parents would literally walk in on the first day of class and say, "Oh, she's very shy." And of course, the child would be clinging, head down, with super low confidence. Now of course some kids are naturally more reserved than others, but this label simply sticks kids in their shell and makes it a lot harder to crack.
Help Your Child Break the Ice in New Surroundings
Even if your child is uncomfortable with new people or new surroundings, give her the opportunity to come out of her shell by boosting her confidence by helping break the ice. When you go somewhere new, like a park, prompt her to talk with peers and other adult friends about specific things that you know are within her comfort zone -- such as siblings, pets, vacations, favorite toys or activities. Then reinforce it later that night by talking to your husband or friend, "Today at the park, she expressed herself so nicely!! She told her friend's mother all about our new dog. I'm so proud of how nicely she spoke to her."
Include Your Other Kids, Too
Now I struggle with how my two-year-old steals the limelight wherever we go. He's just at that adorable stage that makes strangers stop and say, "How cute!" I always have to make sure my older sons don't feel left out, by saying, "Yes, thank you. All three of my boys are so cute, smart, and all so good. We are so lucky!"
Now I'm like a broken record. Except I still wonder -- was I the handful?