I think most parent would agree children need a high healthy level of all three but . . . what if you could only choose one? Does one stick out more than the others? I think you just might be surprised.
As we work together at this dojo to raise your child, I thought it might be helpful and valuable to share the difference between self-esteem, confidence and courage, how they develop and the role you play. Developing all three are crucial to raising a successful and happy child. Each is different but definately interrelated.
Your self-esteem was mostly set as a child. Simply put, self-esteem is how you view your “value”, or your self-worth. While we can help improve your child’s self-esteem, most of is set well before they come to our karate school. You do this with the message and feeling you give your child, from the time they are born, as to how “safe, loved and accepted” they are by you. If they do feel valued; they will more likely try new things, not give up, not fear failure or rejection, be resilient and have a growth mindset.
The foundation of your child’s self-esteem is pretty much on you. Here are some simple tips:
- Show your child they are valued with consistent unconditional love and acceptance. (Resist criticizing. Reprimand the action, not the child while emotionally calm.)
- Let them do things for themselves. (Teach, then let them do new things. “I am capable and independent.”)
- Do not over praise them. (The “everybody gets a trophy”. They can tell when praise is exaggerated or fake. Do not make them the center of your family.)
- Make them do chores. (The feeling they are a part of and contribute to the household.)
- *Above all, one of the most powerful things you can do is show them you value being with them by giving them your time (and do so with your undivided attention (put down the smartphone), and one-on-one time if they have siblings)
“Do not over praise” is an interesting tip. Well intended parents may praise everything their child does, telling them they are the best, the smartest, the prettiest, thinking it builds their self-esteem. This will tend to have the opposite effect.
Just remember, before 7th grade the number one motivation of a child is “pleasing their parents”. Instead of verbal praise or trophies/rewards, try this – just give them a big smile and say nothing. Just show them you are proud of them without telling them. Or, use this tip from grandparents, just say “I loved watching you do karate (or play soccer) today!”. Learn to substitute encouragement in place of praise. This also uses one of the most powerful parenting techniques – praise their effort, not the results.
Let’s move on to confidence. The key word here is trust. Confidence is trusting in your abilities and can be in specific areas. For instance, you could be confident on the soccer field yet have very little confidence speaking in front of people. So, how do you develop confidence in your child?
Help them become really, really good at something, anything. While some kids seem to struggle at school, sports and home then feel like they are not good at anything, what may be just as damaging is the child who is just good (or mediocre) at a lot of things. You want your child to get exceptionally good at something and know it. We can teach them humility and modesty later.
The problem with this “next” generation is many never spend enough time at anything (except video games) to get good at it. The moment something becomes hard or boring they are quick to want to move on to the “next” thing. How long and how much work does it take to get really good at playing the piano or playing baseball, or graduate from college?
Children, and even teens, do not have the life experiences yet to make a good decisions on what they do. They can also get very good at something they are not good at now with hard work. They need to learn to trust you, their teachers, their coaches and their Sensei. My tip for you is – YOU choose what they will be good at then make them work hard and for a long time. Do not let them give up easily. Teach them how to “do things they do not want to do”, and give them the gift of grit and how to master the mundane.
What may surprise you the most is what I am about to share with you on the subject of courage. Courage might prove to be more important to your child than developing confidence and maybe even self-esteem.
Courage is not about not having any fears. We all have fears. Fear is actually good. Courage is doing things despite the presence of fear. Here is what I want you to remember – In the absence of confidence, courage takes over. Courage comes before and will overcome lack of confidence. Courage, confidence and getting really good at something can in turn build self-esteem.
Courage makes you do the hardest part, the first step. Think of the shy or timid child. (Shyness is that initial fear reaction stopping them.). Courage is thriving under uncertainty now while confidence is the assessment afterwards.
How do you develop courage in your child? Make your child experience scary or uncomfortable things every day and power through them! The earlier you start and the more frequent the better.
Here at the dojo I think you see us intentional do this every day in their karate class. Karate is hard on purpose. Courage can only be developed in the presence of fear, doubt and uncertainty. Learning emotional skills needs to be taught emotionally. Your child needs to consistently experience the deep, intense emotion of fear then power through it. Just like when we belt stripe tested your child last week, we are so lucky we can easily create intentional and consistent doses of fear and discomfort in every class!
Our job is to create good stress and hardship in your child. The challenge is to ride the fine line on the edge of their comfort zone yet hold short of breaking them. The closer we can get to the limit of their comfort zone the better. This is their growth zone and where all real learning happens.
So, you start with their self-esteem then we will take it from there with their courage and confidence. Let’s get to work!
Yours for stronger kids,