12 Ways to raise a confident child (part 1 of 12)

Self-esteem is your child’s passport to a lifetime of mental health and social happiness. It’s the foundation of a child’s well-being and the key to success as an adult. At all ages, how you feel about yourself affects how you act. Think about a time when you were feeling really good about yourself. You probably found it much easier to get along with others and feel good about them. Try these tips and advice to help raise a confident child.

Self-Image is How One Perceives Oneself

The child looks in the mirror and likes the person he sees. He looks inside himself and is comfortable with the person he sees. He must think of this self as being someone who can make things happen and who is worthy of love. Parents are the main source of a child’s sense of self-worth.

Lack of a Good Self-Image Very Often Leads to Behavior Problems

Most of the behavioral problems that I see for counseling come from poor self-worth in parents as well as children. Why is one person a delight to be with, while another always seems to drag you down? How people value themselves, get along with others, perform at school, achieve at work, and relate in marriage all stem from the strength of their self-image.

Healthy Self-Worth Doesn’t Mean Being Narcissistic or Arrogant

If you raise a confident child that grows up with healthy self-worth, it means they have a realistic understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, enjoying the strengths and working on the problem areas. Because there is such a strong parallel between how your child feels about himself and how he acts, it is vital to discipline to raise a confident child. Throughout life, your child will be exposed to positive influences (builders) and negative influences (breakers). Parents can expose their child to more builders and help him work through the breakers.

1. Practice Attachment Parenting

Put yourself in the place of a baby who spends many hours a day in a caregiver’s arms, is worn in a sling, breastfed on cue, and her cries are sensitively responded to. How do you imagine this baby feels?

This baby feels loved; this baby feels valuable. Ever had a special day when you got lots of strokes and showered with praise? You probably felt very appreciate and loved. The infant on the receiving end of this high-touch style of parenting develops self-worth. She likes what she feels.

Infant Self-Value

Responsiveness is the key to infant self-value. Baby gives a cue, for example, crying to be fed or comforted. A caregiver responds promptly and consistently. As this cue-response pattern is repeated many hundreds, perhaps thousands, of times during the first year baby learns that her cues have meaning: “Someone listens to me. Therefore, I am worthwhile.”

Of course, you can’t always respond promptly or consistently. It’s the predominant pattern that counts. You will have days when you are short on patience. Babies pick out the prevailing parenting style and form impressions. As baby gets older, it becomes important for him to learn how to deal with healthy frustration, as this will teach him to adjust to change. The important thing is that you are there for him; that’s the message on which baby builds his sense of self.

High-Need Babies

The confidence-building aspects that result from attachment-parenting payoff, especially with high-need babies. Because of these infants’ more intense demands, they are at higher risk of receiving negative responses. When attachment parenting produces mutual sensitivity between connected parents and high-need babies, they learn to see themselves in a good light.

Because of responsive nurturing, the connected baby knows what to expect. On the other hand, the disconnected child is confused. If his needs are not met and his cues unanswered, he feels that signals are not worth giving. This leads to the conclusion that “I’m not worthwhile. I’m at the mercy of others, and there’s nothing I can do to reach them.”

Infants Developing Brain

We emphasize the importance of early nurturing because, during the first two years, the baby’s brain is growing very fast. This is the period when a baby develops patterns of associations – mental models of the way things work. The developing infant’s mind is like a file drawer. In each file is a mental picture of a cue she gives along with the response she expects. After a certain interaction, the baby stores a mental image of what happened. For example, baby raises her arms, and a parent responds by picking her up. Repetition deepens these patterns in the infant’s mind, and eventually, emotions, positive or negative, become associated with them. A file drawer full of mostly positive feelings and images leads to a feeling of “rightness.” Her sense of “well-being” becomes part of baby’s self.

Attachment Parenting instills the Feeling of “Well-Being”

Infants who get used to the feeling of well-being they get from attachment parenting spend the rest of their lives striving to keep this feeling. Because they have so much practice at feeling good, they can regain this right feeling after temporary interruptions. These secure infants cope better with life’s setbacks because they are motivated to repair their sense of well-being, which has become integrated into their sense of self. They may fall down a lot, but they are likely to wind up back on their feet. This concept is especially true for a child who is handicapped or seems to come into this world relatively short-changed in natural talents.

Children who do not have this early sense of well-being struggle to find it, but they are unsure of what they are looking for because they don’t know how it feels. This explains why some babies who get attachment parenting in the early years manage well despite an unsettled childhood because of family problems.

Consider the famous case of Baby Jessica, the two-year-old who, because of a legal quirk, was taken from the familiar and nurturing home of her adoptive parents whom she had known since birth, and given to her biological parents who were strangers to her. She is likely to thrive because she entered a strange situation with a strong sense of well-being created by early nurturing. She will spend the rest of her life, maintaining that feeling despite the trauma she endured.

Playing Catch-Up

But what if I didn’t practice all those attachment styles of parenting, you might wonder? Don’t be too hard on yourself. Babies are resilient, and, of course, it’s never too late to start the habits that help raise a confident child. Getting to know your child and seeing things from his point of view will help you help him learn to trust himself. This kind of nurturing cements together the blocks of self-worth and can also repair them. Still, the earlier the cement is applied, the smoother it goes on and the stronger it sticks.

December 21, 2020 December 21, 2020 Dr. Bill Sears

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