The "Back to School" season is in full swing. Although many of us are excited to see our kids off to a new school year, many of us can't help but wonder (and sometimes worry), that although our children will embark on the year confident and self-assured, they may leave the school-year less so. This is a valid concern: In research out of California, "80 percent of the kids entering in the first grade scored high on a self-esteem inventory. By the fifth grade, only 20 percent of them were scoring high. And by the time they graduated from high school, it was down to five percent."
As a speaker, I've addressed a wide range of audiences -- big and small, domestic and global, consumer and corporate -- and what I've come to find is that the topic of self-confidence consumes many of my audience members, particularly those of whom are parents. They worry their children aren't comfortable in their own skin and don't feel good about themselves. They worry about the effects of peer pressure. And, they worry their children may grow up with confidence issues. Inevitably, at the end of almost every speaking engagement, a parent comes up to me and asks, "How can you instill self-confidence in your kids?"
It is no secret that our childhood has a huge impact on how we feel about ourselves as adults. And so, what better time to lay the groundwork for healthy self-esteem, self-talk and self-belief than during childhood?
If we can empower our children, they will become empowered adults. If we can inspire them to be themselves, and to swim upstream, no matter how challenging it might be, then they will grow up to be healthy-minded and confident. If we can instill the values necessary to help them feel good about themselves, no matter how "different" they may be, or how "unpopular" they may feel, then they may grow up to be secure in who they are.
So, how might you instill confidence in your child as they enter the new school year?
- Talk to Them: The new school year is a perfect opportunity to talk to your child about the doubts they may have (if any), what they are looking forward to, and what they hope to get out of the school year. If they do have any doubts or fears, talking to them may help them gain better perspective, so they don't feel so fearful. And of course, encouraging them to talk to you throughout the school year is of great importance, as well.
- Give a Gift of Inspiration: A picture says a thousand words. I remember as a child getting back-to-school gifts that would "pump me up" for the school year. Whether it was a plaque with an inspirational quote or a triumphant mouse figurine, it sent a beautiful message: believe in yourself. I recently launched my Inspiration Art Series for kids. The series isn't just about artwork, it is about inspiring kids to feel confident and develop self-esteem through art and story. For instance, my first piece -- Silver's Magic -- focuses on embracing unique qualities and loving yourself for those unique traits.
- Avoid Comparisons: "Why can't you be like your brother?" "Why didn't you get an "A" like Sally?" Even if you don't verbally communicate these messages, this type of thinking can do great damage. When we compare our children to others, it sends them a message: "You aren't good enough as you are. You need to be different." Not only does this eat away at their self-esteem, but it drives a wedge in your relationship. Encourage them to be themselves and if they don't perform at a level you think is realistic, play detective. Understand the "why" behind performance slip-ups instead of focusing on the actual outcome.
Now it is your turn: In the comments below, tell me your thoughts. Do you grapple with instilling confidence in your children? How have you dealt with the issue?