Building your child’™s confidence

Saturday, August 24th, 2013

Instilling confidence in your child is vital from a very early age, because it provides the foundation to good mental health. We spoke to family GP Dr Lauren Oakes to find out some tips about raising your little one’s self-esteem.

ג€˜Between 2 and 5-years-old is a really emotional age, where it’s completely normal for children to be lacking in confidence,’ says Dr Oakes. ג€˜To build confidence in your child at any age, it’s important to be positive as much as possible. Try to find something he’s good at; something he can excel in, it doesn’t matter whether it’s art, music, football, academics, reading, drawing, just something that is his.’

After encouraging your child to discover his talents and praising him enthusiastically, the next port of call may actually be to bite your tongue. ג€˜I think one of the biggest problems is that you can get so annoyed with the children, can’t you, in the first five years of life?’ acknowledges Dr Oakes, herself a mum of four. ג€˜They do so many things wrong, and it’s easy to forget how important it is to shut off the criticism and try and find something good to say about them.’

More than anyone else, young children will always look to their parents for cues on how to behave. ג€˜They model themselves on you all the time, so they need to see you regularly saying something good about them, about your husband, your partner, your other children.’ Positivity begets positivity, and it begins in the home.

With her own family, Dr Oakes practises communication games where everyone is encouraged to join in. ג€˜I often sit them all round the table when everyone’s feeling grumpy and say, ג€˜Now tell me what you like about so-and-so.’ Then the children begin to realise, “Oh, other people think I’m good at this, oh they like me!” It’s a really good game to play as a family because you never say these things normally.’

Another tip is to invite your child’s friends to your house and let him be boss! ג€˜For 2-5-year-olds it’s really important to sometimes let them feel like they’re in control,’ says Dr Oakes. ג€˜If they’re at home with their friends, they feel that they can show they’re sharing, they’re in charge ג€“ even though you then have to teach them that visitors come first and should get preference.

ג€˜It’s all about socialising your children,’ she continues. ג€˜They’re not born sociable in terms of thinking about other people’s points of view, and they’re not going to have any friends unless they start thinking, “Well actually, she wants to play with that so I will play her game and I won’t be boss.” So you have to introduce the concept to them gently in both ways but then they do benefit from the extra confidence because it’s their home, their toys and their mum ultimately in charge.’

Dr Oakes says that from the age of 2 to 5 years and beyond, parents need to teach children to really think about what their friends would like to do and to accommodate them within reason. ג€˜That makes them so popular,’ she enthuses. ג€˜Everybody loves it when they feel that somebody’s interested in them. Then your child’s confidence goes up because everybody wants to be with him!’

Ultimately there’s no better way to improve a pre-schooler’s self-belief than to indulge him with as much one-to-one time as possible, demonstrating clearly that his thoughts, feelings and actions do matter. ג€˜Then slap yourself every time you want to criticise,’ laughs Dr Oakes. ג€˜As Thumper said in Bambi, “If you can’t say something niceג€¦ don’t say nothin’ at all!”‘

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