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Building Confidence in Your Kids

By Whayne

AlecParenting, to me, is about learning and teaching. My eight-year-old son Alec is a third-grader here in Southern Indiana. We are a family of six, my wife and I along with our son, twenty-one-year-old daughter, and two dogs. Our daughter is around and spends time with Alec, but she is more of an adult figure to him than a sibling because of the age difference. So, for all intents and purposes he is an only child.

A focus of ours lately is working on anxiety and building confidence with Alec. He takes himself very seriously and while it is a remarkable trait, we need to temper it from time to time. A few weeks ago he came home from school looking dejected and handed me a test. The grade on it was a C-, and he was so upset with himself he sat in his chair for an hour doing nothing at the dining room table. When asked why he had not gone about his normal Friday afternoon routine of playing Minecraft™, he said, “Daddy you should ground me from my video games for doing bad on my test.”  I did not ground him. I told him it was okay that he didn’t do so well but that we would need to try harder next time. He still sat for another hour going over the test before moving on to games before dinner.

Watching your child struggle is very hard to deal with as parents. I do not like to see Alec struggle but I do know if I do things for him that he can do for himself, he will not grow to his full potential.

Alec has a serious personality; he becomes stressed doing activities with large groups of people or things he fears he cannot control, and struggles with anxiety. We have coached him on things to help him maintain his composure such as reminding him that you don’t have to be in control of everything, and to take a moment to take a deep breath while counting to 10. We’ve also worked with him on building his confidence in difficult situations.

Alec & dogsFor example, I started having him feed the dogs dinner. This isn’t too hard of a task but we have one young dog who is still being trained and an older dog that will obey commands from anyone. There are rules to feeding the dogs they must sit before being released to get their food. The older dog has been doing this for a decade now and, even with his small voice, my son can command the older one to follow the routine. The younger dog is very excitable and only listens to stern commands. It has taken a while but my son has started to get her to obey commands. He is still nervous about doing this. There have been a few occasions of panic because the younger dog will muscle her way through my son to get her food. One of the last times I had him feed the dogs it was a big success. He could hold the younger dog at bay with only the commands and a stern voice. I was very proud of him for the success and we discussed this being a good thing. He was still anxious and had to wipe a few tears from his eyes after he was done. The next night I had him do the same thing again and this time he was confident that he could handle the situation. While I stood out of the way, he controlled the situation and once done came to find me. We shared a big high five and a short conversation about remembering to remain calm and go through the process.

Helping your children build confidence in their own abilities is something I believe is needed. Do not be afraid to put a task in front of your children that you are not sure they can complete. Observe and give advice to them on how to complete the task, and if they struggle initially help them complete the task a couple of times. Over time it will help them be more confident in their abilities and you will find that they are more open to trying new things.

Check out 49 Phrases to Calm an Anxious Child: