Wouldn’t we all like our children to grow up feeling successful? Expressing themselves without worrying about correctness or giving offence, speaking easily to strangers, able to put others at ease, comfortable addressing a wide range of different people and audiences, enjoying successful relationships? Confidence is the priceless asset that will inspire this success, helping them live their lives to the full.
The word ‘confidence’ originates from the Latin ‘confidere’ meaning to trust — as in trusting in our own ability. Confident people enjoy a great advantage in life. They gain satisfaction from helping others and perform better in school, exams, interviews, meetings and arguments. With confidence we live our lives better.
Many of us weren’t brought up with confidence. Today’s shy adults come from reserved families where there was little communication about ideas, thoughts and feelings; or at school they were discouraged from talking or asking questions. Many of us were taught, at home, the cultural value of self-effacement and modesty, encouraged not to “show off” by seeking attention for ourselves. Some of us are bringing up our children in the same way. But in the working world, others are not aware of our backgrounds or the conditioning that has made us who we are. The shy adult who doesn’t believe in himself is passed over by his more confident peers.
To enable our children to project confidence, inspiring and encouraging others, we can help them practice confident thinking and speaking. Try my eleven tips to guide you along the way to success.
1. Confidence in conversation leads to confidence in life. Chat together over a family meal everyday. Share your day with your child, volunteering information, and ask him about his own. Use prompts like who? where? what? why? when? how?
2. The way we sit or stand dictates the way we think. Positive thinking is produced by confident posture. Encourage your child to sit or stand tall, with forward shoulders, chest open, chin level, eyes looking ahead and slightly up. The opposite, slumped posture, produces depressed, negative thinking.
3. Good breathing helps you feel confident. Carrying the body well enables us to breathe into the diaphragm. Encourage deep, diaphragmatic breathing before going into any difficult situation, to relax as well as to energise the body and brain.
4. Speaking clearly helps you project confidence. Practice tongue twisters together for firm articulation (try tying twine round the three trees; sixty-six shy soldiers; swiss wristwatch etc)
5. Please pause! In conversation, oral exams and interviews, take time to pause, breathe and think before you answer the question. We’re often afraid to pause, fearing the silence, not realising how useful it is for the listener to be able to reflect on what we’ve said.
6. Each to his own. Let your child develop his own ideas by remembering that we’re all different. Respect him for his differences and allow him to build on them __ they are what will make him a valuable, creative individual, distinct and separate from you.
7. Encourage communication. All differences can be solved by communication, by talking out the problem. Often it is the only way to heal and bridge awkward situations. The family provides a safe testing ground for confident, sensitive communication.
8. Learn to listen. Most of us listen to others whilst waiting impatiently for our turn, thinking of what we want to say next. Active listening takes confidence if we’re prepared to be changed by what we hear. Family dinner conversation provides excellent listening practice.
9. Children need to practice assertion – understanding that they can say what they want and that others will listen. This is tremendously good for building confidence even if getting what they want means compromise. The point is that others have listened, without interrupting, and acknowledged their feelings.
10. Help them to criticise themselves by assessing their own performance. Ask “How do you think it went?” “What do you think you did well?” “How would you like to improve?” rather than telling them what you think. When they’re feeling daunted encourage them to work on small, manageable areas that they can improve on. In this way confidence is developed a bit at a time.
11. Pick out the positive. It’s easy to criticise, but it’s also easy to erode confidence by doing so. There’s always something positive to build on so trying praising the seven he got right in the spelling test, rather than emphasizing the three he got wrong! Keep the balance of positive interactions high by avoiding the negatives __ tell him what you’d like to see him doing, rather than pointing out what he’s doing wrong. Let your optimism and enthusiasm for who he is and what he’s doing shine through.
Our children are worthy and deserving of love and respect. This fundamental belief is what will enable them to become confident adults.