Our Kids are Looking to Us to Guide Them
I (kind of) remember the days when my kids were little and they needed me for everything. Hungry? Need mom. Tired? Need mom. Time to change clothes? Need mom.
With a 14 year old and a 10 year old, those days are long gone at the Randall house. Although my kids do still need parents (even if they think they don’t!), they are quite independent. And while I do sometimes miss the days of picking out adorable little outfits for them and snuggling them at bedtime, I consider their independence a monumental parenting win!
I love my children dearly, but I do not intend to have them living in my basement as adults! So here are my top 9 tips for how you can help raise confident independent kids:
9 Practices for Raising Confident, Independent Kids
1 – Let Them Wear the Crazy Outfits – And Do Other Things Themselves
I have many friends who spend ridiculous amounts of money on “the right” clothing for their kids. I have people tell me their kids will ONLY wear specific brand names of clothing. Seriously?
Here’s a newsflash for you- kids are not born with a brand preference. When your kiddo is old enough to start dressing herself, let her pick out her own clothes! While you might cringe at the striped shirt, flowered leggings, and mismatched socks she chooses, these are the little things that help your kids feel important. And no one is going to judge you for your child’s crazy clothing choices!
Let your kids do other things for themselves, too! They will not load the dishwasher the right way. (Your spouse probably won’t either!) They will spill when they try to pour their own juice. And they will likely not pick out the outfit you want them to. Live like Elsa and “Let it go…” Trust me, it will all be fine!
2 – Compliment Them in the Right Way
We are really good at telling our kids they are cute, smart, or funny. But it’s super important to also compliment our kids for trying hard, sticking with something when it’s difficult, doing something on his or her own, or being kind.
Think about the last time someone paid you a really genuine compliment. Maybe your boss told you that you she appreciates all of the extra time you put into a project and that you make the company a better place. Maybe your friend left you a sweet note telling you how much she appreciates your friendship.
When you are complimented on your character, it’s really meaningful. When you compliment your kids’ character, they will start to recognize those positive qualities in themselves
For example, let’s say your son just finished cleaning his room and wants to show you.
Instead of just saying, “Good job!” (or pointing out all of the things he missed!), try saying things like, “Wow, look at all of the things you put away all by yourself!” or, “You should be really proud of yourself for all of your hard work – way to go!” or, “I love that I can count on you to take care of the things I ask you to do – thanks for being so responsible.”
Try it out and see how your kids respond!
3 – Let Them go Places Without You
I am not suggesting that you let your 3 year old walk around the neighborhood without you. Or that your 6 year old just tells you he’s going “out” when you ask where he is going as he leaves the house.
What I am suggesting is that it’s important for your kids to be away from you sometimes. Whether that’s going to daycare or school, spending the night at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, or going to play at a friend’s house, it’s very important for your child to know that they are OK without you!
Being around different adults and different kids helps your child develop more confidence and independence. While it can feel like a scary step, it’s an important one!
4 – Provide Your Kids With Positive Role Models
We all know it’s important to be a good role model for our kids. It is our job to make sure they are happy, successful, productive members of society. (No pressure, right?!) But moms and dads (or substitutes, depending on your situation) are important in different ways.
For girls, having a positive male role model makes them feel secure and less likely to seek inappropriate attention from boys later in life. For boys, having a positive male role model teaches them how to be strong and loving and how to treat a partner later in life.
A positive female role model is also important in different ways. For girls, a positive female role model gives them a healthy perspective on appearance and shows them that girls can do anything. For boys, a positive female shows them how to nurture and express feelings.
This list is of course not all-inclusive, but the point is that both male and female role models are important for all kids.
5 – Watch What They Watch
If you are a parent who assumes that any show on the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon is kid appropriate, you might want to reconsider. There are several kids’ shows that put a strong emphasis on physical appearance, show lots of children with nasty attitudes, and have themes that are much too mature for elementary aged kids.
I would encourage you to sit down with your son or daughter and watch what they are watching so you can make an informed decision about what is appropriate for your own family.
6 – Help Girls Understand What is Real and What is Not
I talk to lots of girls who have a very twisted idea of what beautiful is. And if they are watching a lot of TV and looking at a lot of magazines, you can certainly understand why. For upper elementary or middle school girls, show them this clip from Dove. (Moms, this is a good reminder for us, too!)
Girls need to understand that what is portrayed as beautiful in the media is not real, attainable, or really even all that important.
7 – Watch Yourself and How You Talk
If you are constantly complaining about your weight, your graying hair, and your clothes, your daughter will surely follow suit. If you are constantly being critical of others, your kids will do the same. (And may also think that you are or will be critical of them!) Kids get very strong messages from us: make sure you are sending the right ones.
8 – Show Them That It’s Important to Try
It is important for kids to try new things. Sign them up for different sports and activities, try new foods, let them pick out their own clothes. This is how children learn what they like. This builds confidence.
They will not like everything they try. They will not be good at everything they try. But they must try. And our job as parents is to encourage the trying part of it and not be overly focused on the outcome of their attempt.
9 – It’s the Little Things
Find ways to show and tell your kids what is special and unique about them. Use a dry erase marker to leave a note on the bathroom mirror telling your son you are proud of his good grades. Slip an inspirational “girl power” quote in your daughter’s lunchbox.
I recently created notebooks for each of my kids where we can write letters back and forth. This has been a great way to share love and encouragement and keep the lines of communication open.
So there you have it—a starting point for how to raise confident kids. If you believe in your kids, chances are, they will believe in themselves. Remember that KIDS TAKE OUR LEAD… so let’s make it a good one!