How to nurture confident children (full interview).

Have you ever had to deal with the problem of your children having issues of lack of self confidence or low self esteem?

I have 3 kids aged: Amrita (17), Samanta (16) and Arian (9) and issues of a lack of self-confidence and low self-esteem do crop up from time to time in spite of my positive parenting style. Self-confidence and self-esteem are two different things. The former is related to actions, for example, being confident about doing something like performing in public, or winning in a competition. Self-confidence can be increased with constant practice – practice makes perfect and perfection builds confidence. The latter has to do with one’s perception of oneself, like how you see and feel about yourself. Those with low self-esteem are constantly comparing themselves with others and feeling how other people are prettier, smarter or better than themselves. It is how the mind thinks about oneself and others, which is merely a perception, not necessarily the reality.

Please tell me more…
Or, have YOU ever, growing up, had a phase in your childhood or youth where you lacked self confidence or had problems of low self esteem? How did you grow out of it? How much of a role did your parents play?

During my time, the parenting style then was of command and obey. Children had little say and there was little room for self-expression. I was quite an introvert until I got married and had kids of my own. Motherhood seemed to have given me a kind of confidence I never had before! I guess it is due to my strong motherly instinct to do everything I can to nurture and develop my children in the most positive ways!

I believe in the theory of Nature vs Nurture. Nature is something you are born with, that comes naturally to you. Nurture is the hard work put in to develop something you may be lacking in. For example, you may be born with a shy disposition (nature) but with hard work and practice, you overcome it by talking more to people in public through public-speaking (nurture). Both my daughters are considered the quiet type – they do not explicitly express themselves in public but would rather blend in with the wall! But they have deep passion in singing and dancing that requires them to perform in public frequently.

Amrita wants to be a singer songwriter and she spends hours each day in her room, perfecting her skills. To build confidence, she seeks out open mic events to sing in, where anyone could go up the stage to perform an item to a small but appreciative crowd. And with each public performance, her confidence grows and so does her self-esteem. Her younger sister, Sam, wants to be a hip hop dancer, and everyday, for several hours, she trains to build up her strength and to learn various dance styles at the studio. She seeks out dance competitions and shows to perform in. With each win and with each performance, her confidence in dancing grows. When she is doing her thing on stage, she is a strong and super confident girl!

In your opinion, what could be the factors that can lead to your kids having lack of self confidence or low self esteem?

The lack of small successes or achievements throughout childhood can take away one’s self-confidence. And the lack of parental support and encouragement could also contribute the such a state of mind.

How would you be able to tell/or what are the tell tale signs that may indicate that your child may be having such problems?

A well-adjusted child is a self-directed and self-reliant child who can make his or her own decisions in his or her daily life. When a 17-year-old freaks out when asked to choose a drink or a snack at a cafe or supermarket, and is unable to make a decision because of a fear that he or she might make a wrong one, that is a clear sign that the child has confidence issues that needs attention.

What are the challenges of dealing with kids with low confidence or low self esteem?
How would you, as a parent, develop positive self esteem or improve self esteem in your kids?

It can be a challenge when a child has serious issues with confidence and self-esteem. He or she cannot make daily decisions, and if they do eventually make one, he or she will “chicken-out” at the last minute to get out of the decision. Why? Because he or she has a big fear: that he will fail miserably or that she will draw attention to herself, which is the last thing she wants! The development of self-confidence and self-esteem should start from young through positive strokes and positive reinforcement. But sometimes, in spite of that, when the child reaches teenhood, he or she can still face problems due to peer pressure.

Do you allow your child to make her/his own decisions sometimes? On what matters?

From an early age, I allowed my children to decide on matters that are personally related to them, like what they want to eat and do. But not before I had explained to them the differences between healthy foods (whole food) and less healthy food (processed foods) and healthy activities (sports and the arts) and non- healthy activities (excessive tv-watching) . They understand that they are the masters of their own destinies and their decisions can have far-reaching effects on themselves and their environment. On the other hand, they also understand that along the way, they might make some poor decisions but that is ok if they learn from their mistakes and not repeat them!

Would you say you set goals for your child that may be a little high?

I let my children set their own goals because they will be self-motivated this way. Amrita set a goal for herself to go to Nashville to attend the annual Country Music Festival there last June. She decided to rise her own funds there by holding several private recitals and selling her self-produced CD’s of her original songs. She achieved her target and managed to fly there (accompanied by her supportive dad) to soak in the music, the culture and the musicians! She also got to perform her songs at various places in Nashville and San Francisco – her dream come true!

Samanta set her goal to join a national dance competition with her crew and got into Top 12! They performed live on national tv and her story was featured in the show as an inspiration to youngsters with the message that with hard work and determination, problems can be overcome and dreams can come true!

What kind of relationship do you enjoy with your child?

Close and intimate. We can talk about anything! I try to be readily available whenever they need me for help and guidance. I try to build a relationship of love and trust so that my children can come to me whenever they feel that they needed someone to talk to about their inner feelings.

How would you describe your parenting style?

Positive parenting. My husband and I try our best to be positive parents who support and encourage our children’s passions!

Have you ever fallen into the trap of comparing your children to each other or to their friends or cousins?

No, because we know that each child is different and needs different approaches to learning. Comparisons will only breed contempt or self-defeat.

What are your ways of showing your child that he/she is valued and appreciated?

Giving them daily hugs to give them reassurance that we live them no matter what. Saying “thank you” and “good job” when they do something without being told or they perform a task well.

Have you ever sent your child to attend any seminars or camps to improve their self confidence? Do you think such camps/ seminars are beneficial? In what way?

Yes, we do believe that self-improvement camps have their efficacy. In fact, my husband and I used to conduct such camps when we were younger (with more energy to spare!) Now our children sign themselves up for such camps and Amrita has indicated that she wants to be a camp leader one day! From a quiet and reserved girl to a camp leader – that is quite a leap, I should say!

Note: We (the interviewees) do not endorse any of the training programs published in the NST article.

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