One of the most important parts of growing up in today’s world is a strong sense of identity and self confidence. In a world flooded by media images of perfection and a constantly evolving definition of what’s cool, the first step in preparing your child for a happy, productive life is making them feel confident with who they are.
Cyber bullying typically targets those that don’t stand up for themselves, or kids that have problems with self-doubt. A predator personality picks these kids out of a crowd in no time, and the cycle of belittlement and humiliation begins. There are a lot of things you can do to prepare your child to handle conflict, but teaching them to love and respect themselves is one way to avoid it altogether.
Take the power away from bullies, and raise children that are less likely to become victims by constantly helping to build up their self confidence with these great activities.
#1 – Get active
It’s been proven time and time again that physical activity isn’t just good for your body, it’s good for your mind. No matter what ages your kids are, make sure to keep them active with sports and activities they love – not practice sessions they resent.
When your heart gets racing and your blood starts pumping, your brain releases feel-good hormones that improve mood, emotional balance, and even jump start energy levels. And of course, there are the obvious health benefits – strong, active children are less likely to be labelled as weak in the end, and more capable of handling themselves if things should ever get physical.
#2 – Give them responsibility
Chores are a great way to get kids involved with household activities, but it’s not always something that builds their confidence. Instead of looking at household responsibilities like sweeping or laundry, ask your kids to do the meal planning for a few days, or let them be the ones to organize the chore lists.
At the end of the task, talk to them about how it went, congratulate them on their successes, and offer constructive criticisms on how things can be done better next time.
#3 – Teach them it’s okay to fail
I know, this is one that not everyone may agree with, but it’s important. A lot of the problems with cyber bullying tend to stem from overly-sensitive kids that may take things harder than they should. Teach them the difference between belittlement and constructive criticism by offering it from time to time, and encouraging them to do the same.
Not only does this season your child to not let their ego be easily damaged, but it allows them to communicate disagreements more tactfully with their peers.
#4 – Challenge them
There’s no better way to bolster a child’s damaged self esteem than by showing them they’re capable of just about anything. Is there something that they’ve been struggling with, or feel they’re incapable of doing?
Unless they completely loath doing whatever it is, instead of putting it on the back burner to be addressed later, try to help them overcome the challenge. Problem solve together, and work towards to solutions. When your child succeeds, you’ll have shown them what you already knew to be true, but what they just needed to see for themselves – that they’re capable of just about anything.
#5 – Let them teach you something
Kids are used to being directed and told what to do. While it’s necessary to guide and provide structure sometimes, it also benefits them to be the teachers once in a while. Ask them to teach you how to do something one day, and be sincere with your interest in what they’re showing you.
This shows kids that they are smart and skilled, and their opinions and thoughts are valued and worth respecting.
#6 – Build on their natural talents
Everyone’s good at something, and more often than not, people are good at things they enjoy. Do a little quiet investigating to see if there’s an area of untapped potential with your child, and show them what they’re capable of with further training or education in that area.
If they’re good with animals, take them horseback riding and see if they would be interested in lessons. If they have an eye for technical details, look for workshops in your area where they can build something. The key is to not push your kids to do things they don’t want to – explain why you think it would be a good idea, but ultimately, let them choose whether it’s a talent they want to continue to hone. Which brings me to my next point…
#7 – Don’t be a control freak
It’s hard, I know. Taking a step back as a parent is something many of us are not hard wired to do, and unfortunately that’s often a result of our upbringing. Giving your child some space to figure things out on their own though can be incredibly rewarding, and shows them that they’re capable of making their own decisions.
“Free range parenting” may not be for everyone, but there’s no doubt that the principle of letting your kid have some slack to make a few calls for themselves allows them to learn lessons firsthand, and keeps them from constantly questioning themselves.
They won’t get it right every time, so don’t expect them to, because neither do we. Give them a bit more free reign – experience is the best teacher, and will give them the confidence they need to make the right choices later in life.
#8 – Don’t crush them when they get it wrong
Kids are going to mess up, and that’s definitely true if you give them more freedom to make their own choices. But here’s the thing – that’s okay. Keeping them safe, happy, and healthy is your number one job as the parent, but ultimately, you’re not trying to create the perfect child, so don’t come down on them with an iron fist when they stray.
Instead of raging and asking ‘Why would you do this?!’ or saying, ‘Haven’t I told you a million times?!’, sit down and talk to them about where they went wrong. Let them know it’s fine to make a mistake, but it’s important that they learn from it.
#9 – Set a good example
As a woman, I can tell you without a doubt, I am guilty of not displaying enough self confidence. I do the worried twirl in the mirror, despairing over lumps and bumps, I complain about my hair, lament my typical haggard mom appearance – and it’s not okay.
It’s perfectly normal to be open and aware of your flaws, but it’s not okay to announce to your family day in and day out that there are all of these parts of yourself that you don’t like. The problem is, how can we teach our kids to respect themselves when we can’t even respect ourselves.
Teach them confidence by showing it – be proud of who you are, and they’ll learn to do the same.
#10 – Build them up every chance you get
This one should go without saying, but in case it doesn’t, tell your kids how awesome they are. Don’t just patronize them with the glazed over expression when they show you their report card, sit down with them and marvel that they got their C+ in math up to an A-. Be specific, and tell them why they’re awesome.
Kids are smarter than we give them credit for, and they can often times pick up on when you’re filling them full of hot air. Don’t just tell them you love them, tell them you like them, that they’re smart, strong, and creative. Never miss an opportunity to make them feel good about themselves.
There’s no magic one size fits all way to make a child strong and confident, and the culture we live in can definitely erode at even a stubborn adult’s self esteem. As parents, it’s up to us to be our children’s cheerleader, their biggest fan, and always cheer them on.
Start trying out a few of these tips if you’re not doing them already, and prepare them to handle the challenges that will come later in life. Cyber bullying is a big hurdle, and one that some kids will encounter at some point or another, but with a strong sense of self and confidence, they’ll be ready to handle it.