Infectiously Happy

Four small Ways to Instill Confidence in Small Children. 

Super Flying Palmer... Courageous. Assured. Free.
Super Flying Palmer… Courageous. Assured. Free.

Recently Palmer told me that some other kids didn’t like him. My heart broke. I know that everyone can’t like him. There is always going to be someone that doesn’t like you. But, um, I think he is awesome so I had a little lump in my throat. I went in for further understanding. I mean, I need to know why I might fight someone. LOL. Just kidding, kinda. So he told me that the “mean guys” didn’t like him and they told him so. When I asked him how he felt about it he said, “It makes me sad.”  Cue all the feelings. I then asked him, “Do you like you?” I wasn’t ready for his answer. “Yes mama, of course! I love me!!!” So I asked, ” Do they ever hurt you physically?” And he replied, “No, because I know how to keep myself safe. I wouldn’t let them just hurt me.” That’s when the room got dusty and the dust got in my eyes. I sat with our conversation for a bit. As I said in the beginning, our “likeability” is fleeting. Wanting to be liked has held me in bondage, stifled the truth and prolonged my involvement with interactions that were not serving my best self. I have been slowly, over years, shedding that need to be liked but it’s hard. I don’t want to pass that on. On another layer, because I am raising two BLACK people in a world that is consisently devaluing our experience, I have sincere intention around making sure they know their worth. In all things, I have no control over anyone but myself. I do have control over how I interact with them. I control how I will affirm them. I control whether or not I give them agency over their minds and bodies. I am working hard every day to show them they are capable, powerful and important, even at three and one year old. We can take small steps in our daily lives to give them a confident outlook on their experience. Just a few ways…

Give them responsibilities. Somewhere, somehow, the lie started that children can’t grasp responsibility. Every day, Palmer has jobs. Small jobs, that I can easily do, usually much quicker but I need him to know what it feels like to take care of something. Sometimes his jobs are convenient for him, like putting his shoes in the basket when we come into the house. Sometimes his jobs are not his favorite, like putting away his toys before bed, when he still wants to play. That is real life. Even at three, he understands what he is supposed to take care of. He gets responsibility. He may even go off if you try to take care of it for him because somewhere inside, his little soul has pride in getting it done himself. As he grows, as Duke grows, they get bigger jobs. And eventually I am swinging in a  hammock while they make me smoothies and sweep the kitchen. Just (kinda) kidding.

Let them create.  I am not talking about a pinterest project. I mean let them create their own entertainment, help with meals, create their own fun. We can be overbearing in our need to make “fun” activities or keep them from making a mess. Let them make messes. Let them see what they can do, what their efforts can bring forth. It may take longer. Make time for them. They deserve our time. The greatest fun I see Palmer have is when he is making his own food or playing a game that only he knows the rules to. He has a things for paper airplanes and origami that makes mail or my writing notes unsafe. The joy I see when he is immersed in his own versions of meditation through play are inspiring.

Listen to them. Even if they do not yet have words. Listen to the sounds, pay attention to their body language. Feel the energy they are giving you. They know what feels good, what they want. We can allow them to say no. It is how we teach them to keep themselves safe and listen to themselves. Palmer is old enough (physically and mentally) to tell me alot about himself. I remind myself constantly to plug into what he is really saying to me. Even with Duke, who is just finding words, those little screams are his way of communicating. I vocalize that I am listening, even if what they don’t like, getting a diaper change or seatbelt, is needed. I will tell them, “I hear you.” “I see that you don’t like ____ .” If I can adjust the situation to be more pleasing, I do. For me that is about letting them know that their discomfort is important and their experiene is valued. Try showing that to grown ups, it’s much harder work.

Check our egos. They are not ours. They came through us, but they belong to themselves. We would serve them and ourselves to remember that. Our behavior has to reflect that they are small humans and not property. We have to treat them with the same respect we require because from day one they are learning what it means to be treated kindly and humanely from us. It can be hard to walk in this truth because as parents we don’t want to be judged harshly if our child is not listening our crying in public. That is our ego. The reality is that your child will not listen. They are going to do things that may embarass you or make others uncomfortable. They are learning in each moment, so they aren’t trying to manipulate you. Most likely thay are asking for help or expressing overwhelming feelings.  We have to make sure that our interactions with them are not being fueled by fear, anger and ego. Violence (Read: spanking, popping, physical intimidation) have no place in raising confident humans. It serves the purpose of breaking, training and controlling through fear and pain. You cannot build someone up and break them down at the same time. Our ego is easily bruised, even as parents. We have to be willing to check it and interact from a place of understanding and ease.

 

Just small steps that can leave a big impact. I know because my mama parented me this way. This is my intentional legacy to them. My dedication as a mother is to free, empowered, confident people who can trust themselves.

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2 thoughts on “Four small Ways to Instill Confidence in Small Children. 

  1. So good, Kelley. Thanks for sharing your wisdom as a mother with others. May more mothers learn to listen to their children, to themselves, and raise confident, kind, and loving people. Our world needs many more such people.

  2. Great reminders. Our kids are in the same stages but I’m raising girls. E-mailed you yesterday. I need all the positive parenting connections I can get. It’s so important for us mamas to surround ourselves with like-minded support.

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