Continuing in a series of guest posts by other bloggers for my maternity leave, here is a favorite and one you should love. It is by Lauren Tamm of The Military Wife and Mom and it is all about simple rules in raising confident toddlers. I personally love this concept because, don’t we all want our children to be confident and independent? Furthermore, I think sometimes we underestimate our children, so these rules and tips are wonderful!
I love the idea of raising confident toddlers. It is my deepest hope that my son will feel confident with himself as a person. That he will feel good about his own unique qualities and brave enough to try new things and meet new people. Instilling confidence in my son is hard, especially when I don’t feel all that confident myself most days. Some days parenting makes me feel like I just want to hide under the covers and eat a giant candy bar in silence. As sad as that sounds, it is my truth.
Since I’m speaking honestly, I’m going to share a secret from with you: As a new mom with less than 2 years into this gig, I’m often plagued by feelings of uncertainty. In my mind, I often think…
“Oh, I’m doing this all wrong.”
“Oh, I should read another book so I can finally get this parenting thing down.”
“Oh, I’m not as happy as I thought I’d be. I’m probably the only one.”
Do you notice the crazy pattern going on in my head? None of it exudes confidence or self-worth as a mother. So how can I instill the value of confidence in my child, when I have these ridiculous thoughts pervading my brain? Well my friend, I need to cut that out right now, and turn it all around so I can start building up my son to the self-confident child I would love for him to become.
Here are 5 golden rules I created to help me accomplish my goal of raising a confident toddler:
Rule #1: Cut out negative self-talk.
I am not perfect at eliminating this completely, but I am intentionally working on it daily. I say positive daily affirmations to keep my mindset healthier. I’m working to tell myself that, yes, I am enough. Yes, I love my son, and I’m doing the best I can. Yes, it’s okay to make parenting mistakes. Yes, it will get better, and I have the power to change it. Yes, I should feel confident in my parenting choices.
Rule #2: Convey empathy.
What is empathy? It means to identify with the thoughts and feelings, thoughts or attitudes of another person. So when I convey empathy to my child, I’m telling him, “Hey I understand you. I get what you are telling me. I support you.”
How do we convey empathy? Encouraging words help toddlers, but actions are exponentially powerful when conveying a message of empathy.
Here are 3 easy ways you can demonstrate empathy to build confidence:
- Get down to the child’s level by sitting or squatting.
- Make eye contact.
- Nod and smile.
- Convey your message. For example, “you tried really hard at _______.” Or “you put in such an amazing effort playing _________.”
A toddler may or may not understand your exact words, but he understands your actions and the non-verbal message you are sending. It helps him know that you get him. It helps him know his effort was worth it. And in turn, it helps him feel confident to do it all over again.
Rule #3: Use praise effectively.
I’m the first person to raise my hand when it comes to over-praising my child using the phrases good boy, good girl, and good job. Guilty as charged. Problem is, these phrases carry empty praise, and in the long run can turn our kids into praise addicts. Good boy, girl or job explains nothing to the child about what he actually did well.
While this is hard to do (trust me I know) it is better to avoid over using these phrases. Instead, we can praise for effort. For example, “You tried so hard to build that tower.” Or “you made such a great effort to play nicely today. I can see you were really trying.” We can use these phrases to help toddlers feel proud of trying hard, and ultimately feel more confident in their abilities.
Rule #4: Convey love.
Whenever I see my son getting frustrated or just struggling with anything, I tell him I love him. I give him a hug and a kiss. I want him to know that I love him regardless if he is getting it just right, you know?
When my son gets upset or starts to head down the tantrum black hole, and I find myself starting to lose it, I simply say I love you. When I don’t know what else to do, I say I love you.
Love helps us all feel safe and secure. Because when we know important people got our backs, we are more willing to try new things. We are more willing to take risks and fail because we have a security blanket to fall back on.
Rule #5: Offer the opportunity for independence.
Getting toddlers to feel confident doing an activity independently takes a lot of work sometimes. Part of the reason toddlers can be clingy at times is simply because they don’t know how to navigate a situation. When we are in new or unfamiliar situations, I often just sit next to my toddler. I want to be on standby for him without holding him up and away from everyone. You know? I don’t want him to feel like I need to rescue him from something, which doesn’t require rescuing.
So I just sit next to him, or allow him to sit on my lap while I’m on the ground. This conveys safety, love and security, while still offering him the opportunity to explore. I encourage him to explore without being pushy. I just leave it be if he doesn’t want to.
When he does get up and play with other kids or he tries a new activity, I use lots of praise as effectively as I possibly can. Again this shows him that he made a good effort trying something independently, and in the long run, this grows his confidence in exploring new and unfamiliar situations.
Confidence is a skill that comes naturally to some; for others, it takes time to grow and develop. Raising a confident toddler isn’t beyond a parents reach. In fact, I feel like it’s right there at our fingertips. What is your best tip for raising a confident toddler?
More on Raising Toddlers:
Lauren Tamm is a mother, military spouse, freelance writer, and the author of TheMilitaryWifeandMom.com. She is passionate about practical parenting, enjoying motherhood and navigating the ups and downs of military life. She welcomes you to connect with her via her blog, Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest!