Before becoming a mom, I thought confidence would be something easy to teach. Somehow, in my mind, it would be simple. I would tell my kids they’re brilliant, strong, smart, beautiful, brave, and . . . BOOM. They would believe me. However, four years into motherhood, I’m realizing it’s a bit more complex than that.
A few months ago, I was cooking dinner while my girls colored when I noticed my three year old really struggling. She usually loves coloring. She usually doesn’t care if the colors match or if she stays inside the lines.
That night, she cared.
She was so upset that her coloring wasn’t “perfect.” Does she usually paint masterpieces? Absolutely not! But she usually loves every single one of her scribbles. Where was my confident little girl who once told me she was the “bestest colorer” in the whole world?
She’s always been confident, sociable, and strong-willed, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say the pandemic and social distancing from this last year have taken a toll on her confidence. While I can’t control the pandemic or the world around me, I can control what happens in my home. I decided to make little changes that would boost her confidence and remind her just how special she is. Within a few days of doing these three simple things, I noticed a big change in her and also in our family dynamic.
1. Let them wear the mismatched pants
As a perfectionist, this one was harder for me than I’d like to admit. When I envisioned having little girls, I always imagined dressing them in cute, perfect little outfits. I soon learned that my strong-willed daughter had different plans. On her third birthday, she got a pair of Frozen pants. She LOVED those pants. She wanted to wear them every single day with absolutely everything.
How was it that the biggest struggle with my toddler every day was about these pants? I decided to stop the madness and let go of my idea of perfectly coordinated outfits. I let her wear the gray and blue snowflake pants. Soon, I noticed that once she had the choice, she sometimes chose them but other times she didn’t. I also noticed how this small change gave her the confidence to be herself.
Our little ones have so little control over everything that’s going on around them, especially during a global pandemic. Something as little as giving them the power to choose their outfit will empower them to be who they want to be and to trust themselves. Yes, sometimes you’ll go on walks or to the store with your kid wearing the silliest outfit and people will stare at their Cinderella dress and bright pink tennis shoes. But seeing them express their individuality with pride through their clothes is 100% worth it.
2. Encourage them to form their own opinion
My go-to phrase for everything is “Awe, isn’t this so cool or pretty (or any other praise word you can think of)?” I recently noticed that by doing this I wasn’t giving them the chance to tell me how they really felt about whatever I was showing them. Giving them the opportunity to express themselves is teaching them that their voice matters.
When you give your children the confidence and trust to think for themselves, they will grow up knowing that their opinion matters. I’m not suggesting asking their opinion on whether they should have broccoli or candy with their chicken. We all know how that would end. Goodbye broccoli, hello candy. However, giving them the power to think for themselves and find self-worth in their own thoughts can truly make a difference.
3. Show them unconditional self-love
It’s important that we let our kids know that we will love them no matter what. Just as important, we need to show them that we love ourselves even when we make mistakes or fail.
The first experience they will have with self-love is through us, and it is up to us to show them what that looks like.
We tell our kids we love them a million times a day. On top of that, we show them by making sure they’re well taken care of. We feed them healthy foods, we put them down for naps, we make sure they’re healthy emotionally and physically.
Are we doing these same things to make sure we are well taken care of? Are we showing them what self-love is by loving ourselves unconditionally?
I get it. It’s hard! Showing love and kindness to others, especially our kids, is 100 times easier than showing it to ourselves. However, teaching them that we can love ourselves even when we don’t think we deserve it will teach them to do the same.
Two weeks ago, we were late on our way to the airport when I realized I had not packed any underwear. There was absolutely no time to go back. I was so frustrated with myself! I started being vocally unkind to myself because who forgets their underwear?! This girl.
My four year old daughter with her calm voice interrupted my self-pity party.
“Mami, don’t worry. We all make mistakes. You love me when I make mistakes, and we all still love you. You’re still the best.”
She was so confident in her words. She truly knew that our love or self-worth is not conditional. I saw her confidence shining through.
My goal is to raise strong, kind, happy, confident humans. While these three things may seem small or obvious, they can easily be overlooked. Sometimes the simplest things make the biggest impact.
Originally published August 2021.
The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ABQ Mom, its executive team, other contributors to the site, its sponsors or partners, or any organizations the aforementioned might be affiliated with.