I reflect daily. I write a journal, and I’ve noticed a new theme in my writing. I’m grumbling a lot and it’s got me thinking – have I become a female version of Victor Meldrew??

For those of you too young to know – he was a character in a television sitcom who epitomised the stereotype of a grumpy old man with his catchphrase  “I don’t believe it”!

Why am I talking about this and how does it relate to parenting??

As I’ve got older I’m aware I worry less about what others think. Now this doesn’t mean I don’t value peoples opinions. I do. However, I am no longer riddled with the paralysing self-doubt which comes when we worry about how others judge us. I speak my mind, respectfully, and I am no longer worried about whether people like me or not. I simply hold the view that I won’t be everyone cup of tea and that’s absolutely fine by me. 

I’m convinced this freedom comes to all of us In time. 

Yet wouldn’t it be incredible if we could somehow teach this to our angst ridden children and teens so they can truly step into who they are, and not who they think others want them to be? Banishing self-doubt and replacing it with self-belief?? 

Our children are growing up in an age of social media, reality television, and unprecedented access into the lives of celebrities where judgement is rife. It’s everywhere. It leaves them anxious in social situations, second guessing their behaviour, and continually replaying their actions and questioning what they could or should have said. It’s a similar story for many adults. 

I’ve given this a great deal of thought these past few days and here are the core three strategies I suggest you try, in this particular order. These are going to take consistent practice, and some dedication. The rewards however are freedom, and doesn’t everyone want that??

Help your child identify their unique qualities

Confidence always starts from the inside. Helping our children and teens recognise their own unique qualities is therefore key. They might find this difficult – we don’t often encourage our children to sit down and reflect on who they are and you are likely to come across some resistance. Start by identifying your 10 core qualities; mine are trustworthy, kind, loyal, determined, empathetic, sensitive, passionate, caring, confident, driven. Then ask your child what theirs are. If they struggle, and I would imagine they will find this hard at first, ask them to choose five instead of 10 and maybe use yours as a reference point. Once they have identified these core qualities move onto the next step. 

Set regular goals

Now ask your child to think of 2 core qualities they wish they had, which they don’t believe they have right now. Again, start with yourself. Mine would be organisation and calmness (I love being frenetic which isn’t conducive with calm for anyone who gets caught in my wake!). Ask your child to make a commitment to work on one of these core qualities for two weeks. If for example they choose confidence – ask them what a confident person might do, what are the sorts of things they might say and how might they behave? Then agree a series of challenges which push your child slightly out of their comfort zone, but don’t overwhelm them. Allowing them to build on their core quality in small manageable chunks. 

Understand their internal chatter

This is such a key lesson to teach our children. We all have an internal dialogue; one which narrates our every move. It’s normal and typically goes unnoticed when we’re doing something we feel super confident in. However, when we are stressed, nervous, or in a situation we feel less than comfortable in, our internal chatter gets loud!! It tells us we can’t do this, people don’t like us, we are never going to make friends, we aren’t good enough. It sounds like us, because it’s in our head, so we think what it’s telling us is true BUT these are simply thoughts, and thoughts aren’t truths. Ask your child to write down three of the typical self-critical comments which show up for them most often when they are presented with a situation which feels overwhelming then ask them to reframe it. If they are riddled with doubt about friendships they may reframe their negative chatter to “not everyone is going to like me and that’s ok”, or if they worry at night they might choose “I’m safe”. Encourage them to use their reframed mantra’s regularly as they focus on their goals. 

Now I know some of you will be reading this and thinking, it’s well and good for you Maryhan to say these things but I can’t get my child to sit down and have a conversation with me, let alone discuss building up their confidence!! My reply would be simply take your time, know what you’re heading towards and take small steps each day in the direction of these three tasks. Confidence isn’t built in a day – it’s a lifetime pursuit. Communication is key, so just start an honest conversation when the time is right. Tell your children about your own personal struggles and how you have overcome them. Be honest that you are still a work in progress, and you just might get them to open up more. 

It’s worth at least a try isn’t it????

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