A confident person is an effective person. Confidence means understanding your purpose in life, making the most of every opportunity, and regarding others with empathy rather than rivalry.
It’s never too early to start building a confident mindset. Here’s how to help your kids build theirs:
1. Don’t Do for Them What They Want to Do for Themselves
Most parents need the patience of Job to watch quietly while a child struggles with the new-to-her procedure of handling a spoon, getting dressed, or making a bed. Nonetheless, let her take whatever initiative she desires. (The obvious exception is when there’s risk of major injury or breakage—so keep your childproofing up to date.) If you jump in to speed things along, you may wind up in a two-person civil war—or, worse, your child may conclude she’ll never be "good enough", and give up trying new things (to the point of being totally "uncooperative" when you decide she’s ready to help with chores).
2. Don’t Do for Them What They Can Do for Themselves
If your child already has the "why should I bother" mindset, the temptation is to do things yourself to save “trouble”—which only slides you both into long-term "Mom does everything" thinking. If gentle encouragement doesn’t get a child started, make a game out of learning (remember the "Over–Under–Around–and Through" approach to shoe-tying?). If all else fails, tell the child he can try again when he’s ready, and leave the task undone for the time being.
3. Emphasize the Positive
Of course, the "try again later" approach only helps when you avoid dwelling on the inconvenience it’s causing you. This avoid-dwelling-on-the-negative concept also applies to anything that gets "finished" with results you find amateurish. The instinctive response—personally straightening out the mess right then—is the worst thing you can do; to the child, you’re effectively shouting, "You’ll never get it right!" Compliment some specific good points in the results, and if you must straighten things out, do it when the child isn’t looking. Minimizing imperfections will not make your child complacent: quite the reverse, the more you both focus on successes, the more successful her overall performance will become.
4. Provide Opportunities to Try New Things
As children grow beyond learning basic life skills, they begin to develop individual talents and interests. Talk with your child and learn what great achievements he dreams of, what stirs his deepest passions. Then help him locate (or create) activities and projects that nurture those dreams. Encourage him to get into clubs, do volunteer work, make long-term plans—and never tell him he’s "too young to think about that yet"!
5. Don’t Overdo the Opportunities
Of course, there is such a thing as taking on too much—although it happens less often to confident people who know their priorities. You can reduce the risk of overload by letting your child make most commitments herself; in other words, don’t sign her up for things without her enthusiastic consent. Give her the privilege of setting her own limits, and she’ll be more confident (and effective) all her life.