Previous Months' Topics

Raising Confident Kids

When it comes to child rearing, some parents add an eighth sacrament to the Church’s seven – the sacrament of affirmation. We all want our children to develop self-esteem, confidence and self-reliance, but we must understand that constantly affirming their actions and decisions is not the way to achieve this goal. In fact, if you praise your child for any effort – half-hearted, lackluster or wrong – he may come to conclude that his effort does not matter, and will come to rely on you, rather than himself, for setting goals and finding meaning.

When striving to raise confident kids, we do well to consider first why we would want to do this. What is this “confidence” that we seek to instill or nurture? What is the goal we want for our children?

Let us note from the start that there is a huge difference between confidence and cockiness, and between the kind of courage that comes from confidence and the rash bravery that comes from lack of knowledge of oneself or the situation at hand. William Bennett, a former secretary of the Department of Education, tells a story from the novel Moby Dick, in which the chief mate Starbuck describes the sailor he seeks: “ ‘I will have no man in my boat,’ said Starbuck, ‘who is not afraid of a whale.’ By this, he seemed to mean, not only that the most reliable and useful courage was that which arises from the fair estimation of the encountered peril, but that an utterly fearless man is a far more dangerous comrade than a coward.”

To distinguish true confidence from brashness, let’s also consider the Latin root of the word confidence: con (with) + fide (faith). That is, to act with faith; faith in oneself but most of all faith in God. The truly confident person is so, ultimately, not because of his own strength, good looks, talents and luck. He is confident because he recognizes the central role of God in his life, and is willing to give himself over to God in complete trust.

Here are some links on the Fathers for Good site to help you instill the right level of confidence in your kids:

Do you listen to your kids? Giving your time and attention will tell your child that he is worthwhile.

Do you discipline them with justice and mercy?

Do you offer religious formation and instruction? Even if you don’t know it all, you can convey the fact that God loves us with a never-ending love. This is the ultimate in confidence, with faith.

Do you provide a stable home life and a balanced worldview? Remember that the greatest gift a father can give his children is to love their mother.

Let us close with a simple observation by a child expert that is found on the website “Brainy Child.”

From my experience those children who do best at school and beyond the school years are those who have parents whose first response is to teach and support rather than protect or compensate when social, physical or intellectual challenges occur. It also helps to have parents who show absolute, unwavering confidence in a child's ability to cope and fend for him or herself, yet be wise enough to know when children need their help and compassionate enough to lend a hand once in while.