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How to Raise Confident Children

Perhaps one of the most distressing things for me in practice is the alarming rate of anxiety and depression in adolescents and teens.  The core belief that underlies many mental health problems is the belief that you are not worthy.  Self esteem is a core value that helps to give us what some psychologists call “stress hardiness.” This can be one of the most difficult values to help develop in your child.  Is it all about praise and bolstering the ego of your child or is it more nuanced than this?

Praise can be a double-edged sword. Too much praise at every turn can make children “praise junkies”, training them to seek external validation. Instead, showing unconditional love can teach your child they are worthy in the face of both success and failure.

An easy way to provide opportunities for this? Encourage your child to do tasks around the house. Ongoing hands-on practise develops a feeling of competence by completing something and also bolsters their sense of worth.  It might mean tolerating tasks being done poorly but, over time, the sense of contributing to the household helps children feel like an integral part of the whole.  This mastery and competence is something they will carry into other situations.

The Canadian Mental Health Association suggests that the key is developing confident children. Here are some of the things that the Association says you can do to help raise confident—not coddled—kids:

  1. Celebrate the uniqueness- help your child discover their own special talents and encourage those rather than comparing to others.
  2. Set goals for mastering skills to encourage a sense of accomplishment.
  3. Try, try, again- encourage perseverance in the face of failure.

Finally, have self confidence in yourself as a parent and you will raise healthy, happy, children.

Dr. Bhooma Bhayana is a family physician in London and the mother of two young men and proud grandmother of three! She continues to find wonder and enjoyment in family practice despite more than 30 years on the job!


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