The Balancing Act: ‘How Can I Make My Child A Confident Adult?’
Every other week, Sonali Gupta draws on more than 10 years of experience as a clinical psychologist to give advice to readers with questions about parenting, family dynamics, relationships, mental health, and more.
Looking Ahead: I have a 3-year-old boy. My concern is, how can I make my child a confident adult?
Sonali: I love the question. Confident adults operate from a space of healthy self-esteem where they value their own abilities and believe in their potential. This starts from a healthy attachment between the caregiver and the child, which informs an infant’s trust in the world and in himself. Research shows that infants who are physically and emotionally tended to with warmth, soothing, and verbal and nonverbal communication are more likely to develop a secure and stable attachment. This sets the tone for our later relationships and also influences the way we love.
Read more on healthy baby-parent attachment on The Swaddle
As parents, it is important that you tell your son stories about not just your successes, but also your failures. When praising him, focus on the effort, rather than his inherent abilities. Allow your son to learn, participate, explore and learn from his mistakes. Research suggests that parents who constantly try to rescue their children negatively impact the child’s self-esteem and initiative.
When children feel heard, understood, and loved they begin to see themselves from a position of strength. As your son grows, help him to develop competence and special interests. Our sense of confidence also emerges from excelling and mastering skills. Allow him to take up little responsibilities at home, such as making a grocery list, packing his own school bag, helping clear the dinner table. These small steps will give him his first taste of independence and confidence.
Remember children learn most behaviours through role modelling, so your role as a parent is very crucial. If you, personally, struggle with low esteem, choose to work on it or seek a counsellor.
Ready To Read: What are the some of the books you would suggest for positive/healthy parenting?
There is no ideal or universal way of raising children. The ideal parenting style is a fine balance between the child’s temperament and your own personality. Any parenting style which helps the child grow emotionally, socially and develop his own potential would be healthy. However, some of my favourite books include:
- The Optimistic Child, by Martin Seligman. The book is based on research studies which focus on techniques that can help children challenge their negative thoughts. The book deals with learned optimism and teaches techniques that help children in developing resilience.
- NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children, by Po Johnson and Ashley MerryMan. This book is a wonderful mix of neuroscience findings, behavioural research and challenges many of the existing ideas about parenting.
- How to Talk to Kids So Kids Will Listen And Listen So Kids Will Talk, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, is a beautiful blend of practical advice and insight. The book aims to teach parents how to communicate effectively without criticizing and on difficult topics and to use alternatives to punishment. (If you have more than one child, you may also enjoy Siblings Without Rivalry by the same authors.)
- The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, by Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson. This book uses research to help parents understand how the brain works and how can we engage with our children to develop emotional intelligence.