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Giving Kids the Gift of Lasting Confidence

How to empower children to reach for their dreams.

Parents want to protect their children. They do everything they can to make sure they grow up safe and ready for the world. At least that’s their intention. However, many parents are so concerned with their child’s well-being, that they may stifle them in damaging ways that can be avoided.

Overprotecting a child is one of the ways in which children are hindered as they develop. As children grow, they have a need to explore their surroundings and try new things. When they grow up feeling secure, loved, and have good boundaries in place, they then have the courage to explore their world and examine what they want in their lives.

Unfortunately, when children are overprotected, they may feel that they are not safe taking chances, and instead hold back and take the safest route rather than the one they truly would want to explore. This is the difference between a child developing a natural curiosity and desire for what makes them happy in life, and a child that takes the first safe path that is offered to him or her, so as not to feel at risk.

Children often start out in life feeling free and unencumbered by adult judgments. That’s why young children often act silly, dance, and make funny faces. They don’t worry about what others think of these behaviors and feel free to act without worrying about the judgment of others. While this is how children start out, all it takes is one bad experience to start shutting them down and closing off their sense of freedom of expression. Something as small as one teacher telling them their drawing is not very good or a family member making fun of the way they dance can crush a child’s spirit so they no longer engage in the activity. One or two judgmental experiences is often all it takes for a child to start to internalize that something is wrong with them; that they are not “okay” unless they do what everyone else is doing and stop standing out from the other kids.

This is the tragedy of criticism and judgment. Children are free until someone, an adult or another child lets them know that they are not accepted for who they are. This “shutting down” of a child’s free expression is a tragedy. How many children never grew up reaching for their dreams because they were shut down as children; told they were not good enough, or that they should stop their silly behaviors? It happens all the time. Children learn to play it safe and may never take risks for fear they might fail.

Remember when you were a child? Remember the freedom you felt? You may even remember the first time someone passed judgment on you. Perhaps you were told that your behavior was immature, or you felt criticized and unaccepted. To raise happy children, they have to have to believe they are accepted. They have to feel that their efforts have value and that their dreams matter. This is the way that children grow into adults that can have the courage to pursue their own goals and believe enough in themselves to achieve them.

As they grow, children are like sponges and are absorbing how people treat them. We all want our children to grow into responsible adults and as such need to create boundaries that make clear our expectations. However, along with being responsible, children need to develop enough confidence to explore their own interests and passions. This helps them grow into adults who can reach for their dreams. Confidence in themselves is what helps people have the courage to not settle for what’s easy, but instead, go for what matters to them. Early acceptance of them can make a huge difference in helping children maintain the energy and excitement of their youth while they’re developing into responsible adults.