Instilling Confidence Even When Face Down on the Mat
There have been, and always will continue to be, times in our lives where life becomes the world's heavyweight champion. You’re in the ring, getting pummeled cheek to cheek and all you’re hoping for is that this opponent isn’t the Mike Tyson of challenges. With life comes challenges and setbacks. However, with each problem and setback comes opportunities for growth. Ali was not the world’s greatest fighter when he first stepped into the ring. He grew from every fight, and he gained confidence through each experience, whether a win or a loss. And that is where the secret to success is; when life's challenges knock you down, are you going to tap out or get up?
When we find ourselves lying face down on the mat, we need "confidence" to be the outstretched hand that helps us to our feet. But where does that come from? Confidence is built. Confidence is a day in and day out consistent pattern of learning. Learning from the successes and learning from the failures. When you have a booklet of memories of all of the things that did not work and of all the things that did work, you find yourself building a pretty great instruction manual for life.
But what if you’re new to the ring? When you’re a teenager, everything may feel like your next prominent opponent. Parents. Friends. School. And often all the challenges are new to them, making it even harder for teenagers to feel the confidence even to go try to write the great instruction manual for life. The manual requires wins and losses, but who wants to take the risk of losing? Luckily, building confidence becomes easier when they have role models like you, there to help. Role models that support and problem solve with them through the defeats and who also celebrate with them in the triumphs. Here are some useful tips to help your child write their best instruction manual.
Communication and Actions
Kids often reveal their thoughts and emotions through actions. Stay aware of your child's body language. Once you see them showing signs of sadness and discouragement (e.g., dropping their head, slowing down, or giving up), try shifting their focus. It's essential to identify their thoughts and help them change them. You can do this by labeling what their body language looks like to you (e.g., “when you have your head down like that, it seems like you might be sad”). You can also ask them open-ended questions to see how they may be feeling. For example, “how do you feel about your upcoming game?” As role models, you can also do this by showing your confidence in them through positive words, actions, and showing them that you believe in them. Remind them of past experiences, that went well for them or even past experiences where they persevered through a challenge. By stopping the cycle of negative thoughts in their minds through your words and actions, you start to plant the seed and germination process that leads to and instills the perpetual cycle of confidence.
Praise and Encourage
Kids tend to focus on what the completed outcome should be and set their expectations to achieve the desired result. They want and expect to be able to reach their aspirations because they see their role models and compare themselves to them. They don't take a step back to understand their role models have been practicing the skill every day for many years. We need to help restructure our youths’ focal points during their early developmental years. Instead of focusing on the desired outcome, we need to bring their attention to things such as their effort, their strengths, and the little wins that build up to reaching their goal.
Co-Write their Story
Once kids start to believe in a story about themselves, they begin to act as the main character within the story. If their story is about “not being good enough,” they will start to focus on and believe they are not good enough. We need to help our kids focus on building positive stories of themselves so that they act with confidence. Co-writers are there to help improve the story and to inspire the other by using positive language. Kids need co-writers. They pick up on our positive communication, and they start to use it within their self-talk. It's our responsibility to help lead our children to the best storyline they can write. Leading them can be achieved by asking targeted questions that highlight their strengths and resiliencies (e.g., “do you remember what happened when you kept studying for that tough biology test you had?”). You can also help them instill confidence in their own story by supporting the same storyline across all experiences. Wins or losses, ups, and downs help them find positives in both.
Furthermore, try to keep their story consistent. Stay consistent with how you define who they are; try to use empowering words and recent real-life examples. By doing these strategies, you can help your children create a healthy life story and continuously build their instruction manual for life.