As parents, God has entrusted you with the most important job. His command is that you teach your children everything that is good, including telling them about Who He is and What He has done. It’s good for children to know that you love them for being who they are without having to perform for your love, yet this – alone – won’t give them the confidence that they need as they grow to be an adult.
Recent studies show that many girls base their confidence on their external appearance. God’s description of beauty vastly differs than societys “Your adornment must not be merely external– braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.” 1 Peter 3:4
Reality shows have shown the world that irregardless of how many nips, tucks, plucks, peals, lifts, or injections one may receive, the finest physician cannot hide what’s inside. This is why those who are kind, loving, compassionate, and altruistic radiate with a beauty that no physician can match.
Research has shown that when girls place their self-image on how they look, or their external appearance, the results are disastrous. The same problems are now afflicting young men.
What Can You Do?
- Focus On Goals And Accomplishments: Whenever the topic of looks, dress/pant size, or appearance comes up, gently guide the topic away and focus about goals and plans. Be a role model yourself and share with your child your pride in accomplishing a goal. By talking more about personal achievements and less about appearance, you will help your child develop personal beliefs that are formed on what she accomplishes.
- Give Praise that is Specific, Affirming and Earned: Everyone likes to be encouraged, especially children. However if you constantly praise your child not every accolade will boost their self-image. The secret of effective praise is to look for a special talent, skill, passion or trait that they exhibit. Maybe she automatically fixes her bed in the morning without being asked, or maybe she’s kind, thoughtful, respectful, or takes her plate to the kitchen after supper is over.
Next, find a moment when they demonstrate this talent. (i.e., “Lucy, you are so thoughtful and kind to wait by the bus and walk home with Timmy!”) Praise the same talent or skill over the next few weeks. It takes a minimum of 21 days for a new behavior to form into a habit. You know your child has internalized your praise when they acknowledge their talent. Then you can move onto helping him develop another positive belief about himself!
- Help Your Child Believe In Their Ability To Problem Solve: Pencils come with erasers for a reason. You make mistakes – and that’s how you learn. When your child makes a mistake, remain calm and keep your tone non-judgemental. (Your children will be watching your facial expressions, body language, and your tone of voice.) It’s important that you remain calm. Help her focus on what she desires to achieve. You can even say, “Well, now you learned one way that doesn’t work!” (That’s similar to the scientific method of trial and error.) Ask her, “What will you do differently now?” Most importantly, it’s essential that you convey to her that you believe in her – that she can do it. “Hang in there Brenda, you can do it!”
As a parent, you have countless interactions and opportunities with your child everyday to reinforce their self-beliefs. Your expectations, your attitude, your tone of voice, facial expressions, body language and words can instill in your children an unshakeable confidence or chip away at their beliefs about themselves.
One of the most important questions to ask yourself at the end of each day is this: “If my child’s self-beliefs were based only on my words and actions today, what would she believe about herself?”
“Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
May your children grow to be confident in who God created them to be.
Christy Demetriades, Ph.D.