When God chooses to gift us with children, our first responsibility is to keep them alive and healthy. Beyond that, the list of responsibilities may seem endless. And it’s easy to get overwhelmed and frustrated. So, we need a simple statement that’s easy to remember and that will keep us on track. Here’s what worked for my wife and me.
“Our job as parents is to give our children roots and wings.”
If we teach them self-confidence at home (roots), when they leave home (wings), self-confidence will sustain them when it’s time to fly solo.
- Express encouragement with words of affirmation
Most of us find it easy to gush encouraging words to toddlers when they take their first step, speak their first word, or use the potty the first time. But, we need more intentionality to keep it up as they mature. Who decided a 16-year-old needs any less encouragement and affirmation?
As a teenager, I discovered the joys of archery. My paternal granddad took me to a sports store to buy some arrows for my bow. When an employee came to help us, Pop (as we called him) said to the man, “He’s really good with that bow and arrow.” I knew he’d never actually seen me shoot it. But, his short, sincere words of affirmation made an impression I’ve never forgotten. His expression of confidence in me boosted my confidence in myself.
- Give them a secure home life
Or, shall we say, “Give them deep and healthy roots.” It’s often said, “The best thing a dad can do for his kids is to love their mamma.” When that’s the reality, everything else falls into place a lot easier.
We all make mistakes because none of us are perfect. Still, the most damaging force upon a child’s image of their home life is hypocrisy. Mistakes made by parents are really opportunities to admit fault and talk to kids about what actions would have been best in the situation.
- Look for teachable moments
Life with kids is full of perfect opportunities for parents to share their own values.
Sometimes those moments come from a negative source. Just watch TV or a movie with your kids and take the time to talk about whatever comes up that’s contrary to the values you want to teach them. Then, turn it into a positive learning experience.
It’s okay to manufacture teachable moments, too. Kids love it when the family takes part in what we call, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” That’s when we choose a needy family and secretly deliver a useful gift every day for 12 days leading up to Christmas.
Experiences like those allow kids to learn basic principles in a context they can relate to and put into practice.
- Guide them to choose friends who make them better people
As adults, we’ve learned that some relationships are toxic. Kids are not equipped to even know this, so we can’t expect them to always recognize them. Part of our job is to subtly help them toward more positive friendships.
A child who’s self-confident is likely to develop comfortable around friends who are a little smarter, more athletic, more sociable, etc.
My best friend in high school always made the A- honor role while I did not. Yet, we ended up making the same very respectable score on the ACT test. He’d unknowingly challenged me to excel.
- Challenge them often
They say trees need the force of wind to help them deepen their roots and stand straight and tall. The same principle applies to growing a strong self-confidence.
There is a fine line here that demands a degree of wisdom. No child benefits from being pushed too far and never living up to expectations from parents. But, as we pay attention and learn each child’s individual potential, we need to keep a constant nudge so they always do their best at whatever they do.
We all benefit from understanding that life never stops presenting us with more to learn and carry out. How dull it would be if that were not true!
- This article first appeared on GetConnectDad.com