Creating Confidence in Children

Encourage children through conversation says family expert Lindsay Melluish

Recently I was with a friend of mine who had broken her arm and was awaiting the operation to have the pins removed, now that it had healed. As we chatted I told her of the time when my five-year-old son broke his arm, had to have surgery and then, once it had healed, faced the same operation. The doctor at the hospital routinely said to me ‘We’ll need to book him for a general to get the pins out … we usually do that for children … unless they’re especially brave.’ I seized my opportunity, thinking that if a general anaesthetic could be avoided it should be and I said to my son with as much gusto as I could muster ‘You’re really brave aren’t you? Wouldn’t you like to try and do it without a general anaesthetic?’ So together we agreed we’d give it a go and if it was just too painful, the general it would be: 15 minutes later he was beaming all over and I was brimming with tears of pride as the whole thing was done and he was being rewarded in the café with a large hot chocolate!

On hearing that story my friend said, ‘How fantastic that you were able to empower him to go through with that. And the lovely thing is that every time he hears you telling that story, he is empowered again and his confidence grows.’ I hadn’t thought of that.

Often we think that confidence is something we either have or don’t have, a bit like a talent for music or an ability to make people laugh. But as I’ve thought about it, it has struck me that confidence is something that is either created or destroyed as we interact with other people.

Some people might say we shouldn’t need to depend on others’ encouragement or empowerment. I can’t agree. As the old saying goes, ‘A problem shared is a problem halved’. We’re made to be together, we’re made to need one another, and we’re meant to encourage (literally ‘put in courage’) and help one another.

How relevant that is for those of us who are raising children! We can be mums and dads who intentionally encourage and empower our children, co-creating with them the confidence to pursue hopes and dreams which might never have been possible had they not had us on their side spurring them on, believing they could do it.

Time to talk

That’s why it’s so important to create opportunities to talk with our children. Talking enables them to express themselves and share fears and anxieties which, once spoken out and understood, are often less debilitating. Talking enables us to listen to them, demonstrating that we value them both for who they are for what they have to say. Talking enables previous successes to be pointed out, strengths to be highlighted, solutions to be found to enable the future to open up.

Recently I sat on the bench in our garden with one of our children. We were talking about nothing in particular when suddenly the conversation went to an entirely different level. Out it all came about why my child had been fed-up a few days earlier (I had asked why at the time but had got no response) and I heard about a falling-out between friends as a result of some texts that had been sent. As I comforted my tearful child, I so wished this conversation could have happened at the time of the upset. Then we could have enabled courage to rise up, found a solution together and avoid what had been a fairly difficult school holiday for this particular member of our family.

Someone once said, ‘The meaning of life is not about what happens to people but what happens between people.’ So I ask myself this question: what’s happening between me and my children? You might want to answer that for yourself and your children. If talking is happening, your children will be benefiting from one of the most powerful tools we have for building relationship, for putting in courage, for creating confidence. You can be sure of that.

Encourage one another and build each other up…"
The Bible -- 1 Thessalonians 5:11