What are some things we can do to help instill more confidence in kids at a young age? What are some ways we can recognize each and every child and let them know we see them for the beautiful, perfect human beings that they are?
I find a very easy approach is to let go of all preconceived ideas of who the child is and to become an unprejudiced observer of what is before you. The child will easily guide you to see who he/she is. If left to explore their world unhampered, children automatically develop confidence. Praise or criticism keep a child locked in and dependent on "outside approval/disapproval". Any situation in life can be a teaching moment, as Jeanne mentioned in her comment below, the words "I don't know, let's explore this together" - or "what do you think it could be?", "can you come up with ideas on how to find out?" trigger the child's resources and upon completion of a mainly independent research for example, the child will see what he/she has accomplished and thus confidence and independent thinking will grow. It is a most natural process. As parents we could try and tell our children everything - that they're beautiful, that they're smart, that they are strong, even perfect. Those are but words and will sometimes not be heard by our children, even if they are true. The experiential learning a child will automatically choose to undertake if left to his/her own demise is where it's at. Step back and allow the child to learn, don't help if the task can be accomplished by the child, just be there "in case" and try to be as unattached to the outcome of the child's exploration as you can be (I know that's the hard part) - it is uncanny how much children are able to "think outside the box" if left alone in this regard. Structure comes in, if behaviors are socially and morally unacceptable, not to stifle or "railroad" their learning paths.The main point here is: every child is an individual and will learn at his or her very own rate - adjust your responses and give your child the lead. Children learn best from peers and in groups, adults are not their peers.
I love the concept of self-generated learning. This carries the notion of responsibility for getting the best of the experience, both good and bad. The child has to be shown the benefits of the negative experience, and it is something not easily done, as mentioned by Claudia in the following statements:
"Step back and allow the child to learn, don't help if the task can be accomplished by the child, just be there "in case" and try to be as unattached to the outcome of the child's exploration as you can be (I know that's the hard part) - it is uncanny how much children are able to "think outside the box" if left alone in this regard."
However, I know that with that is also child generated frustration and recalcitrance. My kid often wants things done "his way." (A chip off the old block...Karma and God's will is quiet funny...HA!) However, as part of the learning process he is allowed to fail, and see that this process is just as instructive. When he is tired of getting that result, he often will then ask me for assistance, and shows receptiveness to learn a new way.
I'm in a situation with mostly divorced and differing parenting style by the mother, so I hope to show him that he can function well in his own efforts to negotiate the best of each parenting style. It sounds harsh, but he is doing quite well. I try not to burden him with adult realities, and allow him to be that fun loving kid he wants to be...
What's challenging is believing that God is taking care of us, irrespective of my efforts....
What great insight, and thank you all for contributing to this discussion. Isn't it funny in situations when sometimes the best action is no action? I have seen with my kids that their confidence goes up if I simply just comment on a little something about them each day ..just to let them know that I SEE them -- that's all. No gushing compliments or "you're the best" speeches. Kids can totally tell if you're really confident in them, or just trying to "prop" them up. They can quickly pick up on our own insecurity, and therefore, insincerity (albeit well intended) in our compliments. And yes... this is challenging because all I want to do is pour praises on my children and tell them how perfect and smart and beautiful they are and that they can do anything they want to do -- but until they discover this for themselves, these are simply words.