Our parenting culture is obsessed with instilling confidence in our children and figuring out how to raise confident kids. The effects of this have been much discussed and debated, but I think it comes down to this: we want our kids to know their worth, to know that they are capable and worthy of achieving great things. I don’t believe that any loving parent wants their child to have a false sense of confidence, based on empty praise, but sometimes our parenting begins to look that way.
I once heard a woman say, that rather than trying to instill confidence in her kids, she had determined to be intentional about helping her kids to become competent individuals. That really resonated with me. Because, that’s where true confidence comes from, isn’t it? We know that from our own lives. We feel most confident when we believe, based on previous experience, that we are capable of tackling whatever task is at hand.
Praising a 7 year old for a mediocre crayon drawing is not going to instill any true confidence. Our kids are smarter than that. I do believe that we ought to encourage that not-so-artistic 7 year old, but it should be done honestly. So rather than saying, “Wow Johnny! That is the best drawing of a triceratops I’ve ever seen!” It might be kinder, healthier, and ultimately breed more true confidence to say, “Johnny, you have been working so hard on that picture! I love your sticktoitivesness! Those colors are great.” Let’s face it, our kids quickly learn just where they stand artistically, athletically and academically among their peers.
Teaching them to become competent will enable them to succeed in the real world. Teaching our kids to do age-appropriate tasks, and training them to do them well, will result in kids who can see with their own eyes that they are capable of handling whatever life throws at them. So, what are age-appropriate tasks? Here are just a few ideas:
2-4 Years Old Age Appropriate Tasks
-Put away toys
-Put dirty clothes in hamper
-Wipe up spills
5-7 Years Old Appropriate Tasks
-Help set the table
-Help sweep floors
-Get the mail
8-10 Years Old Appropriate Tasks
-Set the table
-Help wash the dishes
-Shovel snow/rake leaves
Don’t misunderstand me- choosing to raise truly competent kids rather than raising them with a false sense of confidence is going to take a lot of work and a little patience! A four year old’s folded laundry looks quite different than mommy’s folded laundry! But let’s stick with it, mamas! Let’s raise our kids to know the truth- that they can accomplish great things, not necessarily because they are naturally the best at everything, but because they have been raised to be confident, hard-working individuals.