Home business, home education and health challenges: what makes us tic?

Posts tagged ‘confidence’


When dealing with people, it can be helpful to understand how they see us.

It’s not that we’re trying to change how they see us. We’re not here to change anyone but ourselves, and people’s perceptions are part of who they are … Although we can change what they see. That’s a subject for another day.

Let’s start by considering what people see when they see us.

We tend to be so self-absorbed, thinking every person who ever glances our way is watching us; judging us.

The truth is, for the most part, they’re too busy fearing your judgment to even notice that there’s anything about you for them to judge.

On the whole, people tend to believe that everyone they meet is more confident, more “together”, than they themselves are. While this is typically not the case, it does present a powerful opportunity.

Fake it till you make it.

Since everyone you meet probably assumes that you’re confident and smart and have all your shizz figured out, you may as well act like it’s true. And – who knows? Maybe your brain will believe your actions and, the next thing you know, you really are all confident and figured-out-y. It could happen.

You might even discover that you really do know more than you thought you did … and that your confidence is well-placed.

Besides, what have you got to lose? No one knows any better.

Most people are too busy worrying about you judging them to have any time left to judge you

Praiseworthy Praise

A recent post on Circle of Moms got me thinking. The article deals with the potential harmful side effects of praising our children. In our day and age, where there is so much focus on the necessity of good self esteem in children (and adults), an article like this can often be viewed with suspicion or even outright cynicism. However, it makes a good point: too much meaningless, non-specific praise can confuse children and diminish the value of the praise itself.

I know I would love to hear, over and over, that I am clever/valuable/beautiful etc. But I also know that when I do hear those things, the words have a profound effect on me, and I treasure the moment for a long time.

When Goldilocks was a baby, she actually thought her name was “Gorgeous”. When she went to preschool for the first time, she didn’t know who the teacher was talking to when she was called by her real name. We had to teach her to respond to her own name, and the word “gorgeous” really didn’t have much meaning for her. Even though we felt it was true, how do you explain the concept of gorgeousness to a one-and-a-half year old, to whom it has no more meaning than Fred or Georgia?

That set me thinking. I want my children to be confident and secure, but with good reason. I want them to do their best, and I began to realise that lavishing praise on what I know is a mediocre effort on their part, is actually extremely counter-productive. For one thing, they feel no drive to perform at their full potential, since any effort at all receives abundant recognition. Secondly, not receiving abundant recognition for any effort (even the poorest) cause exactly the lack of self esteem and confidence I’ve been trying to avoid!

Since I’ve been home educating my darling daughters, I can no longer praise every effort. Praising extremely messy handwriting, poorly composed stories, or unfinished arithmetic result in below-par students who will, ultimately, lack the important skills needed t0 do well in college and later on, in life. I now see more clearly how damaging it has been to do so in the past, too.  I’ve had to unlearn a lot of bad habits, and encourage the girls to understand that their best efforts receive the best rewards. Mediocre efforts are appreciated (more than no effort at all, you see), but when I know they can do better I need to be honest with them.

We have tried more and more, as they get older, to be specific in our praise. So for instance, a very messy colouring picture may still demonstrate good use of line or great application of colour. I would say that (in those terms). Now, as teacher as well as parent, I will take it further, by taking the time to demonstrate how it could be improved. An interesting result has been seeing each child take the time to make the suggested improvements herself. When she then sees the results of her efforts, she knows she has done better. She is satisfied.

In fact, so much of the praise we have given in the past has fallen flat and even contributed to increased insecurity, because they knew the work could be improved but lacked the tools for making these improvements. Now, confidence comes from a job well done, and is intrinsic in each daughter herself, not as a result of empty-though-well-intentioned phrases that sound hollow even in their young, innocent ears.

We still get it wrong. I hate to see them anything less than overflowing with joy and enthusiasm, and I often fall into the trap of thinking that heaping praise on their pretty heads will achieve that. I am reminded of my mistake when my adoring “You’re so incredibly pretty, my darling” is met with a rather tired, exasperated and almost sarcastic, “thanks mom, I know. You already told me.” Certainly, they know that I adore them. Isn’t that my job, though? Does it not serve them better to know that they are strong, capable, and equipped for life?

Only strengthening them, teaching them, and actually equipping them for life will achieve that. That is how we truly build our children’s self-esteem.

5 Home School Myths

Here’s another great article I stumbled across recently: http://www.parent24.com/School_7-12/development_behaviour/5-home-school-myths-busted-20090423

It’s called “5 home school myths busted” and it deals with some of the most commonly raised objections to home school that home school families face.

The number one objection we hear is the “no social interaction” issue. I’ve commented on this before, so I’ll just say that the girls are very social, and more confident than they’ve been since starting “school” 7-odd years ago. My theory is that in any school structure, each child is encouraged to discover where she fits into the group. She quickly needs to identify what she brings to the party, and what people will like/dislike. Often this identification is done for the child by the peer group, and from what I can tell, it sticks. So a bright child with a love of technology becomes the “geek”, in extreme cases even socially outcast. And while sporty kids can be popular, sometimes they’re labelled “dumb jock” and never seem to get a chance to prove otherwise.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m a firm believer that we make our perceptions of ourselves and our lives. We decide a lot of who we turn out to be, and how we respond to others. But that notwithstanding, for a small child to stand up to a large group of people whose opinions he or she values can be asking a lot. Eventually what the group says becomes truth for that person.

In other words, your entire identity is determined by a bunch of 5-year-olds who’re still learning the basics of toilet etiquette.

On the other hand, here at home my children are free to explore who they are. They can experiment safely with a range of life experiences, and decide what they like and what they don’t. So my “girly girl” can climb trees and be a tom boy and see what that’s like. My tomboy scientist can kick a soccer ball around and decide if that works for her. No one is saying “you can’t” or “it’s not really you” or “what are you trying to prove?”. As a result, they’re developing a strong sense of self that is independent of the views and judgments of others.

Obviously this doesn’t happen in a vaccuum. DH and I have ongoing input, sharing our thoughts and opinions as honestly and lovingly as years of training (and therapy :)) allow. The difference is that we have their best interests at heart, and no one on earth could possible care about them as much as we can. This unconditional love (as unconditional as a finite human can manage) goes a long way towards giving them the space and courage to work out who they want to be without fear.

And the result: the girls are more relaxed, more confident and, interestingly, more thoughtful and polite than ever before. They’ve always been a delight (an answer to very specific prayer there), and now this is true even more than ever.

What a blessing.

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