When I was in high school, I played the role of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz and ever since then this story has had a special place in my heart. When I decided to write about encouraging confidence in children for this week’s alphabet project assignment, I thought that the Wiz was the perfect allegory for this concept.
If you think about it, every character in The Wizard is representative of a different aspect of confidence.
The Lion is openly fearful and overly aggressive, because he thinks he lacks courage (a form of confidence).
The Scarecrow is really intelligent, but lacks self-confidence to believe in himself until he receives a diploma.
The Tin Man wants the confidence to know that expressing his unique feelings is okay.
Dorothy is the only one who seems to have confidence in abundance and that’s part of why the character is so appealing! She has spunk! Even the Wicked Witch seems to recognize this and that’s why she views Dorothy as a threat.
So many moms that I have talked to at parenting workshops (including myself) say that they want their children to grow up to be confident. But what does this really mean? What exactly IS confidence? And how do you encourage it in your child?
Is it the ability to face your fears and try new things (think: the Lion)?
Is it the ability to BELIEVE in yourself and be confident in your own abilities and strengths and faults (think: the Scarecrow?)
OR Is it the ability to express your feelings and thoughts, your true self, and not be afraid of how others will view you (think: the TinMan?).
Or is it some indefinable “spunkiness” that draws others to you and makes you powerful (like Dorothy?)
I believe it is all of the above!
My difficulty is that although I want all four of these things for my son, I know I’m not the best role model for him.
You see, although my whole life, people have often commented on how confident I am, (I can get up on stage and sing in front of thousands of people and not really feel too nervous), things are different for me when I am just being “myself.”
I struggle with self-confidence. I often have to force myself to try new things. I have difficulty expressing my true feelings and opinions to others, and I care way too much about what others think of me. What can I do to help my son develop self-confidence in himself?
Well – as I’ve mentioned before in this blog, when I have a problem and I don’t know how to fix it – I READ! What I’ve come to see is that the kind of confidence that I want most for my son to have, can also be viewed as Assertiveness.
Assertive people stand up for themselves when they are being bullied. They don’t allow themselves to be walked over by others, or easily swayed by the opinions of others. They know that they are a unique person with strengths and weaknesses, and don’t define themselves by others’ criteria. They feel comfortable expressing their true thoughts and feelings respectfully, but clearly, with others.
They don’t need to be aggressive, because they know they can be heard another way. They don’t revert to being passive when they’re not heard, they just repeat themselves even louder and more assertively. This is what I want for my son!
So – what am I doing to teach these skills? I found 2 very simple phrases that seem to work very nicely for a variety of situations with my son.
I started teaching him these phrases when he was a toddler and now as a 2.5 year old preschooler, I have heard him use them himself and he seems to have a real understanding of what they mean.
Here they are: “I’m not done with that yet!” and “I need more space.”
Here’s how you can use them. When my son, Onetime, was a toddler, bigger kids used to walk over to him and take toys out of his hands and he would just shrug it off and walk away.
I was worried that he wasn’t standing up for himself – although I WAS awfully glad that he wasn’t being aggressive back! (although I figured it was only a matter of time.) I wanted to give him some words to say when this happened.
So, I started to say the words FOR him.
Situation: Older child walks over and takes Onetime’s toy. I say, “Onetime… say I’m not done with that yet.”
The other child would hear my words and 99 out of 100 times would give back the toy!
My son is now a preschooler and I often hear these words come out when he’s playing in a group. However, now he has started trying to take things away from other kids….
Just this morning, when I saw him take a toy away from his friend, I said, “Onetime… Jake wasn’t done with that yet” and he returned the toy – easy as pie! It works both ways!
The second phrase, “I need more space” is great for situations where your child is being crowded or “handled” by another child.
Situation: Onetime is playing on the gross-motor mats at the early years centre. Then another older, larger boy comes over and kind of corners him in. I see the look of discomfort and fear on my son’s face and I prompt, “Onetime… say “I need more space!”
“Space!” was about all that came out the first time, but it was loud! And effective! The other boy backed off and gave him enough room to continue his play.
Again, I regularly hear this one come out of his mouth now as a preschooler, and it’s a really assertive way for him to speak up for himself and his needs.
I also use this same phrase as a reminder to my own son when he puts his hands on other children to try to move them out of his way, or to go somewhere with him. “He needs more space, honey! Use your words.” It’s just a really easy phrase to remember that suits so many different situations.
My son is learning to be courageous (like Lion), instead of aggressive, in the face of a possible bully.
He is learning that his words can make an impact on others and when he sees that they are effective, he learns that he is capable of dealing with problems himself which will only boost self-confidence (like Scarecrow).
When he says he needs more space, he is learning that it is okay to draw his own unique limits and to speak up for them (like TinMan) when they have been crossed.
I think I’m on the right track – although I know it will be a constant journey in helping him find that confidence which I still struggle to find for myself sometimes.
I would truly LOVE to hear your thoughts on these ideas and to hear any ways that you have used to try and teach your kids to have confidence. Please join in the discussion on Facebook or in the comment section below and let’s share our ideas with each other!
And remember, if you want to follow along on our alphabetic journey “Teaching Kids About Character,” be sure to follow our Pinterest board below – and check out our previous posts: A is for Adventurous and B is for Behaved!
Thank you for humouring my Wizard of Oz analogy and Oh, …There’s no place like home! (had to be said!)
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A big thanks to the PODcast blog for the inspiration for this series! Check out their photographic alphabetic journey!
Special thanks to The Fraser Image for the Dorothy and Glinda photo!