When I was in high school, I played Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz and ever since this story has had a special place in my heart. When I decided to write about encouraging confidence in children for this week’s teaching kids about character post, I thought that the Wiz was the perfect allegory for this concept.
What Does the Wizard of Oz Have to Do With Confidence?
If you think about it, each of the characters in The Wizard of Oz are searching for a different aspect of confidence.
Lion fluctuates between fearful and overly aggressive behaviour, because he lacks the confidence to face his fears.
Scarecrow is very intelligent, but lacks belief in himself, or self-confidence.
Tin Man searches for the confidence to know that expressing his unique feelings and sensitive side is okay.
Dorothy searches for the ability to follow her own heart and to learn how to stand up for what she believes is right with authority figures like the Wicked Witch and the Wizard himself.
All of the characters find their confidence along the journey, and they become more alive and more themselves as they do.
So many parents that I talk to 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 what Lion learned…
the ability to face your fears and try new things?
Is it what Scarecrow learned…
the ability to believe in yourself and be comfortable with your own abilities and strengths?
Is it what Tin Man learned…
the ability to express your feelings and thoughts, your true self, and not be afraid of how others see you?
Or is it what Dorothy learned…
the power to stand up for what you believe is right?
I think it is all four of the above!
A Personal Challenge
I want all four of these things for my son, and yet, I struggle with being the best role model for him.
You see, although my whole life people have commented to me about how confident I am (I can get up on stage and sing in front of thousands of people and not really feel too nervous), 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?
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 learn is that the kind of confidence that I want most for my son to have is assertiveness.
What is Assertiveness?
They know that they are a unique person with strengths and weaknesses, and don’t define themselves by others’ criteria. Because of this quality, they are not easily swayed by the opinions of others either. They trust themselves.
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 get their needs met in peaceful ways. 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!
How To Teach Assertiveness with 2 Simple Phrases
I found 2 very simple phrases that seem to work very nicely for a variety of situations that require assertiveness.
I started teaching my son these phrases as a toddler and now as a preschooler, I hear 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.
Teaching “I’m Not Done With That Yet”
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!
The first day I heard it come out – I was thrilled! I was teaching him to stand up for himself in a non-aggressive way!
My son is now a preschooler and I often hear these words come out when he’s playing in a group.
Parents can also use this phrase to remind their own children of another child’s needs.
Just this morning, when I saw Onetime 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!
Teaching “I Need More Space”
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.
What Do These Phrases Teach?
My son is learning to be courageous, instead of aggressive, when his boundaries are crossed.
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 boosts self-confidence.
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 when they have been crossed.
I think I’m on the right track – although I know it will be a constant journey to help 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 leave a comment below and let’s share our ideas with each other!
And remember, if you want to follow along on this alphabetic journey Teaching Kids About Character, be sure to follow our Pinterest board below – and check out my 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!)
A big thanks to the PODcast blog for the inspiration for this series. Special thanks to The Fraser Image for the Dorothy and Glinda photo!