I usually try to do something productive during James’s long morning nap…but sometimes, if it’s been a rough night, I am just too tired. Last week I was having one of these days and decided it was the perfect time to watch Finding Dory. I love children’s movies and was way too excited when I saw that this was available on Netflix!
I absolutely loved the movie, but one line has really stuck in my mind for some reason: “Don’t be such a Dory, Dory.” For those of you who haven’t seen the movie (you really should!), the main character says this to herself when she is frustrated by her inability to remember something. Maybe it was just my sleep deprivation, but this line made me so sad and really got me thinking about the importance of cultivating confidence and self-love. There are a few things I’m trying to do to help little James develop a positive self-image.
Modeling Positive Self-talk
I see James watching me constantly and know that he is taking in everything around him. What an awesome (terrifying?) responsibility to be someone’s role model for how to be in the world. With this in mind, I’ve been trying to be intentional with how I talk about myself. I admit this feels a bit silly sometimes. For example, I might say to him, “I’m proud of myself for running this morning when I felt really tired. I feel so strong now.” Negative self-talk is so prevalent in our society and I want to show him that it’s okay (even great!) to feel proud of himself and to be confident. Along similar lines, I try to mention when I’ve “failed” at something or made a mistake, and state that it’s okay. For example, “Whoops, I left too late for story hour and now we’re late. That’s okay, I’m sure they’ll still be happy to see us. We’ll just leave earlier next time.” I personally have a huge fear of failure, which has definitely held me back from trying new things at times. I want to do what I can to show him that mistakes are a part of life and the important thing is to learn from them.
I also absolutely love a music company called Growing Sound. Their goal is to spread positive self-talk in children through song. I loved using their songs in the classroom when I taught and love playing them / singing them for James. It’s definitely worth it to buy their cds, but you can also stream all of their music online for free, which is pretty amazing! They have a song called “I Can do It,” and I actually heard one of the girls in my class singing it to herself when she was struggling with something one time – it was pretty incredible!
Growth mindset – Praising Effort
We talked a lot about growth mindset in my Montessori training, and also used the concepts in the school where I taught. I can’t do this justice without making this a ten page post, but the basic idea is that it is important to praise effort rather than results. This helps instill in children the belief that they can improve and the understanding that making mistakes is part of that improvement. I have found this to be more difficult with my own son than it was in the classroom – I want to tell him he is wonderful and amazing all of the time! I try to focus on acknowledging his effort though. I tell him I see him working hard at learning to crawl and that he should be proud of himself. I am obviously proud of him every day for ridiculously simple things, but I don’t want him to get the idea that he needs to do things to make me proud.
Avoiding Name Shaming
This is the idea of protecting a child’s name as a key part of his identity, and thus avoiding using it in a negative way. To protect his name, you would avoid using it in a negative way or when correcting behavior, to prevent the child from having negative associations with his own name. This honestly hasn’t come up yet, as James is much too young to “misbehave”. I do think it is important though and plan to try my best to avoid it as he grows. For example, I would try to say, “we walk in the grocery store,” instead of “Stop running James!”
I don’t know how much of a difference any of this makes at this point. I do know that I am forming my parenting habits and language now and it will be easier to start these practices from the beginning than to change habits later on. I want to do whatever I can to keep him smiling when he sees his reflection in the mirror 🙂
Does anyone have experience with supporting self-confidence in children?