You play such an important role in the way your child responds to the world. Your child will look to you as the example for how to treat other people and what they can expect out of their relationships with other people. As a parent, we want to make sure we are doing the best we can to give our child every advantage we can. So here are some tips to help you give your child the advantage of confidence.
1. Respect their feelings.
It's frustrating when we want out child to follow our agenda, but they are little people with their own ideas of what they want to do. While we shouldn't give into our children at every turn, we need to respect the fact that they have different feelings than we do. You might want your child to take a nap because it gives you a break, they need the rest and they're getting irritable. They don't want to take a nap because they don't want to lose out on play time.
Getting in the habit of talking it through with them, even if you think they don't understand you, shows that you understand their feelings. Saying "I know you're so excited and there is so much to do, but we will play when you wake up" is a great start. It shows them that you understand them without just trying to dominate them. It also teaches them how to be empathetic because you're setting the example of what how to discuss feelings.
2. Teach them to have power over their body.
My almost-two-year-old son and I play a game where I ask him if I can kiss, hug, squeeze or tickle him. If he signs please, I do it. If not, I say "ok" and the game repeats. It makes him laugh, especially when he agrees to be tickled, but it teaches him that he has the right to say no.
Many parents will ask their children to be smile, say hi and give physical affection to other people. If their child shies away from it, they often respond by saying "oh come on, you know this person. Can you say hi? No? I'm sorry, he's just feeling shy today for some reason.."If your child isn't feeling social, don't press it and don't apologize for your child's behavior. No one is entitled to their affection, and it's important to not have a reaction that undermines your child's feelings.
3. Give them responsibilities.
There is an aspect of Will Smith's parenting style that I really admire. He has said that he gives his children age-appropriate freedom, and if they can't handle that freedom, he withdraws it until they prove otherwise. It's not a punishment; it's an important lesson.
I know people who grew up painfully sheltered and when they went away to college, they cracked under the pressure of being on their own and moved back home. I know people who were so sheltered that they went wild in college because they suddenly had more freedom than they knew what to do with.
Do your child a favor and give them responsibilities starting at a young age and build up from there. A toddler is not too young to help clean up their toys and help put away laundry. If you start at a young age, you're less likely to experience a lot of resistance as they get older because they will understand that certain things are expected of them in order for them to have freedom.