As my children grow up, I am very concerned about how to raise confident kids so they feel empowered to stand up to others when their peers criticize , tease or push them to do “the wrong thing.” Since parents cannot (and shouldn’t) be with their kids 24/7, all we can do is give them the tools they will need to make informed decisions, even if everybody else around them is pressuring them to do things they don’t necessarily want to do.
My son is already 11 and in middle school, so he’s on the verge of tremendous changes that I’m not ready for. Knowing that as a family we have worked on having open channels of communication and ensuring that he and his 8-year-old sister know that we can discuss anything help me soothe my fears. Until know, this has allowed them to alert us when something has happened at school or at a party and that way we can talk it out, but always listening first to what they have to share.
However, I am totally aware that as my son enters adolescence, he’ll go through so many changes that it will get harder and harder to have the tough conversations. I’m mainly concerned about alcohol and substance abuse, since they are part of the world we live in. We have already explained to him why there are laws regulating drinking, drugs and prescription medications, so he knows what’s legal. On the other hand, he knows kids in high school drink alcohol sometimes and has also heard about marijuana, so we try to answer his questions as truthfully as we can. Every teachable moment we find, we focus on making him feel we trust him and that he should always follow his instincts if he wants to do something differently than the group he’s with. Our conversations with my daughter are bit different, since she’s younger, but in the end the motivation is the same: I want my kids to be able to look past peer pressure and know that they don’t have to cave in to fit in. It’s not necessary for them to get drunk or high to be cool.
As expert Julia V. Taylor –a school counselor and author of The Bullying Workbook for Teens, Salvaging Sisterhood, G.I.R.L.S: Group Counseling Activities for Enhancing Social and Emotional Development and a children’s book, Perfectly You— mentions, “belonging to a group sets the tone of adolescents’ everyday experience.” Building my kids’ self-confidence is key as they enter the tween and teen phase. Why is this so important? She says it better than I can in this video from the TalkEarly Summit:
So, raise your child’s confidence so it positively impacts the decisions he or she makes.
Another tip she shared is to apply what she calls reflective listening: listening to hear (as opposed to listening to speak) and then reflecting back what you heard to confirm you understand your child. Julia V. Taylor reminded me that sometimes kids just want to make sure we are listening to them, while at other times they do want our guidance. When in doubt, she suggests we ask our child whether they want our advice or just to hear them out.
How are you planning on raising confident kids? Do you have any tips or concerns? Chime in the comments section below.
If you need tips on how to approach conversations with your kids about alcohol, you can find more information about TalkEarly on The Century Council’s site, follow the conversation on Twitter and check out their boards on Pinterest.
Disclosure: as part of the #TalkEarly initiative, I have received compensation for my involvement, but this post reflects my personal opinions.