One of the most-shared parenting articles last year was the Maclean’s magazine cover article: The Collapse of Parenting: Why it’s time for parents to grow up. I am quoted in this article, although I don’t entirely agree with the way the content was weaved together or presented — I’m more of a fan of titles which help parents feel supported than berated.
The writer of that article discusses the negative impact of giving control of the family to the kids, and I’d like to expand upon that idea by suggesting how parents can be the leaders while still showing respect to the children. I believe the key to this is feeling confident in several important areas: our decision-making abilities, our good judgment, our ability to handle strong emotions, and our courage to sometimes just try something.
Self-confidence, the degree of confidence we have in ourselves, is the trust we have in our abilities and who we are. This is a bit different from self-esteem, which is the opinion we have of ourselves.
Our sense of that trust in our abilities (our capability), and how strong we are as people, affects how we behave, think, and feel. Higher self-confidence might give someone the boost to try something new, dismiss the negative opinion of others, embrace challenges, and help create realistic views and expectations. Lower self-confidence might stop people from parenting the way they see fit due to fear of the negative comments of others. People with low self-confidence also tend to have a hard time accepting themselves.
Thankfully, self-confidence can be learned and improved.
I believe that we parent with confidence when we raise our children from our positive core beliefs, not the negative ones, and when we focus on solutions that teach and respect the emotional development of children. A confident parent cares about the impact his or her parenting methods have on the children more than the judgment of others or that things need to be perfect. Those “mistakes” that we make are our teachers; confidence grows as we continually try and learn.
I believe aspiring to be a confident parent means trying to be a very brave one. This is because confidence and capability are connected—the more capable we feel, the more confident we are. Being brave means allowing ourselves to try parenting methods because they resonate at the time and then honestly evaluating how successful that approach was. It’s okay to recognize when something doesn’t go well and that you need to go back to the drawing board—it’s all part of the learning process.
Being a brave parent also means not being afraid of truly leading our children. Handing over too much control to kids actually creates stress for them. It’s okay if our children are mad at us when we won’t let them have four cookies. It’s also okay to make decisions for them, which can be infuriating for kids, because we truly believe it’s the best thing at the time.
Here are eight suggestions to increase your parenting confidence:
The way our minds evaluate situations and our own actions is based on the set of positive and negative core beliefs we have developed over our lifetime. Negative core beliefs can really hold us back, while positive ones can help us be strong. If you haven’t heard of negative or positive core beliefs before, I encourage you to read this post where I explain those, and also the first section of my eBook, where I very thoroughly examine how these beliefs affect our parenting and our children’s behaviour.
Whenever a negative assessment of yourself pops into your mind, challenge it. For example, if you tell yourself, “I can’t handle this crying—I just need it to stop!” Try coaching yourself through that. “I can handle this crying. I know that he has an unmet need, so I’ll just hold him and try to figure out what that is.” My favourite positive message to myself when a negative core belief rears its head is to tell myself, “I’m sorry, you can’t talk to me like that. I’m busy thinking about how to handle this situation.”
Challenges will happen. We can do it.
“You may not control all the evens that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” - Maya Angelou
Confidence can wane when it is time to stand tall and make decisions. Rather than getting sucked into drama (ours and other people’s), look at all the available options. If you aren’t sure you have thought of enough avenues, certainly ask for help. However, try to rely on your own judgment to make the final decision. Making this decision and living the consequences of it will teach you how to adjust your decision-making in the future. It’s okay if it doesn’t go well. You have many days with your children—a few rough ones will melt away into the wonderful ones.
There is a lot of parenting information on the Internet. Some of it is incredibly helpful, and some causes us to question our own good judgment, feel incapable, and unknowledgeable. Some of it is actually harmful! The writers of all this information have a vast range of training, education, experience, ability, and understanding of what “evidence-based” means. It is really hard to have purely evidence-based parenting information because the results of studies on people aren’t black and white, but those writers who do have a foundation in research-based information are more credible. When you read a post, look for the “About” section to see what that writer’s background is.
Yes, I believe it is important to have parenting education and to learn about child development, child safety, and emotional regulation—and to get this information from valid sources—but also to read everything with a critical eye. If an evidence-based method explained by someone with a post-doctorate in the field still doesn’t feel right for your child, trust that.
I mentioned in this post how to find gratitude on even the toughest days. Gratitude does actually increase happiness, and the happier we are, the more confident we are.
Also, being kind and generous to others improves our view of ourselves. We feel better when others around us feel the goodness of our spirit. Living in a kind, generous, and grateful way has the benefit of teaching our children how to do the same.
Confidence does really increase when we don’t feel afraid of big emotions and that we have a process in place to handle them. I suggest looking through this resource list if you'd like more information about emotion coaching.
As Brené Brown states in her book Rising Strong, “Our bodies are hardwired to protect—to run and fight.” We need to learn how to direct, control, and manage this instinctual drive so our rational thought can have its say before we resort to knee-jerk reactions.
Really stop caring about how others see you and care more about how you see you and how your kids see you. Are you happy with your behaviour and your child’s? Adjust and try new things as needed. Be you and carry on bravely. My favourite response to address my own timid thinking and others who might give me the hairy parenting eyeball is this—“I’m glad that is working for you. I’ll carry on doing this the way I like.”
Sleep enough, eat food that gives you energy, exercise, and go outside. These are all things that help us be at our parenting best.