How to Help Your Child Feel Confident

From Parents Magazine

The key to raising a well-rounded child is to establish a solid support system at home so that she grows up satisfied with her achievements and ambitions. Your goal is to help your child feel competent and confident, and to help her develop a sense of passion and purpose. Consider these seven techniques if you're looking to raise a child who is well-balanced, healthy and happy with her accomplishments.

Encourage special skills.

Every child has unique gifts and talents. These special attributes can show up in a traditional school setting, but there are plenty of children who shine after the final bell has rung for the day. Activities like a mommy-and-me music class or karate lessons can open their minds, but necessitate opening your wallet too. So don't underestimate the power of unstructured play. Playing catch in the yard, dancing in the living room and chasing after lightning bugs provide opportunities for intellectual, physical and personal development. 

Applaud and praise efforts.

When it comes to parenting, try praising your child for his hard work instead of labeling him as "smart" or "talented." People with a fixed mind-set are usually reluctant to take on challenges because they believe their achievements come from innate abilities. Those with a growth mind-set are usually more willing to face challenges with hard work because they believe in always learning new skills. 

Respect different learning styles.

Just because you need complete silence while typing an email or balancing your checkbook doesn't mean your child needs a noise-free environment when doing his homeowork. The trick is to pay attention to how your child learns best so you can identify her specific learning style. For example, if your school-age child is visual, consider using flash cards when she's trying to memorize multiplication tables. If your child falls into the interpersonal intelligence category (that is, he has people smarts), help him improve his vocabulary by connecting descriptive words to people like friends, relatives and historical figures.

Read, read, read.

When it comes to picking up a book and having story time with your kid, there is no such thing as starting too early. Reading to preschoolers—and keeping books at home—encourages language development, reading skills and future success in school. Even if your child is still too young to understand everything you're saying, he will learn to notice the rhythms of language, which will help him build a listening vocabulary.

Eat dinner together.

Don't worry if cooking isn't your strongest skill—your child will reap the educational and emotional rewards from conversation, not chicken cacciatore. Informal discussion topics ("How was your day?" "What are you discussing in science?" "How will you study for that test?") lets your child know your family places value on learning. If everyone in your home is on a different schedule and can't enjoy dinner at the same time, find another meal (like breakfast or an evening snack) when your family can sit together and review the day's events.

Balance bedtime.

Establishing a bedtime—and keeping to it every single night—can be highly effective, but go one step further and turn off the computer and TV at least 30 minutes beforehand. If your child has access to a cell phone, confiscate it before bedtime so kids aren't tempted to use it after lights out. 

Dole out endless hugs.

Giving your child a number of hugs throughout the day will help ease any tension she may be feeling. Not only will hugging your little one improve her ability to concentrate, it will also have benefits for you (and make you feel like a million bucks).

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