As a parent, it’s easy to feel the pressure to know all the “right” answers on how to raise a kind, confident, well-rounded child.
We need to teach our children how to use manners and show them how to brush their teeth without leaving streaks of blue toothpaste all over the bathroom sink (in theory). We teach them how to tie their shoes and about the importance of eating vegetables (in theory). There’s no one guidebook for this job, but we’re all doing what we can do.
We are forced to make SO many decisions just to teach our child how to be a person.
No pressure, right?
If you are a parent, grandparent, teacher, or caregiver, you probably understand the concept of picking your battles. This can be a hard one, especially when the control freak in us wants to take over ALL of the decision making. Our egos can get the best of us, adults and kids included.
I recently learned an unexpected lesson in confidence, all centered around an outfit my daughter chose to wear to school. I was the student, and she showed me how to shine.
K is full of energy, creativity, love, and spunk. She’s our first child, and all of those ideals I set BEFORE I was a parent (you know the ones about how your children will always behave in the grocery store and will never talk back to you), well…let’s just say that many of them flew out the window when we actually became parents. K is determined, and we have had to learn about how to channel that strong will of hers.
Therefore, I decided a while ago that I would surrender the wardrobe battle. Whereas I’m happy in my uniform of a plain-Jane top with a pair of jeans everyday, she is all about mixing patterns, bright colors, and sparkles. Sometimes it’s really hard to hold back from giving my two cents (“Don’t you want to wear these black leggings with that pink and black polka dot dress instead of the rainbow striped ones?”), but I try to hold back. Perhaps it’s because I couldn’t imagine myself in such an ensemble, but then, that’s her. Seeing how PROUD she is of her arrangement paired with her confident smile is sort of contagious. The innocence is beautiful.
I recently captured her glorious spunk and proudly shared the picture to my personal Facebook page. The post received so much surprising attention. Then a friend posted this article on my wall titled, “I Let My Toddler Dress Me for a Week.” That’s one brave mama right there! I loved the concept, and I took it as a challenge…but just for a day, friends. I’m not that brave yet.
The next day I told K I needed her help. “Will you pick out my outfit today?” I asked. “Why, YES, Mother!” (in a very proper-sounding voice). I thought her eyes might bug out of her head.
So she found a dress that still had the tags on it. I wore shoes that probably needed to be donated to Goodwill about three years ago and a blue pullover sweater on top of the dress so I wouldn’t freeze. She found jewelry that was collecting dust and a pink and gray headband. And it was ALL GOOD. I really tried to own it. Can you tell?Then I passed it on to several friends, challenging them to get their children to dress them. We could all use a little fun in our lives!
I loved watching the trend grow, but I was reminded of several things we can do as parents and mentors to encourage our children’s confidence.
1. Let go.
There is learning to be had in the empty spaces. I realized I was able to soak in K’s confidence when I backed off, zipped my lips, and just let her be HER. She’s figuring out who she is, what her talents are, and what she’s passionate about. I tend to see glimpses of those on a quiet car ride, in her room when she plays alone, and when she’s given space to make her own choices. Then I feel like we can guide her and give her opportunities and outlets to grow.
2. Be an example of confidence.
If we want to raise strong, confident, children, we have to show them what that looks like. Believe that YOU are talented and strong for who you are. We all have gifts and qualities that make us unique. Own yours. Share your role models with your children and read books with characters who exemplify positive traits.
3. Put a positive spin on traits that might be “negative.”
On of the most helpful books I’ve read as a parent is Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. I completely relate. One point that really resonates with me is seeing the good in personality traits that may be portrayed as negative. For example, someone who may be labeled “hyper” should be seen as energetic or someone who is stubborn as determined. The child who 10 minutes to get from the door to the car because they are “distracted?” They are perceptive. Sometimes our labels just need a different perspective.
4. Embrace the differences.
My daughter and I have many similar qualities but also many that separate us. I’m an introvert she’s an extrovert. She can be very intense, whereas I have more of an easy-going personality. I have found that sometimes it’s challenging when you and your child disagree, but aren’t we also teaching them to accept differences?
If you need some encouragement, I’m here for you.
Homework: Where are you willing to let go a little in your life?
Where can you pass the control onto your kids and help them gain some freedom and confidence?
What are some things you do to encourage confident children?
Or if you’re inspired by the trend, go for it and pass it on!
Happy New Year! As much as I LOVE the holidays, the celebrating, the cooking (the eating), and the family memory making, there is also something settling about getting back to our routine. As I sat down to brainstorm my first blog entry of the new year, I was feeling called to share about my “theme word” for 2015. At the end of 2014, I was challenged to commit to a theme word that would keep me motivated through the year. A word that would help me set my path. I brainstormed a list, but the one that jumped out at me was the honestly the first one I wrote.
A five letter word that I needed to be reminded of. LEARN.
Learn about YOU, my village. Learn about your passions, your worries, your questions.
Learn from fellow teachers.
Learn more about curriculum guidelines across the country (like the Common Core or the Standards of Learning) so I can help unpack them.
Learn about the “techie” aspects of blogging.
Learn from my relationships with my family, friends, and mentors.
Learn from my mistakes.
Forget trying to be perfect at all of this, and just learn.
And then share it!
Because when we learn, we grow.
When I decided to take a leap this fall and start planning It Takes a Whole Village, I knew it would be a place to share my passions for teaching and helping others. There is a great deal of reliable research stating that children who have greater parent involvement have higher achievement levels in school. This trend may not surprise you, but I feel like without my teaching background, I’m not sure what parent involvement would look like beyond conferences, volunteering, homework, and our nightly reading routine.
That’s also not to say that all children with involved parents are going to be at the top of their class. Every child is different. I struggled with learning to read, and my father was the principal! We all do what we can. I am very far from the perfect parent, but I do my best. I know the fact that you are taking the time to read this means to me that YOU care too.
So thank you.
I am excited to use my experience from teaching, tutoring, and going through my Reading and Language Arts Education graduate program to empower my readers with manageable activities that fit into their lives. Perhaps you have questions like– What I can do to help my child improve their reading comprehension? OR If we have a family vacation during the school year, what can I realistically do to keep up my child’s skills?
I will not have all of the answers, but I promise to help guide you to find the answers you are looking for.
Although I know that classroom teachers could be your best resource for these answers, I also recognize they have a lot of demands. Of course they want the best for your child; that is probably why they teach. At the same time, it can be challenging to cater a day’s worth of lessons and homework to 25+ children with 25+ different sets of needs. You probably get that.
We can make little leaps by turning the everyday into a learning day.
I want this to be a team effort, and I would love input to guide me. I am rallying a group of interested parents, friends, teachers, and grandparents who want to learn more, so if you’d be willing to help me with my 2015 goal, I would be honored to have you join me!
I’ve created a closed group on Facebook for us to get to know each other, post questions, share success stories, and offer support about our children’s education. If you’d like to be a part of it, I hope you’ll click HERE. Just start by saying hello!
I can’t wait to get started! Let’s learn together and grow together.
I know it is not just up to my husband and me to raise and educate our children. We need “our people.” It takes grandparents, uncles, aunts, and honorary “aunties.” It takes friends, care-takers, neighbors, and mentors. It takes hard-working classroom teachers, dedicated teachers at our church, and treasured dance teachers. It takes a WHOLE collection of talented, inspiring people to help our children thrive and grow. It takes a whole village!
I hope you’ll rally your troops together and start to strengthen your village with me.
If you want a jumping off place, here are 5 groups of people to get on board!
1. Let’s begin with YOU.
I may not know you (yet) personally, but I believe in the good of people. I know you have talents. You have gifts to offer your children, family, and your community. You make a difference.
2. Your child/children
I love my kids. They are funny and sweet and totally demanding in their own right. There are days when I want to hug them and never let go and there are days when I cannot wait until my husband gets home so I can take a breath and get out of the house. They have taught me so much, and when I think about the days they were born, life is a miracle. It is precious, but sometimes I get caught in the frustrating moments that I forget to pause and let them know just how much they are loved.
3. Family members and close friends
These may be who you call “your people.” The ones you turn to in crisis and in joy. They have your back, no matter what. We cannot be all things to our children. Allowing our children time with family and friends and growing THEIR relationship is important too. For some of us, that might mean stepping back a bit.
4. Role Models/ Positive People
I will be the first to tell you that I am far from the perfect parent. I am learning every day. Every. Single. Day. To me, it feels like a journey of finding out what works for you and for your own children and what doesn’t (and being able to sift through all the unsolicited advice that’s dished out). I have found that reaching out to mentors and people with a positive attitude has been so encouraging. Often times, I have found support in friends who have children older than my own. There’s a sense of reassurance that they have survived whatever stage in childhood that you are currently going through, and they can be that guiding light. I also feel like people wear on me. So when I know I’m with positive people, I feel good that their energy is rubbing off on me too.
5. Your child’s teacher(s)
With 25+ children in a class, teachers have their work cut out for them. Ideally, we could have 25 teachers for 25 students, each with their own plan of action, but clearly, that is not reality. I assure you that they are doing their best with the resources, time, and energy they have. They work hard. They love your kids. They may have a lot of demands, but you can be an encourager and an advocate for your child by getting them on your team.
Now it’s homework time! (This is the GOOD kind of homework.)
Take five minutes and think about 3 people whose day you could brighten and how you are going to do so. Rallying your village is about building relationships and seeking support and help from those who matter to you. It also comes from you. So take some time to plan some ways to work on those relationships.
- For you: Take some time out for yourself to work on you. What is something that helps you relive stress? Make a plan in your schedule to do something just for YOU.
- For your kids: What would REALLY make your child’s day? Would it be a special letter you left them on their pillow? Maybe it’s just sitting them on your lap and rattling off some praise. Take them for hot chocolate or slip a shiny new box of crayons into their backpack. Plan some special 1:1 time with them after dinner. Whatever it is, make a plan to do something just for them. (I LOVE this post from Busy Kids=Happy Mom on the Mom’s Guide to the Five Love Languages of Children (http://www.busykidshappymom.org/moms-guide-to-five-love-languages-of/).
- For family, friends, neighbors, mentors, or teachers: Pick up the phone and make a call or send a text. Let someone know you are thinking of them. Send someone an encouraging note. Plan a lunch or coffee date. Offer to watch a friend’s children (or swap) so they can have a date night or run errands without distraction. Invite the new family down the street over for dinner. Let the teachers in your child’s life know you are thankful. (Teacher Appreciation Week doesn’t have to be reserved for one week of the year!) Have your child make a handmade card, just because (those are the best!). Bring them coffee, a treat, or a dinner kit to-go so they can have a night off from cooking. Even the smallest sentiment can make a big impact.
Do you have (at least) three people in mind? Make a plan!
It Takes a Whole Village stands for community coming together to help raise and educate the next generation. We want to start with growing strong relationships so we can grow strong kids.
I’m here for you and would love for you to join our village venture!
Leave a comment about your next step. How did it go? I’d love to hear!