We have been working on building our eight year olds’ self confidence for the past couple of years. As parents, we try to understand how a child might perceive the world and one of the biggest challenges we face is worrying about whether they are “normal” with regards to same age children. We concluded in most aspects, she appears to be where she should be; torturing younger siblings, obsessed with t.v., Taylor Swift and desperate to pierce her ears and wear make-up.
We didn’t always feel there was anything to be concerned about until our second, middle daughter arrived on scene and approached each day with such a winning attitude, she wanted to take the world by storm which highlighted the gentler, more thoughtful approach to new experiences our oldest was taking.
How does one “work” on building confidence in a child when their degrees are in English Literature? Right, we wing it.
We start with a lot of praise over the little things. We have heard from teachers over the years we might have a child who is a perfectionist, easily frustrated when she can’t do something exceptionally the first time around and therefore doesn’t try at all for fear of failure. This was tough for us to hear but so much better than our conclusion, that she was lazy. Thanks Chaucer, if I haven’t said it before, you have taught me nothing.
With the summer half over, one measurable difference has been her approach to biking down the hill on our street. While our five year old often flips over her handle bars because her yippee-kay-ay, feet straddled in side splits simply can’t handle the speed wobbles, she giggles pigtails over helmet into the bushes.
Hanna on the other hand has been known to get off her bike and walk it down the hill having witnessed her sisters’ pre-concussion antics.
Occasionally I walk beside her, sometimes sad to know she’s missing out on some carefree moments that I know she would love if she was simply willing to take a risk. Confession, sometimes I’m downright angry she won’t just act like every other kid and do something I know she would enjoy…..because I enjoyed it? Hmmm.
I explained to her she has to believe in herself if she wants the rest of the world to.
I told her she should chant things like, “You can do this Hanna. You can do this Hanna.”
The bike ramp has been a thorn in her side for the past two years. She’s watched neighbourhood children jump, cheer, tear their pants and be humiliated by a parent who angrily discussed the price of said pants and how ones genitals might now be rendered ineffective for life in front of a group of gasping onlookers.
She watched as her little sister lined up time and time again to ride the ramp, grinning from ear to ear under a mess of sweaty helmet hair while she cautiously circled the wagons with the adults.
Finally her day had come. I saw her mouthing something to herself as she walked beside her bike towards the ramp while all of the other kids rode down the narrow path, tall grasses brushing their bare legs.
When I got close enough to hear, she was whispering, “You can do it Hanna. You can do it Hanna.”
As she rode down the ramp, the first of at least thirty times she yelled, “You can do it! You’re Hanna Schlotzhauer!!!!”
Okay, so a proud moment for us as parents, the summer is half over and we felt we had accomplished greatness. Not because she made it down the ramp without requiring stitches, because she believed in herself and trusted she could try something new.
She took note of how much praise went into the last jumper’s fairly uneventful ride and decided she too should be the recipient of a few cheers.
“You can do it Ellie. You can do it Ellie.” She looked at us for a nod of approval.
She headed down the hill toward the ramp she had jumped at least a thousand times. When she reached the peak, bike now in the air she shouted, “You can do it Ellie! You’re Hanna Schlotzhauer!”