Sometimes, let your kid do their own confidence building

Friday, March 31st, 2017

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A lot of the reason our kids take part in organized activities is a feeling we get as parents that kids must need to do these things. They need them so they don’t spend all their time in front of television. Or, that they don’t get bored playing with their dolls in their bedroom. Of the many traditions passed down from parents to kids, these activities seem to be one of the most commonly widespread.

One of our daughters hasn’t joined in on the tradition of “just giving it a try.” She simply does not care to try things out. It does not matter to her that her sister does or that we did when we were kids. She, as she will tell you to your face if you ask “why?” will say, because it is stupid.

Our other daughter is the opposite. We make a suggestion, she says yes. We ask her if she’d like a complete list of things she could try and she says yes to all of them. She is s shining example of how one cannot assume that just because someone is quiet, they do not want to do things.

But when a child does things just to do them, is there any chance they can gain confidence from that activity? Can they grow?

She tried out curling

This winter she had a weekly gymnastics class and a weekly curling lesson. Gymnastics was something she had tried before, curling was something I had done as a kid.

My kids don’t need to love the things I did as a kid (or in the case of curling, the things I still do now), but I would lying if I said I wasn’t hopeful she would enjoy it as much as I did.

Now a quick note about curling. It is quite a Canadian thing, as are most sports that are played on ice. For a family looking to take part in activities that don’t cost a lot of money, it is marvelous. It is also requires way more athleticism than you are imagining. And if you are an adult, you buy one another drinks after a game. Curling, is a great sport.

For most of the year, she was, I guess you could say, indifferent about curling. She showed up, she practiced, and she drank hot chocolate afterwards. She liked it, but mostly kept coming back because hot chocolate is delicious.

The last day of curling was a skills competition. Basically, a day for them to showcase what they have learned through the year. It doesn’t really matter that what most kids learned was that if they slid with a good enough form they would get a piece of chocolate.

Leah was nervous, as I would have been.

“What if I don’t do well?”

“It doesn’t matter,” we explained as parents who don’t actually have to go through with the activity often do. “Just try your hardest and we’ll go eat lunch afterwards.”

“I hope I do well.”

“You’ll get cookies no matter what.”

She competed

And then she was off. We watched her nervously as she took part in all the activities. She made some shots, she missed others. But what we noticed most as parents of a child who doesn’t love interacting too aggressively with others, was that she was smiling.

It is incredibly cliche, but there is a special feeling you get when your kid enjoys things you weren’t sure they would enjoy. She smiled for 90 minutes, occasionally adding a thumbs up to the spectators behind the glass window we were watching from.

When her 90 minutes was up, she came upstairs, gave us a hug, and as expected, moved to the buffet of hot chocolate and cookies that had been laid out as an end-of-year-celebration feast.

And as we all sat around the table eating everyone’s home-baked specialty, the coach announced the winners of the skills competition.

“In second place in the novice category (look at paper). Wow, we don’t often have a first -year curler win these trophies. So, excellent job Leah. Come on up and get your trophy.”

The smile never left her face. It never left our either.

a kid holding a trophy and eaiting

The next day after school, I dug through her backpack, cleaning out her lunch, her homework, and her wet winter things. There, stuffed in with the usual schoolbag material, was a drawing she had done of some curling rings with three rocks sitting in them.

I smiled again when I saw it. I have come to understand that confidence and happiness can come from anywhere. Sure it is nice to remind our kids how great they are and to help them build their confidence. But it’s even nicer to sit back every once in a while and watch them build that confidence all on their own.

drawing of curling rings

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