Post # 1
My soon to be step daughter is turning 10 this summer. My fiance and I have both noticed that she struggles with confidence or pushing herself even with little tasks. He feels her bio mom does a lot for her and kind of babies her… which is of course her choice how to parent and shes a good mom so not here to debate that. We also think this could be a form a laziness, but we hold her accountable in our home.
Anyways, we have signed her up for soccer (she also does dance with bio mom), because she was interested and it is a new and challenging thing for her to learn.
We also try to make her rethink when she has limiting thoughts. For example we were doing nails one night and she didnt get the polish off. She said “oh Im not good at things like that.” she says things like this a lot even over simple tasks. In those cases we encourage her to keep trying or let her know its something we know she can do on her own. This comes up a lot with household chores, etc.
We have had talks with her to let her know she is smart and capable and can do anything she puts her mind to. In context we talk about focusing and working hard on things when those situations arise.
Any other suggestions for how to help her with this? Ive thought of maybe home science experiments, puzzles, etc. Shes a very smart and thoughtful girl who is extremely capable… but I want her to see that for herself and to have confidence in herself.
Post # 2
I’m not a mom, but I can speak back to 14 years ago when I was in your girl’s shoes.
1) Is she introverted or extroverted? How to tackle this situation is SO dependent on that.
2) Is she still doing well in school? Does she tell stories about school to you? Does she open up?
3) Do you have a pet? Caring for a pet is regarded as incredibly good on a child’s mental health.
Can give good suggestions with answers to these 🙂
Post # 3
Also not a mom but used to be a tween girl 🙂 I struggled with confidence a lot at that age, and continued to all throughout middle school. It wasn’t until high school when, on a whim, I signed up for debate team and all of a sudden my confidence soared. I finally had a solid group of friends where I felt unconditionally accepted and wanted, and it was the most amazing feeling ever. Those people are still my best friends and one is my maid of honor! So if soccer doesn’t work out for her, I’d suggest putting her in any kind of activities she expresses an interest in, just to see where she can find a good group of friends. That’s so important at this age.
Post # 4
Post # 5
mel2 : You should check out the book parenting Beyond The Rules. I think you’re already on a great track, and a book like that is really going to drive things home in terms of supporting her.
Post # 6
Hoo boy, she sounds like me! I say things like “Well, I guess I just suck” frequently. I don’t entirely believe them. Sometimes I say them and then say “Well, maybe not, maybe I’m just having an off day” but, honestly, sometimes I say them so that someone will tell me that I don’t suck. *shrug* I’m not too proud to admit it.
That being said – HIGHLY recommend martial arts. I can’t stress it enough. I was a shy, nervous, introverted child with very little self esteem, and my parents got me into Tae Kwon Do when I was 9. Best thing they could have done for me. I gained so much confidence, I grew stronger, and I just felt BETTER. I never should have stopped (earned my 1st degree black belt, started high school, and ran out of free time). I plan to pick it back up again (once I get my poor misbehaving body back into shape).
Post # 7
I have the same thing with my seven year old step son. He’s very capable, but he gets so discouraged if he can’t do something immediately. I think hes a bit of a perfectionist who either wants to be the best at something, or not even try. And also he can be a bit lazy, and he doesn’t like being told what to do. I try to encourage him to enjoy the process, not just the outcome, and to view the stuggles as a time where he is improving himself. I tell him about my own struggles, and how I didnt used to like doing certain things because I didn’t think I was very good at them, but by persisting, I got better and now I find them much easier. Or sometimes I’m still pretty crap at them, but I have fun anyway! For household chores that he tries to get out of by saying he cant do it, I just show him what to do, and tell him he’ll get better the more he does it. I don’t worry too much about whether he does the best job – if I wanted it done really well I’d just do it myself, but its important that he learns. Also I tell him that if he wants the benefits of being part of the family, he needs to contribute. So if he wants to earn priviliges like being allowed some computer time, or if he wants us to consider his suggestions for how we spend our free time, he has to be a team player. Its made more difficult though by the fact that he lives with his mother most of the time, and we don’t have as much time with him as we would like, so consistancy is a bit of an issue.
Post # 8
All of these suggestions are great and it sounds like you’re doing a wonderful job. I wanted to add that it sounds like she needs some (manageable for her age and skill level) challenges in a variety of arenas where she can be tested and stretched and get some “wins” and also find “her” things. Confidence comes from knowing you have the capacity to deal with what comes up for you in the world (and loving supportive people rooting for you and there to be your soft cushion if the challenge has temporarily conquered you). Otherwise, it can feel really scary and overwhelming to be so aware of how many things you don’t yet know how to navigate.
Also, I’m a huge advocate of martial arts for kids in general and specifically for girls. It can be so physically and mentally centering. Where we hold our awareness in our bodies contributes to feeling confident (or not) as well and martial arts breaks that down in explicit and direct ways. There are so many kinds – including ones that flow like dancing – aikido, capoeira, tai chi.
Something my husband and I practice for ourselves and enforce with our son is no negative self talk. It’s valuable to be able to honestly assess how our actions caused or contributed to a particular outcome but our worth as people is NEVER up for grabs or debate. EVER.
We talk about the importance of making mistakes and continuing to try a lot with our son, too. Something that I remember from childhood and see in my son at times (and in my niece and nephews) is not knowing when certain things are important (and, therefore, worthy of some tension and attention) and when they are not. It’s easy for kids to catastrophise minor shit. So we talk that stuff through, too – “This thing is important because of x, y, z. These things here might SEEM important but past a certain level, they aren’t; and skill is being able to recognize the level. Getting to know yourself means finding what’s important for you and feeling when the demands have gotten higher than you’re willing to match.”
Post # 9
You can’t necessarily manufacture self confidence in a child / tween / young adult but you can create a “fertile soil” for them to develop their own self confidence.
Keep on with praise and the encouragement to try new things. Set a good example by learning new things yourself – including things that you know you aren’t very good at. So, if you are frightened of water then book some swimming lessons, if you’ve never been able to draw then book some art classes. [Adults tend to stick to their strengths so they forget about what it is like to feel that they can’t do something. It’s very salutary to be reminded.]
If she is learning to do something around the house then give her room to try before you step in. If her own mother hovers over her and then takes whatever it is away to do more efficiently then even if the action is meant kindly it can still take away a child’s confidence. Once your stepdaughter has done something don’t forget to comment on the fact that she’s done it well or quickly or it was a fantastic first try or that she’s done a much better job of it than you did at her age or even that she has been a big help. And don’t forget to carry on with the praise and thanks. Children should always say thank you but they sometimes forget because they are children. Adults have no such excuse.
As time moves on, your 10 year old will become an eleven year old and so on. Before you know it you’ll have a teen with a very distinct mind of her own. Keep the communication going, do a lot of listening and make sure you do things together. If you know she’s good at something then make sure that rather than just you and your husband giving her advice, listen to her advice to you – and take it. Value her opinions and be interested in what she has to say. Even the sulkiest teen craves approval deep down.
These next few years are a very angst-ridden time in a person’s life. Doing all the above won’t necessarily create a self-confident individual. It will just make it much more likely to happen and will lay down some very good foundations for resilence later in life.