How Camp Builds Confidence

We have all had moments when we reacted before thinking. Times we let our frustration get the best of us, and lost touch with being understanding and patient with our children. As parents, with hectic schedules and constant multitasking, these moments may occur more often than we want them too.  Our goal as parents is to raise happy, self confident children, who believe in themselves and their abilities.  So when our behavior does not coincide with that goal, we question our parenting and hope that we have not harmed our children’s sense of self.  Even when most days go well and we are positive forces in our children’s lives, it’s easy to dwell on the moments we wish we could have a “do-over”.
I experienced a less than perfect parenting moment last week when my 6 year old daughter was going to dance class.  She is sensitive to change, and would not go into the class after she peeked in and noticed a substitute dance teacher, someone she was not familiar with.  No encouragement could get her to stop crying and walk into the room.  I didn’t exactly let her know I understood her feelings, and instead got frustrated that she was going to miss class. My lack of sensitivity only led to more crying and I’m sure her feeling badly about herself.  After we drove away, I of course felt badly too and wished I could have done things differently, been a bit more patient and in tune to her feelings.  It got me thinking about self confidence and how we could so easily damage it without being aware of our actions.  I felt even worse after reading up on this topic and being reminded  that children whose feelings are accepted and supported by their parents tend to be much more “emotionally literate”, confident and secure.  Okay….I will try my best to do things differently going forward.
A great deal is written about building confidence in children and how it is the prerequisite for believing in ourselves and pursuing our dreams.  Dr. Sears believes that self-esteem is a child’s passport to lifetime mental health and social happiness.  “How people value themselves, get along with others, perform at school, achieve at work, and relate in marriage, all stem from strength of their self-image”.  Family therapist, Jane Nelsen says self-esteem comes from having a sense of belonging, believing we are capable, and knowing our contributions are valued and worthwhile.  With so many professionals expressing the importance of a healthy self-esteem, it is our job as parents to provide our children with the tools to believe in themselves and the confidence to handle any situation life throws their way.
Some recommended strategies include:
Provide Encouragement:  Everyone responds well to encouragement.  Be sure to acknowledge the efforts as well as the successes.
Accept them for who they are:  Children benefit when they feel accepted for who they are, regardless of their strengths, difficulties or abilities.
Support Healthy Risk Taking:  Encourage children to try new things, and let them learn from their mistakes.  Working hard toward something, set-backs and all, helps children feel a real sense of accomplishment.
Have a “can-do” attitude:  Children blossom when we expect them to blossom.  If you let your child know you believe in them, they will believe in themselves.
Pay Attention:  Giving undivided attention helps children feel valued and important and builds self-worth.
Listen:  Accept emotions without judgement to help children feel valued.
Be a Positive Role Model:  Try your best and acknowledge your own efforts and accomplishments.
These strategies that can help parents raise confident children are also being implemented at overnight camp.  Camp provides a natural environment of taking healthy risks, being encouraged to do your best, and being acknowledged for the efforts as much as the successes.  Campers feel a sense of belonging, are accepted for who they are, and are surrounded by positive role models.  Parents are often amazed at the level of confidence their campers return home with at the end of the summer.    So in our quest to raise self-confident children, it’s nice to know camp helps lay the foundation that will help our children face life’s challenges, set and achieve goals, try new things and have positive social experiences for years to come.