Strive to Thrive: Building Confidence in Your Kids, Part I

Did you know that the roots of confidence and competence start when your child is just a baby?

In my business, we call these roots “self-regulation,” which is a fancy way to say that a child (or adult) can be in charge of their own thinking, emotions, and behaviors.

By helping your kids develop the ability to be in charge of themselves in a healthy way, you can build their confidence in themselves and make them more likely to do well at home, in school, and with friends.  In short, YOU can TRAIN YOUR CHILD’S BRAIN.

From the time your baby is born, her brain is learning about successful responses to what is happening in the world around her.

Her body and brain sense what is happening (“I feel hungry”), “decide” how to respond (“Whhhhaaaaa”), and “succeed” in feeling better and calmer (“Yummy!”)  When your baby is small, these decisions and responses are very automatic.

As a parent, you can build confidence in your baby by giving him repeat experiences of success.  In the case of self-regulation, “success” means feeling calmer and better without having to feel too stressed out.  So every time you respond to your crying baby with warmth, or feed her when she is hungry, or calm her when she is stressed, you build a feeling of confidence and success.

Here are some ways to help train your baby’s brain:

1. Respond with warmth and kindness when your baby is upset.  Use gentle actions and a soft voice to help him calm down.

2. As much as you can, keep your baby’s life predictable.  For example, try to help her get to sleep at about the same nap time each day and about the same bed time each day.

3. Stay tuned to your baby’s messages to you.  Help him learn that if he gets fussy, you will check in with him and help him feel calmer again.

4. If you are frustrated, try to stay calm.  Show your baby – with your actions – how you stay in charge of yourself when you are upset.

5. Show interest in your baby – help her know that when she laughs or looks, you will laugh or look with her.

This kind of confidence continues to build upon itself.

By experiencing, again and again, a safe and calm and predictable environment, babies become small children who are calmer and more predictable.  They get better at listening, they start to take time to think, and they are able to try new things without feeling too scared or distracted.

In my next “Strive to Thrive” column, I will talk about ways to help your kids learn self-regulation when they are toddlers and preschoolers!