Nov 9, 2010

Confidence comes from overcoming adversity

"You get confidence from overcoming adversity, not from being told how great you are all the time." - Dan Kindlon, Ph.D., author of Tough Times, Strong Children, as quoted in the November 2010 Parents Magazine

I read the above quote and I wanted to jump up and shout Yes!, because it's so true. We have always worked hard to emphasize to both our boys that the result is not as important as the effort they put forth.

I know parents who tell their children that they are the most or the best (fill in the blank), and heap praise and superlatives on them that simply aren't warranted. I know they trying to give their children "positive feedback," which is what society tells us to do. But there's going to come a day when those children realize that their parents are just giving them empty words, and if that's all they've gotten over the years, then they'll lack the self-confidence, or what self-esteem expert Nathaniel Branden calls self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is one of the two components of healthy self-esteem, and means "confidence in the ability to cope with life's challenges," which "leads to a sense of control over one's life." (The other component is self-respect.)

It's not always easy to watch your children struggle - in fact, it's pretty darn hard to do. And it's usually easier to just do things for them. But work with your children to overcome the obstacles they encounter, and they'll thank you for it later on.


zena said...

I needed this right now. My son came home today crying, because some kid on the bus was picking on him and making fun of him. My first instinct was to call the school, but then I realized that he should try and work it out himself tomorrow. I talked to him, but I also told him that Mom can't fight all of his battles for him. I'll step back for now and see how it goes. Thank you for posting this!

Chief Family Officer said...

@Zena - Thank *you* for telling me. My heart goes out to you, it's so hard to quash those protective instincts. Don't forget to give your son some ideas about how he can handle the situation, too. Hang in there!

Kristin said...

First of all I want to say that having a special needs child (me!) at age 23 was an obstacle that my parents overcame with amazing strength and the fact that they're married 34 years later with one more child (adopted) says a lot about how special they are and how much they sacrificed. Having said that, and please do know that I do adore my parents, I do feel that they did not prepare my brother or myself for the tough times in life that they wouldn't be able to "fix" for us. I know they never wanted to see me struggle with anything more than I had to, considering my disability, but I wish so much that they'd let me fight more of my own battles and overcome my own obstacles in life and let me fail if I had to. There weren't many but I always knew that "Daddy would fix it" or "Mama would call and take care of it" if I had a problem or needed anything. Zena, I remember any time I felt like another kid was making fun of me or I felt like I wasn't a part of a group or something that my mom always seemed to make it happen rather than talk to me and help me develop the skills needed to handle the situation. I understand why she did it, and I'm not sure I could refrain from doing the same thing, but it makes me happy that you attempted to arm your child with courage to handle his own battles.

When I was 25 and lost my grandmother, it was the first time I'd fell into a situation my parents couldn't make better and my world fell apart. I fell into a depression that I'm still not completely out of at age 31. Now I'm facing serious medical problems that may result in my death, and all my parents can do is pray, and help in small ways. They can't assure me everything will be OK, and I can't say I'm not crushed.

I guess I could go on and on about this topic forever, and I'm sorry that I've taken up so much of your space, Cathy. My point is that I really wish that parents would do more parenting, and give their children the opportunity to grow into responsible adults by teaching them now how to handle adversity. Life is unpredictable, and unfortunately you can't promise your child that you will always be there to make things better. If I were able to have children the only thing I'd do differently than my parents is to teach my children coping methods for dealing with as many different situations as possible so they'd grow into responsible members of society and feel a sense of self-respect and independence. I would never say not to protect your child whenever necessary, because it is a parent's job to step in when it's appropriate. I just wish mine had given me more tools earlier in life to protect myself because you also have to think about when your child has his or her own family. It was awhile before I realized how bad it hurt my husband that I always seemed to look to my father and mother to take care of things that we should have been handling as a married couple, and that is not a healthy way to begin (or maintain!!) a marriage or relationship.

Again, I reaaaaaaaaaaally had too much to say on this subject and I apologize, Cathy! It's a subject I feel strongly about and seeing this post brought it all out.

Chief Family Officer said...

@Kristin - Thanks so much for sharing your experiences, and encouraging those of us who are parents to avoid the temptation of fixing things for our kids. I'm so sorry you're going through such a difficult and rough time - you will be in my thoughts and prayers!