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How to Raise Kids Who Have Rock-Star Confidence, Even When You Don’t

How to Raise Kids Who Have Rock-Star Confidence, Even When You Don’t

You want your children to have the confidence to go into the world and live fulfilling lives.

At the same time, you want to protect your children from being hurt.

Could your good intentions to keep your children safe conflict with their development of confidence?

As an experiential educator with over 15 years of experience working with children and adolescents, I offer proven guidelines to help your children gain the confidence to face any challenge.

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    Where does confidence come from?

    The Comfort Zone Model provides the ABC’s of confidence building.

    All people have three distinct zones of functioning: The Comfort Zone, The Stretch Zone, and The Panic Zone.

    While we all have each of these zones, their boundaries are different for each of us. Additionally, the boundaries of our zones change throughout our lives.

    The Comfort Zone

    When we are functioning inside the Comfort Zone, we feel safe. Events are predictable.  When we get bored, we know how to find the stimulation we’re looking for.  We feel special, loved and connected.

    The seeds of confidence are sewn in the Comfort Zone because we know exactly how to get our needs met.

    No learning happens inside the Comfort Zone because every need is fulfilled by applying what we already know.

    The Stretch Zone

    Whenever we get uncomfortable, we shift into the Stretch Zone.

    While it’s uncertain and scary, the Stretch Zone is the realm of excitement and growth. We learn new information about the world and discover new abilities we didn’t know we had.

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    Imagine a weightlifter. To increase her strength, she lifts weight frequently. As she does so, the amount of weight she is able to lift changes.

    Likewise, the more we venture into our Stretch Zone, it actually changes the size of our Comfort Zone because what was once uncomfortable becomes comfortable. It also expands the size of our Stretch Zone because we learn creative strategies for handling stress without panicking.

    The weightlifter must continue lifting weight to maintain her strength. If she stops, she will lose strength and won’t be able to lift the weight she once could.

    We must continuously spend time in our Stretch Zones throughout our lives or our Comfort Zone will shrink. Since the boundaries of our Stretch Zone are always changing, we must increase the difficulty of the challenges to feel stretched.

    The Panic Zone

    If our weightlifter lifts too much weight or she lifts too frequently without giving her muscles time to repair, she will get injured. That injury is like going into the Panic Zone.

    There is a thin line that separates the Stretch Zone from the Panic Zone. When the line is crossed, learning and growth stop.

    This is trauma. It doesn’t have to be “capital T” trauma. Little traumas, like small muscle tears, still cause damage.

    The Panic Zone erodes confidence because the message we teach ourselves here is, “I can’t handle this.”

    The Infinite Panic Zone

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      When people have minimal experiences in the Stretch Zone, they don’t have the opportunities for their Comfort Zone to grow. They are only confident in very limited circumstances.

      Additionally, their tolerance for experiences in the Stretch Zone is low. They will quickly shift into the Panic Zone.  Their panicked response is very dramatic, which alarms those around them who will then step in to alleviate the panic and reinstate comfort.

      This is the pattern of a baby, which is appropriate when we are completely dependent on others to meet our needs for us.

      When children or adults spend too much time in the Comfort Zone without adequate time in their Stretch Zone, they will develop an Infinite Panic Zone. When they encounter challenges, they have few strategies to handle these feelings. When they exhaust the few strategies they know, they go into the Panic Zone. Their Infinite Panic Zone keeps them trapped and generates inappropriate responses for their age.

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      The only way out is to begin expanding their Comfort Zones and Stretch Zones by doing challenging things.

      The Picture of Confidence

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        Confident people have large Comfort Zones that allow them to feel comfortable in a wide variety of circumstances. They also have gained a high tolerance for uncertainty, so their Stretch Zones are fairly deep.

        Confident people are fearless, but the circumstances that actually trigger them to go into the Panic Zone are fairly minimal.

        People who are the most confident, therefore, are people who have spent extensive amounts of time in the Stretch Zone. Some may have done so because life forced them there. Others may have made strategic choices to do challenging things that would require them to stretch physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Their experiences have proven to them time and time again that they have the capacity to figure things out and get comfortable with what was once unknown.

        How To Expand the Comfort Zone

        Expanding the Comfort Zone happens by doing challenging things. By definition, this will make us feel uncomfortable. This discomfort, though, serves a purpose. It moves the boundaries of the Comfort Zone and the Stretch Zone, developing greater confidence and resilience.

        This brand of confidence that comes from within, tested by struggle, is the true confidence that allows people to persevere through disaster.

        It is clear that to build confident children, we must dare to be uncomfortable.

        The Parenting Acrobat Act

        Parenting is one the bravest things we can do in our lives.

        Basically, your job is to encourage your child to venture onto a tight rope, walking the line between the Stretch and the Panic Zones.

        It’s tempting to say in this analogy that the parent is safely on the ground watching the child dangling overhead, but this is not so.

        No, you are on a tight rope right next to them, making your own mistakes, too. Neither one of you is on solid ground.

        You may feel like fraud at times because you feel just as shaky and unsure as your child does. Know that this is normal.

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        You don’t need to be the tight rope master to help your child. You just need to actively engage as a fellow student. In fact, seeing yourself as a student, not a master, allows you to empathize with your child and relate to the struggles they face.

        Guidelines for Fellow Acrobats

        As you bravely accept this challenge, use these guidelines to help your child gain greater confidence:

        1.  Accept your child’s freedom of choice.

        All people have a natural need to grow and learn. Children want to feel proud of themselves and know they can do challenging things.

        When we force children to learn before they are ready, we disempower them.

        Accepting the child’s choice reinforces their confidence in themselves. 

        2. Share information to empower your child to make an informed decision.

        Share with your children the rationale behind your desire for them to do anything.

        Use words and reasons that are appropriate to the child’s age and development. Even small children can process simplified explanations.

        3. Learn the signs between your child’s Stretch and Panic Zones.

        Know your child’s responses to being stretched.  Some of their reactions may be pleasant because some aspects of the Stretch Zone are exciting. Other aspects of the Stretch Zone are frightening, and you will see unflattering behaviors from your child.

        When your child is in the Stretch Zone, give space to allow him/her to struggle without feeling judged.

        When your child slips into the Panic Zone, reassure safety and acceptance with factual information.  Do not to discount their fear.

        4. Create an intentional progression of steps for increasing challenge.

        Introduce progressive levels of unfamiliarity and discomfort. Create a non-threatening space for the unfamiliar to become familiar and the uncomfortable to become comfortable.

        Growth is a process. When you focus on the importance of the process, the outcomes will unfold in their due time.

        5. Be the source of calm confidence.

        When your child looks at you with fear, it is important not to mirror your own fears back to them.

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        Offer reassurance by saying, “Nice job! You’re really stretching yourself right now. You are going to be so confident once you get through this. Look how far you’ve come already.”

        Regardless of the outcome, praise your child’s effort.

        6. Model the skills & behaviors you want for your child.

        Playfully challenge your child to test out old skills and take on progressively harder challenges.

        Also model intelligent risk management.  Ask these questions:

        • What might happen if we try that?
        • How much hurt or damage could we cause?
        • How likely is that?
        • What can we do to make sure we stay as safe as possible if we try that?
        • Is what we learn and gain worth the risk?

        7. Allow the child to struggle and find solutions.

        Like a weightlifting partner, you are there to encourage and ensure that the weightlifter doesn’t get injured, but you don’t lift the weight for her.

        Offer advice that has worked for you and honor them if they choose not to try your way. Say, “I have you confidence that you will figure this out.”  Recount the solutions that the child used before in similar situations.

        8. Thoughtfully process experiences with your child to solidify lessons.

        Activity without reflection misses valuable learning opportunities.

        Use these questions to help your child learn from challenging experiences:

        • What do you know now that you didn’t know before?
        • What was the hardest part? What did you do to get past that part?
        • Do you feel proud of yourself? What moments do you remember feeling especially proud?
        • How can what you just learned be helpful in a different situation?

        What happens next?

        Changing how you parent IS stepping into your Stretch Zone.

        At first, you will feel uncomfortable and unsure of yourself. Have faith that you will grow and your Comfort Zone will expand.

        Dare to raise children on a tightrope, and you will raise children who are confident.

        Raise children who know how to struggle, fail, and get back up again and again.

        Raise children who know how to fall flat on their faces and laugh about it without shame.

        Raise children who know how to take an unpopular stance because their moral compass points true.

        Raise children who are stronger than you, who intimidate you with their aptitude, and who bring you to tears with their compassion.

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        Last Updated on September 20, 2018

        7 Powerful Questions To Find Out What You Want To Do With Your Life

        7 Powerful Questions To Find Out What You Want To Do With Your Life

        What do I want to do with my life? It’s a question all of us think about at one point or another.

        For some, the answer comes easily. For others, it takes a lifetime to figure out.

        It’s easy to just go through the motions and continue to do what’s comfortable and familiar. But for those of you who seek fulfillment, who want to do more, these questions will help you paint a clearer picture of what you want to do with your life.

        1. What are the things I’m most passionate about?

        The first step to living a more fulfilling life is to think about the things that you’re passionate about.

        What do you love? What fulfills you? What “work” do you do that doesn’t feel like work? Maybe you enjoy writing, maybe you love working with animals or maybe you have a knack for photography.

        The point is, figure out what you love doing, then do more of it.

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        2. What are my greatest accomplishments in life so far?

        Think about your past experiences and the things in your life you’re most proud of.

        How did those accomplishments make you feel? Pretty darn good, right? So why not try and emulate those experiences and feelings?

        If you ran a marathon once and loved the feeling you had afterwards, start training for another one. If your child grew up to be a star athlete or musician because of your teachings, then be a coach or mentor for other kids.

        Continue to do the things that have been most fulfilling for you.

        3. If my life had absolutely no limits, what would I choose to have and what would I choose to do?

        Here’s a cool exercise: Think about what you would do if you had no limits.

        If you had all the money and time in the world, where would you go? What would you do? Who would you spend time with?

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        These answers can help you figure out what you want to do with your life. It doesn’t mean you need millions of dollars to be happy though.

        What it does mean is answering these questions will help you set goals to reach certain milestones and create a path toward happiness and fulfillment. Which leads to our next question …

        4. What are my goals in life?

        Goals are a necessary component to set you up for a happy future. So answer these questions:

        Once you figure out the answers to each of these, you’ll have a much better idea of what you should do with your life.

        5. Whom do I admire most in the world?

        Following the path of successful people can set you up for success.

        Think about the people you respect and admire most. What are their best qualities? Why do you respect them? What can you learn from them?

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        You’re the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.[1] So don’t waste your time with people who hold you back from achieving your dreams.

        Spend more time with happy, successful, optimistic people and you’ll become one of them.

        6. What do I not like to do?

        An important part of figuring out what you want to do with your life is honestly assessing what you don’t want to do.

        What are the things you despise? What bugs you the most about your current job?

        Maybe you hate meetings even though you sit through 6 hours of them every day. If that’s the case, find a job where you can work more independently.

        The point is, if you want something to change in your life, you need to take action. Which leads to our final question …

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        7. How hard am I willing to work to get what I want?

        Great accomplishments never come easy. If you want to do great things with your life, you’re going to have to make a great effort. That will probably mean putting in more hours the average person, getting outside your comfort zone and learning as much as you can to achieve as much as you can.

        But here’s the cool part: it’s often the journey that is the most fulfilling part. It’s during these seemingly small, insignificant moments that you’ll often find that “aha” moments that helps you answer the question,

        “What do I want to do with my life?”

        So take the first step toward improving your life. You won’t regret it.

        Featured photo credit: Andrew Ly via unsplash.com

        Reference

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