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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 April 8, 2020

        11 Things Overachievers Do Differently

        11 Things Overachievers Do Differently

        We all know some overachievers: supermoms who manage to get online degrees between cleaning, cooking, and taking kids to practice; students who write 10-page papers when the directions call for 4; managers whose resumes look more like pages from the Guinness book of Records.

        How do they do it all? How is it possible that one person can graduate at the top of their class, found an orphanage in India, run 30k marathons, write a best-selling book, travel all over the world and learn to speak Mandarin Chinese while having a full-time job?

        What’s the secret of an overachiever? Here’re 11 things overachievers do differently that you can learn from.

        1. They Know How to Manage Their Time

        It’s pretty simple actually – you can never become an overachiever if you don’t know how to organize your time efficiently.

        The great thing is that overachievers are ready to share their knowledge and time management talent with the rest of the world. Read The 4-Hour Workweek or The 4-Hour Body by Timothy Ferriss, and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

        2. They Don’t Spend Hours Watching TV or Playing Computer Games

        Mostly because they have better things to do, like exercising, reading, spending an evening with their family or volunteering to work in the local soup kitchen. Their philosophy is simple – the world is full of wonderful things to try, explore and experience. Watching TV is not one of them.

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        3. They Are Obsessed With Perfection

        Imagine Steve Jobs’ work approach and you’ll understand the level of perfection and painfully high standards that overachievers set for themselves and those around them. Often it pays off (especially if they focus on just one domain). But sometimes compulsive over-striving turns into a sure-fire road to disappointments and unfinished tasks.

        Learn how to strike a balance: How Not to Let Perfectionism Secretly Screw You Up

        4. They Know How To Inspire

        Overachievers learn quickly that it is much easier to achieve goals through collaboration (and especially delegation). So they know how to inspire, encourage, persuade and motivate people around them. Even though they often drive their team crazy with their stubbornness and perfectionism, people quickly follow under the spell of their enthusiasm and greater vision.

        Learn these 10 Powerful Ways to Influence People Positively.

        5. They Set Clear Goals

        The term “overachiever” itself implies that they know how to achieve goals. That is kind of hard to do if your goals are vague, unclear and lack specific deadline, which is why overachievers educate themselves, read goal-setting books, and think about the best way to approach a new task.

        Although, it’s worth mentioning that overachievers usually use their time management and goal-setting skills towards competitive, “I want to kick butt” type of goals rather than self-improvement, mastery goals.

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        Take a look at these tips to help you set clearer goals: What Are SMART Goals (And How to Use Them to Become Successful)

        6. They Are Organized

        It’s hard to imagine a disorganized overachiever, isn’t it? Their great organizational and planning skills usually serve three main purposes: keeping track of time, keeping track of progress and keeping track of achievements.

        This hasn’t been confirmed by scientific research yet, but overachievers might actually get a “runner’s high” from crossing tasks off their to-do lists, and making new to-do lists.

        Here’s How to Organize Your Life: 10 Habits of Really Organized People

        7. They Try to Avoid Failure at All Costs

        Some psychologists believe that overachievers place their self-worth on their competence, driven by an underlying fear of failure. Rather than setting and striving for goals based on a pure desire to achieve, their core motivation becomes avoiding failure. This may explain the fact that overachiever beat themselves up for even little setbacks and seemingly-insignificant mistakes.

        But be aware that having a strong fear of failure can wrek havoc your productivity. So the best thing to do? Learn to conquer the fear: Why You Have the Fear of Failure (And How to Conquer It)

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        8. They Love Awards

        Who doesn’t love them, right? True enough, but unlike most people who like to feel acknowledged and appreciated for their efforts, overachievers are bent on collecting ‘awards’, be it university degrees, spelling bee prizes or unusual destinations.

        While loving awares isn’t bad, it’s even better if you’re driven by internal motivation instead of external ones which could be quite uncontrolable or unstable: Why Is Internal Motivation So Powerful (And How to Find It).

        9. They Don’t Understand the Concept of Work Hours

        Don’t get surprised if you receive a work-related email anywhere between 8 p.m. and midnight. It’s something overachievers usually do and you weren’t the only one. At least 20 more emails have been sent during these hours to other people. The concepts of over-achieving and working overtime usually go hand in hand.

        The downside of this is an imbalnced life, which may need to problems in other aspects of life including health and relationships. A better way is to Achieve a Realistic Work Life Balance.

        10. They Rest

        Overachievers might often be labeled as “workaholics”, because they often ignore bodily signs of hunger, fatigue and even a full bladder, hoping to finish just one last little part. This doesn’t mean that overachievers don’t know how to disconnect and relax.

        True that they tend to work in the highest gear, but they also have enough sense to give themselves time to rest and recharge. Of course, they do it in their own overachieving way, preferring climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or hiking through the Amazon jungle to lazing on the beach.

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        11. Overachievers Continuously Educate Themselves

        A great quality that most overachievers have is the hunger for knowledge. They surround themselves with bright people. They know how to listen, and most importantly, they get tons of mentoring.

        Despite the fact that overachievers want to excel at everything they set their minds on, they are humble enough to admit that to get on top of their game, they need help. And they are willing to pay someone to push, coach and guide them.

        You too can learn How to Create a Habit of Continuous Learning for a Better You.

        More Tips to Help You Achieve Success

        Featured photo credit: Nghia Le via unsplash.com

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