By Tracy Lamperti, LMHC, BCETS
Lamperti Counseling & Consultation
Somewhat of a hobby of mine is the study of the Founding Fathers of this country, for we have much to learn from the way they learned. Whether they were walking many miles for a book to read, or copying the 110 Rules of Civility because they themselves were less than civil, we can learn a lot from their fortitude.
It was Benjamin Franklin who said, “self-esteem is certainly not a virtue, for it ends up esteeming only itself.” So how is it that the culture, probably mostly spurred on by the pioneers in my profession, we have come to hold up this concept of self-esteem as being the key to success?
Unfortunately, what those in my profession have done is say that “IF the adults so this, THEN the child will feel this. Too often, this looks like, “IF I issue a consequence (dare I say, “punishment”) for X behavior, THEN, the child’s self-esteem will suffer.” Or, “IF I use these words to praise him, THEN the child’s self-esteem will soar.” Too much, or too little of this or that and you will have destroyed your child’s “self-esteem.” Or even worse, the child’s rotten, awful “other” parent will destroy their self-esteem, so I need to interceded for the sake of my child’s innermost self.
Well, let me just say, that children are MUCH more “able” than we give them credit for. Since everyone seems so afraid of damaging the child’s “self-esteem” we rob the child of important life lessons and set them up with a mindset that the step-sisters of Cinderella had. Cinderella wasn’t spared of the tough stuff and neither was Pollyanna, and look how they turned out.
For anyone who might be feeling a bit angry about what I am saying, relax. I’m not talking about abuse. Some “discipline” is abusive and children need to be protected from abuse. Expecting a 3 ½ year old to use the potty and taking away their pull up and being consistent about it, could look like a tragedy. It’s not a tragedy and children will rise up to the occasion when boundaries are clear. Expecting a 1 ½ year old to drink their drink at the table, in your lap or in a chair, rather than crawl around the floor with a ”bubba” between their teeth or a sippy cup that gets tossed, picked up, tossed, picked up…is not abuse and will not damage their self-esteem.
But fine, let’s say that it is a necessary ingredient for success, and let’s say that it is a measure of how a person values themselves. How can we foster an environment where children gain a good, positive self-esteem, not too low and not too high?
Babies – Praise, praise, praise!!! Snuggle, comfort, love! Be calm, consistent and meet their needs. Begin to assist even babies in learning to meet their own needs in time. In time and learning their cues, adapt your own behavior to accommodate for their new skills. The number of parents who refer to their 2, 3 and even 4 year olds as “the baby” always takes me by surprise.
Toddlers – Develop expectations. Teach them that you, the parent, are the structure and are in control. Seeing 2 and 3 year olds crawling around the floor with a bottle hanging out of their mouth, or cheerios all over the place is a clear indication of the next state, when a child won’t sit at the table with the family for dinner, or any meal for that matter.
Young Children – Don’t go overboard with praise for every new accomplishment. You could get away with that, and it was even helpful in earlier states, but your child needs to gain a sense now of their own abilities, rather than the reaction that they can get from you. After the first couple of times of putting toys away, this should no longer get a “yippee-hooray!” from you, for if they require such praise for this task, the next task, toilet training, will also require a huge song and dance from you. The great big awesome feeling needs to come from what they accomplished, rather than what they made you do.
Elementary Age – Help your children to become observers. Help them to see good in others and qualities and skills in others that they think are cool…EVEN if they can‘t do it themselves and EVEN if the other person who can do it is a peer. How many people who you see complimenting others seem to have a poor self-esteem? Teach children that if others can do it, they can too, and they can learn something from those that can. Teach them if they can’t do it, they have another gift, maybe yet undiscovered, that they CAN do just as well.
Middle School Age – This is when school work becomes more challenging even for very good students. It is a time to assist children with time management. They, in fact, are likely to need to spend more time completing school work, and they will need more time to complete the daily chores that you have assigned for them;-). Yes, in fact they can vacuum out the car, and they actually can learn to make scrambled eggs and a piece of toast.
High School Age – Is so much about beginning to assist our children in following their dreams. While they are building on the skills you have fostered in them over the last 12-14 years, it is now time to encourage them to dream and begin to build their foundation for when they graduate from your full-time care.
George Washington realized that he had some very bad tendencies. There was no DSM diagnosis for him and certainly no psychotropic meds, there was a wealth of rules of civility and decent behavior that he “regularly reminded himself of.”
My recent studies come from, Our Country’s Founders, A book of Advice for Young People, edited, with commentary, by William J. Bennett.
Tracy Lamperti, LMHC, BCETS
Lamperti Counseling & Consultation
Parents want nothing more than to ensure their children are physically and mentally fit, and fully capable of handling social as well as personal situations. Having good self-esteem from childhood is key for growing into a successful and self-satisfied adult.
From a very young age, children are faced with situations that demand confidence, whether it is going to a new school or performing at a spelling competition. So how can you establish confidence in your child to allow them to believe in themselves and face the challenges of everyday life?
1-Give them plenty of chances at success
Children can acquire a great deal of self-confidence if they have achievements littered along their life, regardless of how big or small. Make them feel competent by enabling experiences that let them realize their own capabilities.
This can include encouraging them to sign up for an art competition if they have a natural talent for painting, or to perform at the school play if they particularly enjoy drama class. However, avoid pushing them to do something against their own will.
2-Vocalise your appreciation
As long as the compliments you give are genuine and not misleading, they can go a long way to making your children believe in themselves. Don’t make them believe something that isn’t true as this will only disappoint them upon realization.
3-Avoid using unwarranted labels
This especially applies to calling your child shy or nervous, regardless of how introverted he/she really is. Whether speaking to your child, or about your child to others, using a label such as ‘oh he’s really shy he doesn’t speak very much’, prevents him from doing any different and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The best approach is to rephrase his reluctant nature by a general statement such as ‘Thomas enjoys listening to other views before expressing his own opinion’.
4-Don’t step in on your child’s behalf
Often when children behave in a shy or hesitant manner, parents have a tendency to step in and perform on their behalf by, for example, answering a question directed at the child by another adult.
Try not to interfere as your child is always in a position to learn from new experiences and situations and could become too dependent on others when faced with something they cannot handle on their own.
5-Avoid coming across as dismissive
Always have a supportive response in situations where your child becomes upset or nervous. Your tone should be full of warmth and understanding. Stating a sentence of comfort such as ‘it looks as though you’re a bit scared around the neighbor’s dog, that’s understandable” as opposed to ‘stop being scared of the
neighbor’s dog, that’s ridiculous at your age’ can make a world of difference.
6-Make your child home-wise
Assigning household responsibilities to your child, which he/she can complete with good ability can also help improve confidence. Whether it is doing the laundry or the dishes, it gives them the chance to trust themselves after being trusted with new tasks, and this filters through to their confidence outside of the
By labeling these tasks as ‘special jobs’ you can entice children into feeling good about what they are doing, even if they are just household chores.
It can sometimes be frustrating watching your child struggle with everyday encounters or shy away from new experiences and responsibility. However, remember that confidence only comes after years of being faced by situations where our strengths and weaknesses are tested and we become familiar with navigating around our fears and reservations.
Try to let your children find their own strengths and then find success in these areas of strength, and support them in this process of trial and error.
About The Author
By: Coach Pam Wills
Last week, I got up on my soapbox about all the good reasons WHY holding onto your dreams is just…GOOD. Today, I’m all about the HOW. You ready? Here we go…
#1 QUIT LISTENING TO THE NEGATIVE CHATTER IN YOUR HEAD
This point is by far the most important, life changing thing you can do for your Self right now. Turn down the volume on the Mean Voice. Actually, mute it! Turn it off completely! Then, go ahead and turn the volume waaaaay up on the Best Friend Voice. I swear to you, this can be done. I did it my Self. And the results are amazing. You can totally do it, too!
#2 BE NICE TO YOUR SELF
Goes hand in hand with #1. If you’re not being nice to your Self, why do you suppose anyone else will be nice to you? Take that new Best Friend Voice and start listening to all the wonderific, nice things it says to and about you! Go ahead, I dare you.
#3 GET COMFORTABLE WITH BEING UNCOMFORTABLE
Practice courage regularly. Do something scary every day. Why? Because accomplishing challenges builds your confidence. Increased confidence allows you to continue pursuing your dreams. See how easy that is?
#4 MEDITATE ON YOUR DREAMS
Meditation doesn’t need to be weird or difficult. All it really involves is a little focus. My fave way of meditating is lounging in bed for a few extra minutes on the weekend and just letting my thoughts drift.
Another great way to focus is to keep a special journal. Write only about your dream in that journal. Write it all in the present tense, as if it is happening right now. Call it your “Make It Happen” bible or your “Yes!” manifesto!
One more way to focus is to keep your media consumption to a minimum, turn off the radio and TV and just enjoy the silence. Gives your brain some room to breathe. Breathing is good.
#5 GO VISION BOARDING
If you’re a visual person, try vision boarding. We used to call this making a collage, back in the day… Now it is all the rage. And with good reason!
Pull out some old magazines and a piece of poster board, cardboard or even an old lined notebook or scrapbook. Cut and paste your way to a creative dream! It is so much fun and a great activity to do with kids. Vision board regularly and watch your dreams come true!
#6 GET UP AND DANCE
Dance, jump, run, skip, sing, hum, color, create, make music… just have fun! Playing makes life worth living. The fun times are the times we remember. Don’t let them pass you by.
Keep the faith. Sometimes, it’s all you have!
Okay so I’m on a roll with my cheesy 80s music… enjoy this one, including the hairstyle and fashion choices!
Don’t Stop Believing
By: Coach Pam Wills
For many of us, confidence is kind of like the Holy Grail. Like most people, I struggle with confidence issues once in awhile. Am I good enough issues. Do they like me issues. Can I do this / is this possible / am I crazy issues. You know, the usual.But sometimes, instead of those issues appearing as fleeting doubts that we combat and vanquish fairly quickly, if we let them take over, they can and WILL affect everything we do. I know this firsthand because a few years back, my confidence hovered at a very low point. It was a painful place to hang out, but it definitely taught me that I was the only person in charge of my Self — AND my self-confidence.
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Eleanor Roosevelt
For instance, if your confidence level is low, you might end up letting opportunities pass you by on a regular basis. You might unwittingly let friends, family members or your spouse tell you what to do. You might find that your business is suffering because you don’t put your Self out there to speak and network.
Guess what — I wasn’t born confident, either. I went through these scenarios my Self. Since then, I have done a lot of work, a lot of studying and a lot of practicing. The result: I figured out how to raise my confidence level through the roof! Now, I get up and speak with confidence all the time. And I LOVE it!
So how can YOU lift the heavy weight of low confidence off your shoulders and step forward into being fully YOU? I will be honest with you — I would not recommend doing it alone like I did. My advice? Ask for help! Hire a coach to lean on. Trust me, an experienced coach’s objectivity and action-oriented guidance are the best gifts you could ever give your Self. I wish I had done it years ago!
Meanwhile, until you gather your courage to reach out, here are a few steps you can practice daily to jumpstart your confidence:
1) Replace the negative chatter in your head with positive Self talk.***
Practice makes perfect. Diligence doesn’t hurt, either. Every time you catch your Self saying something mean about You, stop! Take a breath. Rewind. Now replay it, but this time, be nicer to your Self. For
instance, instead of saying, “I’m so stupid!” say something like, “Okay, I made a mistake, so now how can I learn from this mistake ***If you do nothing else, DO THIS!!! Every day. All the time. Without fail. No
matter what anyone else says to you. It WORKS.
2) Tell yourself 10 Good Things.
Every night before you go to sleep, maybe while you’re brushing your teeth, repeat after me: I am strong. (That’s one.) I am smart. (That’s two.) I am confident. (That’s three. See how easy it is?) And keep going! What other good things can you say about your Self? Are you a good parent? Are you a reliable friend? Do you have great hair?? The first time you try this, it will feel weird. You might only make it up to six Good Things. But keep practicing. Eventually, you will not want to stop at 10! Trust me on this one. It WORKS.
3) Make an “I AM” Scrapbook or Vision Board.
This might be a bit more advanced, but it is also quite relaxing and exhilarating at the same time. Kind of like yoga! Whenever you have some alone time, cut out pictures and words from magazines that reflect who you really want to be. It’s never too late to be the person you’ve always wanted to be, don’t you agree?
You can draw and write words directly in your book or on your poster board. Any book, notebook, scrap cardboard or corkboard will do. Make this an ongoing project if you like. Once you’ve finished, put it where you can see it or take it out and look at it regularly to reinforce that calm yet exhilarating feeling of I AM. Yeah. This WORKS.
Confidence CAN be yours. If I can do it, you can TOTALLY do it, too!
To help you get the ball rolling, contact me for a quick chat. Usually, I charge over $150 per hour for private coaching sessions on the telephone. But I am so sure that I can kick your confidence up a notch or two RIGHT AWAY that I am willing to give you 30 minutes of my time, no charge.
What have you got to lose?
Abundance shows up in our lives in many different ways. It’s not always about money, food or material things. Sometimes, wealth shows up through the richness of our friendships, the love in our families or the opportunities we receive for creating something new. Other times, it appears within our Self.
This abundance shows up as the fullness of confidence that infuses your body with peace, light and happiness.
Example: Let’s say you find the courage to start running three times a week. After a couple of weeks, you start to notice your body accomplishing this task with greater ease. You can run longer, maybe faster each week. You don’t feel out of breath as quickly. Your body tightens up and your clothes feel looser. You might even start to like your Self, your body, a teensy bit more than before.
This process marks the beginning of increased confidence, sort of like planting a seed. You can feel that tiny seed as it rests in the center of your body and starts to expand. Soon it fills you up even more, reaching out to your limbs, straightening your back, lifting your chin, putting a smile on your face and a spark in your step. It keeps you motivated and fills you with a warm glow.
When you feel good like this, it shows in your body. Other people notice your smile, the spring in your step, your upright posture. You probably develop a firm handshake, too. Others start returning that confident, positive body language, giving you reciprocal respect, attention and connection. You feel filled, content.
This is the fullness, the abundance of confidence that I wish for you and want you to experience.
As your Confidence Coach, I can tell you that the best way to achieve this feeling is to take that first step, then the second step and so on. Put one foot in front of the other. Fill your Self with confidence by taking small risks with tiny actions each day.
Vow to be your Self. If you are the shy girl afraid to speak up, find ways to step outside of your shell and open your mouth, regularly. Take a drama class or join Toastmasters and start talking. Take a martial arts class that forces you to vocalize and defend your Self. Take yoga or dance classes to feel your body move and connect with it.
You can be young or old, single or attached, an executive or a mom – none of it matters if you aren’t being YOU. If you don’t allow your Self expression, confidence will elude you. If you don’t open your mouth and stand up for your Self, who will?
Your voice is your single most valuable tool in the quest for confidence. Use that voice and watch the shy invisible person you USED to be, the one always afraid to speak up for fear of saying the wrong thing, disappear. The more you use your voice, the stronger and clearer it gets. The more you hear your OWN
strong voice speak your own words, the more confidence you gain. That confidence will help you feel like you can do anything, be anyone you want. You will feel like you are filled with sunshine.
Don’t be afraid to show people the REAL you. The abundance of YOU can fill you up with so many positive thoughts and feelings! In turn, those good thoughts and feelings bring more wonderful events, opportunities, people and feelings into your life. Abundance begets abundance. Put your Self at the beginning of that equation and reap the rewards.
So. How do you break out of your scared old rut and start taking action? When my clients ask me this question, I give them these suggestions. These steps will kickstart you on the journey to a more confident YOU:
1) Get busy!
Don’t stay stuck. Take steps. Baby steps at first, then bigger and higher. Each step grows your courage, which is the foundation of your confidence.
2) Get risky!
You can totally do this. No matter how scared you are, push on and don’t look back. Watch your steps turn into hills and then mountains crossed. As your accomplishments pile up, feel your fabulousness. Let it fill you up with happy feelings.
3) Get real!
Be who you REALLY are. Authentic. You and only you. How many ways can I say it? Plain and simple: Be.Your.Self.
That’s me in Hamburg, searching for a new path!
Contrary to popular opinion, I did not start out with this much confidence at birth, far from it! In fact, I fought very hard to win my courage, confidence and charisma over the years.
Growing up, I was a shy, quiet, bookish kid, tall and smart with braces and all kinds of awkward. Plus, I was a major perfectionist. I know, right? It was kind of isolating! In high school and then in college, I purposefully pushed my boundaries and comfort zones – mainly with theater-related activities – to break out of my introverted shell. Things went fairly well, but I really didn’t have a plan or any kind of direction.
Truth is, I also had less than a stellar record in the romance department, repeatedly setting my Self up for failure with guys who either weren’t right for me or weren’t ready for me. So when I met a clean-cut, well-dressed, seemingly successful young European guy at a wedding and we connected immediately, I was thrilled at my turn of fortune. Half a year later, I moved to Germany to be closer to him, leaving family, friends and everything else I knew. At the time, I saw it as my chance to finally have that European adventure I’d been yearning for. But when I got there, it was not nearly as much fun as I’d expected.
Living in another country when you don’t speak the language is a real drag! During those first few years, my confidence underwent daily trauma. Every day, I felt less than adequate without the most basic language skills to find a bathroom, count money, or tell someone off when they took my parking space! More and more, while I toiled at learning the language I simply relied on my boyfriend to speak for me.
I married the boyfriend a few years later, fought hard to learn his language and eventually became fluent. Even so, after 15 years of regular practice, that abdication of my voice became the very thing that drove my confidence to an incredible low point and the very thing that allowed my (ex-) husband to control me, box me in and isolate me over time.
After my daughter was born, our relationship was so unbalanced that we rarely had a conversation without screaming at each other. It took me years to get up the courage to leave. I was alone in Germany with no plan, no job, no savings, no assets. One day, I had lunch with a friend and told her how he had shouted at me (again) because he found out I had told my friends that we rented our apartment instead of buying it. He claimed that that kind of “gossip” had caused him to lose a big business deal. I told my friend at lunch that I felt like I should be in a witness protection program.
That’s when the EXIT sign finally lit up in my head. Three months later, I got up the courage to tell him I didn’t love him anymore and couldn’t continue living with him.
In the end, it was clear that over the years, I had learned a lot and realized lots of positive things about my Self. I had made it through a very big storm and emerged to find… me! It was just a tiny glimmer of me, but it was a start. I had spent close to 20 years in a marriage that I allowed to stifle my true Self. Once I finally got up the courage to leave my life in Europe and return to my incredibly generous family on Cape Cod, I began an amazing healing process filled with tons of strength-building, confidence-inspiring experiences.
Once I gained a little distance, I saw that I had also allowed my relationship to stifle my power, authenticity, creativity and ultimately, my success in life. Slowly, I repaired my confidence and became my Self again, only better!
Soon I realized I had lots of experience and information to offer people going through the same kinds of situations. I also realized that the processes of gaining courage, building confidence and tapping into our innate charisma can be very challenging! The charisma piece can be especially daunting because we often shut down our sexuality in times of stress. Sometimes, we don’t even realize that we’ve shut out our girly girl until we are walking around with spiky short hair, what my daughter calls “man shoes” and a hard shell around our hearts that translates into a very tough attitude. My goal is to coax as many women as possible away from those “man shoes” and into a pair of flirty, sexy high heels and help them SIZZLE!
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