Diane and I talk -- a lot 🙂 -- about the importance of parenting from a place of calm and confidence. I've given some thought, lately, to WHY it's so important. Especially the confident parenting part. And the answer lies deep in my early years as a mom.
An Anxious Parent
Because I wasn't always a confident parent. In fact, I was pretty darn anxious … about everything. I got off to a rocky start with parenting. I lost my first pregnancy pretty late, and I didn't really believe that the second pregnancy was going to make it until the day my daughter was born. Literally.
When I finally got to meet her, after a protracted labor and a maternal fever, I struggled with nursing, and yeast infections, and just about everything. And that was all before she started to scream when she was two weeks old. A lot. For months.
Yeah, whatever confidence I might have mustered going into parenting was pretty much shot by the time my daughter was 6 months old. I worried about everything – whether she was getting enough food or growing appropriately, whether I was doing anything right at all.
Basically, I worried about all that a new mother is taught to think about, with a doubting internal voice, a private saboteur message just for me: “What if they find out that you have no idea what you're doing? What if you're messing up this baby and it's all your fault that she's having such a hard time?”
Dancing with Doubt
I spent the first ten years of my life as a parent dancing with extreme doubt, interspersed with moments of cautious confidence. Occasionally I'd have days or weeks that felt like I was on the right track; but inevitably something would happen with one of my kiddos that would throw me back into the gallows of self-doubt.
My sense of self-worth and success was inextricably linked with my kids' success. And in those days, my definition of success was still pretty much tied to society's ideas of mainstream perfection.
- When my kids were hitting appropriate milestones, I was a good mom, right?
- When they were failing to hit milestones – which happened a lot with three kids who combined struggled with anxiety, ADHD, dyslexia, celiac disease, severe allergies, and other challenges – I was a mess.
Basically, my sense of myself was only as strong as any of my weakest's child's worst day.
What is it to Parent with Confidence?
Sometimes I marvel at how much our lives have changed – in less than a decade -- since I became a special needs advocate, since I discovered the world of coaching, since I started focusing on empowering other parents…since I started focusing on empowering myself (the secret sauce to effective parenting)!
And it's clear to me, now, that the single biggest change in my success as a parent -- and ultimately in my kids' success – has been learning to approach every encounter with a kind of “bring it on” attitude. Learning to trust myself as a parent – and as a resourceful, creative, compassionate human being who is absolutely the best person on the planet to raise my three kids.
So what is confidence?
- It's self-trust — the ability to make decisions and take action based on your own values or compass.
- It's about living according to your own expectations, and not trying to live up to everyone else's.
- It's about knowing that whatever comes up, you are resourceful enough to figure out how to handle it.
- It's about not needing to know what is going to happen because you have surety that you'll be able to determine a clear course of action when a decision is needed.
And how do parents show confidence?
- Parents show confidence when they are able to set clear, consistent expectations and communicate them; and yet, have the flexibility to roll with the changes as they arise (because, inevitably, they will).
- Parents show confidence when they apologize and take responsibility for their mistakes, when they don't need to exert power or control because they are operating from a place of internal authority.
- Parents show confidence by not needing to be right, not needing their kids to be perfect, and teaching their kids to learn from mistakes (without feeling blamed, shamed or wrong for making mistakes).
Intuitively, it makes sense that kids do better when their parents are confident. When kids see their moms and dads acting with confidence (not to be confused with controlling things out of fear), it instills confidence. It fosters cooperation and trust. And it models the ability to believe in themselves.
So if you're reading this, and you, too, have stepped into confidence as you've tackled the challenges of raising complex kids – PLEASE, celebrate. Pat yourself on the back. Give yourself some credit. It's not been easy, I'm sure.
And if you're not feeling as confident as you would like – if you're worried about your child's self-esteem, or second-guessing your decisions, or never quite comfortable with the choices you're making, then I want to invite you to do something different. Take a chance – maybe it's a or a woman's empowerment retreat, or working with a life coach. Whatever it is, TAKE AIM on improving your confidence as a parent. And then take action to make change happen.
Trust me, I speak from experience when I tell you that confidence IS a muscle you can strengthen. And when you do, everyone in your family will benefit!
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