Day 20. We are two thirds of the way there, and on this, the holiest of days, I bring you another serious topic, that of developing confidence in special needs kids.
First, I really am not qualified to say "this will build confidence in kids" or more..."this will build confidence in special needs kids", but I can tell you how I treat my kids. I can tell you how I hope that how I'm raising them helps them as confident individuals growing up.
I try never to downplay or belittle my children's fears. When they come to me and tell me they're afraid of something. I tell them that I understand. I never tell them to suck it up or stop being wusses. I acknowledge their feelings and I offer ways to help them cope. I talk to them about their fears.
I freely offer affection. I give hugs and kisses and snuggle wherever and whenever my kids want. I don't tell them to "get over it" or "stop being a baby", I want them to always know that they have someone to comfort them. That I'm always a safe place. I want them to always feel protected. Before I ever even had kids I'd heard (and I can't even tell you where or who...) that withholding affection from kids...you know, to toughen them up...did the opposite. It made kids feel less secure with parents and less sure of themselves. And that kids who got affection and more attention tended to feel secure. Not that I'd have it any other way, but that would be the excuse I'd offer if anyone were to accuse me of "coddling" them. I'm not coddling them. They have limits and they know them. They are disciplined. But the hug well is bottomless.
I compliment them on things that they do right/well...or things that they did poorly that they got better at. I try to compliment them on everything, not just "pretty princess" stuff. I tell them when I think they're saying smart things, or being funny, or when they look pretty, or make an athletic play. I want them to know that when they do well, I notice.
I tell them I'm proud of them, I ask them to tell me whether they feel proud of themselves. If not, i ask why. I try to explain why I think they should be proud of themselves despite their reasons.
I try not to ask too much of them. I try to set small goals and allow them to achieve them before advancing to harder goals. I like them to feel they're doing well. I like them to have successes upon which to build.
But...I know parents who feel like they did everything right and their kids still struggle with self esteem. So I don't know. School can be awesome, or socially crippling, and I can't do anything to make it better except to listen when they come to me.
I don't know, I guess the summary is...
Let your kids know you love them
Let your kids FEEL that you love them
Let your kids know you are proud of them
Encourage them to feel proud of themselves.