For your children to be really confident and grounded, they need to know what they're good at. We're not talking about being arrogant; to be honest, that usually comes from insecurity rather than over-confidence. Besides, arrogance doesn't hurt anyone else, and their friends will soon knock it out of them, so don't worry about that. Telling your children they're good at a sport doesn't make them arrogant—to do that, you have to imply that being good at sports makes them better in some way than people who aren't good at sports.
No doubt you know pretty much what your children's strengths are, and you'll help them by telling them as much:
"You really are a good diplomat. There seem to be fewer squabbles when you're around."
"Do you know, I wish I'd had half your ability at math when I was in school."
"Could you help me organize the toy cupboard? You're so good at working out where things should go."
There are, however, a few things you have to look out for when showing your children where their strengths lie:
- As with praise, make sure you let them know that strengths can come in lots of different shapes and sizes, from positive characteristics like kindness and bravery, to academic skills, art, sport, music,and other traits such as tidiness, a sense of humor, or good organizational ability. Don't focus on one type of strength to the exclusion of others.
- Try not to miss any of your children's strengths, or to be aware of them but miss telling your children. Your never mentioning a strength they feel they have may undermine their confidence.
- Don't forget that children change. You may have it stuck in your head that your child is dreadful at keeping track of time, but, in fact, he may have become really good at it over the last few months. It's amazing how long it can take to notice this sort of transformation.
- This next point ties in closely with how you praise children: Make sure you don't imply that certain strengths have more inherent value than others. This is especially true when you have more than one child. If you set more store by, say, your daughter's thoughtfulness than you do by your son's self-discipline, you will undermine your son.