Confidence Is Not A Gift Parents Can Make
“If work was always fun, it would be called vacation,” my husband likes to remind me. Parenting feels the same for me. I look at those delicious, chubby cheeked, adorable babies and lisping, waddling toddlers and think, “Wow, how perfect and easy was that?” But at the time, it actually wasn’t easy. Raising my children was hard because it was all completely new to me.
In parenting, as my career, I am always learning something new. This week was a big “learning week” in my parenting journey. One of my daughters was the victim of bullying. It was tough, to say the least. It happened to my middle child, my independent, happy-go-lucky, adjust-to-anything child. She doesn’t get upset often because she intuitively knows how to navigate her needs between a sometimes “bossy” older sister and an always-demanding younger sister. Consequently she is probably better prepared for the changing unpredictability and imperfections of living a full life than most. Siblings can do that to you, or not.
I think it is natural for parents to want to rush in and fix things when our children have problems. If our child seems insecure, lacking confidence, we immediately want to assure them they are awesome, that their accomplishments are amazing. That they are amazing. But what happens when that kid is put out into the world, interacting with other kids that haven’t received the memo?
My middle daughter is so happy, so easygoing, so well adjusted. I simply could not relate to her! Although we enjoy physical similarities, I never really saw myself in her. Yes, parents can be incredibly egomaniacal, and we project ourselves onto our children – often.
But this past week, when we had to confront this situation that left my daughter on the sidelines, rejected because of the actions of another girl who harbored resentment against my daughter – a girl we barley even knew existed – I learned a huge lesson. It was exactly her confidence, her independence and her straight-talking attitude that made her the victim of exclusion, of bullying.
Because my daughter did not “follow the script” and tell this girl who so desperately needed and was used to hearing that she was great, that girl began to resent our daughter. Our daughter became the target, the cause, the source of this girl’s unhappiness.
Our daughter doesn’t seem to care if she is snubbed or excluded on the playground one day and included the next (If you have observed playground behavior – this is every child’s experience.). Because she did not follow the popular, easy script. She simply found other things to do or other kids to play with. This is a sense of self I never enjoyed as a child. I was painfully conscious of being “in” or “out” of the group. As a child, I always wanted to be safely ensconced within the group. I think most kids do.
I did not give my daughter this confidence. It is hers and hers alone. I don’t blame those parents for seeing that their daughter suffered from low self-esteem and wanting to give her the confidence that she lacked by overcompensating and perhaps exaggerating her positive behavior. As parents, as much as we really, really want and pray that our kids are confident, we cannot give it to them, no matter how awesome we tell them they are.