Would you like to raise confident children? Most of us recognize confidence as a sign of positive, healthy trust in one’s self and think of confidence as an asset. We aspire to be confident and project confidence because it helps keep us and others from second guessing and doubting. One of the keys to raising confident kids is helping them raise their emotional intelligence and learn self-expression. I am so happy to have author and educator, Jennifer S. Miller, M.Ed, to share with us today an approach for helping parents—and the kids they love— become socially conscious and confident in themselves.
Self-expression, or being able to identify and share big emotions, is key for children but also for parents. I have recently, on a personal level, been realizing the importance of expressing my own emotions, even when they are not pretty. Of learning that my emotions and proper expression are key to good communication, strong bonds, and healthy relationships. Jennifer Miller’s new book Confident Parents, Confident Kids is written for just that purpose to help parents and children learn about themselves and each other and grow in their ability to express and love who they are and offer the same to their children. She will share an excerpt with us here.
Confident Parents, Confident Kids offers an age-by-stage guide from birth through adolescence to help parents understand children’s developmental changes and how that impacts their big feelings and self-expression. Additionally, the book offers parents valuable insight on how to break patterns of parenting they don’t want to repeat from their own upbringing while planning ahead for emotional fires so that they feel competent and ready for any challenge that comes their way. Parents and kids are not born confident. They are born confident-ready. You can check out her book through my affiliate Amazon here and also explore her website confidentparentsconfidentkids.org
How Do You Raise a Confident Child? How Do You Become a Confident Parent?
By Jennifer S. Miller, M.Ed.
“What would help you gain confidence as a parent?” I asked a large, urban Mom’s Club in central Ohio. Unanimously, the response came back, “dealing with big feelings — our own and our children’s.” Consider your own top parenting challenges and whether they concern managing emotions like anger, anxiety, or frustration or involve topics that elicit big feelings like sibling rivalry, attention-seeking behaviors, or power struggles.
With each age and stage, children are learning about their emotions. And we only can feel competent and confident in our parenting if we learn about how to react to our own feelings — particularly when our buttons are pushed, as our children are uniquely equipped to push — with emotional intelligence. When we’ve planned for our own big feelings, we can rest assured that we are modeling emotional competence for our children.
If the vocal cords are the instruments of the body – a vehicle for self-expression — then, feelings are the instrument of the mind, heart, and spirit. If we help our children learn to express themselves by using their emotions as assets, considering them as vital information from their core, then we will prepare them to deeply know themselves and create healthy relationships with others.
But what if our child is struggling at school when we are not there to guide them? This true story, an excerpt from the new book, “Confident Parents, Confident Kids; Raising Emotional Intelligence In Ourselves and Our Kids — From Toddlers to Teenagers” shows how one Mom transformed a significant problem into a learning opportunity for herself and her daughter and gained confidence in the process.
Confident Parents, Confident Kids Excerpt
Excerpt from Confident Parents, Confident Kids; Raising Emotional Intelligence In Ourselves and Our Kids, Publication Date: November 5, 2019, reprinted with permission
Chapter One: The Jam Band
My client, Maria, came to one of our sessions with a pressing concern. “I got a call from Mrs. Wilson last night, Jesse’s kindergarten teacher. She said Jesse has been ‘losing it’ in class. And other students have, too. But Jesse can’t stop. She cries and cries. Mrs. Wilson said it takes a long time for her to recover and return to learning. She said it’s taking time away from the class, disturbing other students. She told me I have to do something. What am I going to do? What if she gets suspended?”
I noticed Maria’s pitch jumping higher into the soprano range as she asked that last question. I knew she was feeling panicky. I took a few deep breaths and responded slowly, reassuring her we’d work on it together. We discussed the facts of her daughter’s situation. As a kindergartner, though she’s becoming proficient in expressing her thoughts, Jesse is still learning to understand and express her feelings. She simply doesn’t have the words for the all-consuming body takeover that occurs when she’s upset, a feel- ing resembling the chaos of kids banging on instruments they don’t know how to play.
Together, Maria and I attempt to piece apart the layers of Jesse’s emotions. I asked, “How were your mornings on the day of the upset? Were they chaotic and stressful or smooth and connecting?” Maria considered and realized that, yes, more often than not, mornings are chaotic attempting to get two young children out of the door on time. That’s one layer of feeling we uncovered—stress to start the day.
Other emotional layers emerged—Jesse’s feelings of inadequacy when facing an academic challenge and of humiliation when she lost it in front of her class- mates and feared further ridicule. She likely sensed her teacher’s disappointment and impatience with her. Every layer acted like one more ill-tuned instrument adding to the melee.
Even if Maria can learn skills to help quiet the emotional noise, how can she help her child self-soothe at school when she’s not present? The key to helping Jesse internalize the skill was for Maria to offer regular practice opportunities at home by using feeling words building her emotional vocabulary.
To keep this practice front of mind, Maria posted a list of words for emotions on the refrigerator—frustrated, scared, excited, for example—and each time Maria noticed a feeling on her daughter’s face, she would name it and ask whether her label accurately described what was going on inside her. “Looks like you’re feeling frustrated with homework. Is that right?”
In response, Jesse began to share with her Mom what she was feeling more frequently. This offered valuable insight to Maria, who could lead Jesse to calm down in the early stages of her upset. The family even made a guessing game of emotions at dinner: “Let’s see if we can tell what Dad’s feeling when we ask, ‘Dad, how was your day?’”
After two weeks of intentional practice using feeling words, Mom braced herself when she got a call in the evening again from Jesse’s teacher. Mrs. Wilson began, “I don’t know what you’ve done, but I have seen significant improvements in Jesse. She still gets upset but she recovers much faster. And when I go over to ask what’s wrong, she tells me how she’s feeling. It seems to calm her down as soon as she speaks.” Maria relayed how they had worked on talking more about feelings at home. Jesse could communicate her emotions and she felt more under- stood when problems occurred.
As Maria hung up the phone, she felt awash with pride. She had faced a parenting challenge that had, mere weeks ago, felt insurmountable. Learning how to face it with emotional intelligence channeled her feelings into constructive action. She knew this experience would become the foundation for future challenges, allowing her to not only face them but harness them as teachable moments.
Jesse learned how to express the big feelings that were welling up inside of her. Like the jam band featuring every instrument at once, her emotions were all playing at the same time. Those individual notes of frustration, fear, and anger were lost in the noise. But with a little practice and encouragement in asserting her feelings, she became capable of helping others understand her. She had practiced the language of self-expression to make meaning of her internal upset.
A big thank you again to Jennifer S. Miller, M.Ed. for sharing her insight into self-expression and confidence. Here is more information on her book in case you want to order a copy for yourself.
Confident Parents, Confident Kids offers research-based strategies at each of those ages are offered to help parents promote children’s social and emotional skills and turn their most challenging times into teachable moments as Maria did.
I hope you found this helpful in your parenting journey. Please feel free to share your own stories of self-expression and how it leads to confident kids. If you have questions or just want to get connected, you can follow me @familyfocusblog and Jennifer @JenniferSMiller.