I am a mom to a five year old typical girl and an eight year old autistic boy. My children gave me a firsthand teaching on how self-confidence can make the seemingly impossible possible and I would like to share it with you.
Confidence has tremendous impacts in the way we approach different situations, the way we react to situations and the way we handle situations. Making a child confident means giving him those super powers to do anything he wishes to do, to try new things he has never tried before.
Even though since babies I have exposed both my children to different water bodies, the beach, ponds, swimming pools, pouring rains frequently, my daughter is scared of getting into the water especially the pool without floats, even with me being in the water. I would force her to play in the pool. If with some luck she ever came into the pool without floats, I would trick her and leave her hand so that she walked herself in the water. I would distract her, cajole her, and even bribe her to make her be in the water without floats. But with all these seemingly silly interventions, she became even more fearful and I noticed that her confidence of getting into the water dropped drastically.
For the past eight months, I have been a follower of Poovazhagan’s child development philosophy at Therakeyz. Once into this protocol, I let my daughter just be. I didn’t trick her, I didn’t cajole her and neither did bribe her. I gave zero instructions to her and let her be in the water the way she wants. If she didn’t want to get into the water, that was fine too. But I did give her regular access and exposure to the pool and other water bodies. I focused on just having a good time together. This immensely built her trust in me.
One fine day we decided to go to a small water park along with my son and two other children, an eight and a nine year old. This is nothing like the other fancy water parks we had visited earlier in Bangalore, Mumbai and Singapore. This one had only three play areas and two were for bigger children so my daughter and I spent our entire time in the kiddie play zone which had smaller slides and water about 2.5-3 feet. There she saw my son and her friends swim effortlessly. She saw how they glided under water. We all spent a total of about five hours in the water park and I didn’t leave the kiddie zone and stayed with my daughter all the time as that is what she wanted. The other children were quite independent to take care of themselves. I spent five hours by her side in the pool without forcing anything on her, just letting her lead.
First, my daughter took dips in the water many times, hundreds of times, completely submerging herself for a few seconds. Then she effortlessly moved from one end of the kiddie pool to the other. She did other little things too like standing on one leg while raising the other high above the water surface, getting on and off the big circular floats herself. She was scared to go on the water slides, but by the fourth hour, she managed to garner the courage to go on the smallest two water slides. At every instant, I followed her command. When she asked me to hold her hand I did and only when she asked to let go, I let go. She asked me to keep my hands a certain way to catch her and I did exactly that. She told me exactly the spot I should stand, she told me exactly how far away from her I should be, and I followed her instructions to the letter! She started moving in the water very short distances, about a feet, randomly splashing her arms and keeping her legs afloat. I didn’t tell her how to move her hands or legs. Slowly she increased the distance to two feet and then three. At the end of the fifth hour, she was swimming without any help for short distances of about 3-4 meters.
A five and a half year old learning swimming by her own devising her own training process and her own strategies was miraculous for me. The way she kept trying and improvising every step and the way she was excited about the whole process was awe-inspiring. She definitely cannot explain to me why and how she could do it, but she told me that this is the best water park she had been in her life as she learned swimming there.
I came up with these reasoning. Firstly, and mainly because she was confident in herself. She knew that it is not the end of the world if she didn’t learn to swim. She knew that she had the freedom to explore however she wanted. She knew she had the freedom to take all the time she needed. She knew that swimming is a lot of fun and need not be a scary experience. She knew that no matter what it wouldn’t change the way her mom felt about her. And the most important was this; she was doing it for herself, as she wanted to learn swimming and glide under the water, and not for the sake of anyone else.
We want our children to do what other children do and what we want them to do, but it’s very important that we never force children into an environment but rather give them space and time to explore and learn themselves. We as parents should help build their confidence with enough opportunities.
How can we build a child’s self-confidence? It is very simple. Don’t obstruct them and let them explore the way they want. Let them struggle and have small wins, pouring water into a glass, opening a bottle or just wearing their slippers. Of course, this changes with age and capabilities, and they might not do it the right way or the way we want, but it is utmost important that we do not correct them. By correcting, we are telling them that they are wrong, we are telling them that they are incapable, which will tremendously drop their self-confidence. Nothing a child does is actually wrong, but a means of exploration and what we think is correct is our way of viewing as something is correct and not a child’s view.
I am sure you will all agree when I say that a child can achieve a lot without having the perfect skills but if confident. On the contrary, a child without any confidence will not be able to effectively use any of his skills.
In this story my daughter is typical but lessons of confidence can be applied to any individual isn’t it, even as adults.