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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Valentine

Armed with Confidence

If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over? – John Wooden, basketball coach

My sons played several sport when they were growing up. Soccer, basketball, baseball, football, we took swimming lessons and gymnastics too. Each experience came with its own challenges and learning opportunities. No matter what sport we participated in, the premise was still the same. If you want to excel, you had to practice on your own. You had to concentrate on the areas that you needed improvement to make yourself better. Having this focus has benefitted our family in many ways.

In today’s day and time, the subject of standardized tests is very controversial. I always looked forward to these exams because it gave me a measuring point for each child. In addition to their classroom instruction, I introduced concepts and lessons to keep them excelling in the classroom. The tests helped me know where I needed to focus their “home lesson plans”. One year one of my darlings scored low in the reading comprehension section. We focused on that skill and the next year we saw a significant improvement. Life requires preparation whether you are considering a challenge in school or work. Knowing how to make adjustments and learning from the experience is vital.

One of the takeaways from the playing sports is how to operate under pressure and to understand the need for personal preparation. In an earlier blog I mentioned that trying to teach them how to track and catch a fly ball is a great source of comedy for us now. The gesture I used to get the ball high enough looked more like a dance move and not anything like a sports move. In all of their sports and educational experiences, the main result was confidence. They will tell you that it was the one word they could depend on me yelling at least once per game. When a child has confidence in their class and extracurricular activities, you are really arming them with something that will benefit them throughout their life.

I hear the results when they share their job interview experiences with me. Listening to them retell their interview stories brings me great enjoyment. Each son conveys a level of confidence that lets the interviewer know that they are well prepared for the task at hand. Frederick Douglass said “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” So how do we build strong children:

Focus on your child’s strength/interest - Parents, too often, are guilty of imposing their dreams, desires and wants on their children. Your child comes with a special talent. It is your job to find it, nurture it and provide an environment to develop it. When the fellas started playing brass instruments in middle school, we had have to suffer through some terrible sounding music in the 6th grade. Each year got better and by the 8th grade concert, the band sounded good. Don’t let your child switch away from a discipline too quickly. Some good old fashion perseverance is good for them.

Be willing to foster their individual creative adventures – As the mother of three, I was hoping to apply successes with my oldest to the other two. It doesn’t really work that way. My youngest took a class in video game design. The participants were able to create a rudimentary game by the end of the class, but the real benefit came when he was in college. He was able to apply some of the principles to a programming class. The premise was similar so it was beneficial.

Be their cheerleader – When my guys were little and learning how to walk, there were times when they would fall down. Instead of running over to pick them up, I would just say “upsey daisy” and before long, they would recognize that they could get themselves up and continue where they were going. You have to develop that same signal with your children. Having them learn the importance of independence will make them cope better with disappointments, losses and the adjustments they will in evidently have to make in life. If they know you will be there for them with an encouraging word, some guidance or loud cheering from the stands, it boosts their confidence. You just have to put the time in. And please don’t compare them to anyone else…not even their siblings. This is a morale killer.

Stop whatever you are doing to listen – I learned watching my guys grow that any time they wanted to talk, I needed to stop what I was doing and listen. Tape your show, leave the dishes in the sink and let the call go to voice mail. This lets them know that they are your top priority. Don’t make them compete. There are boundaries. You shouldn’t be taking check calls from them at work, but when you are home and you have had a few moments to adjust after work, make your children your priority.

If you put the time in, and focus on what makes them the wonderful individual they are, it will reap tons of benefits. You get one opportunity to raise a compassionate, confident and responsible adult. Do it right the first time.

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