How to encourage children to say what they think

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Marie-Ange Demory
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How to raise a self-confident child? The question that millions of parents ask themselves every day aims to make children independent, confident and certain of their passions and opinions. Encourage children to say what they think for a mum and a dad it often means stepping aside, accepting that their child learns to face fears and support him in the process that leads him to improve self-esteem and grow. Often falling, getting up and starting all over again. The temptation to always be there (with the drift of the "helicopter parents" looming) is strong, but this does not mean that it must block the child's self-affirmation plan, which also passes through what he thinks. interviewed a group of experts, pedagogues and psychologists to draw a framework of advice that always allows the child to make her voice heard, to say her opinion and to never be afraid in this process. 

Read also: Children: 10 rules for developing self-esteem and doing well in school

How to encourage children to say what they think, a guide

Children have to answer for themselves

When a stranger or relative asks the child a question, the temptation of many parents is to answer for him. Or at the restaurant, the father orders for his son. A mistake that costs a lot in terms of the child's self-esteem, according to Marcie Beigel, founder of the Behavior and Beyond center for psychological support in New York. "Stopping this parental habit immediately gives power and importance to the child's voice and encourages him to use it in different situations."

Open important debates

Do you talk to children like you talk to adults? Of course it depends a lot on the age of the child, but this does not mean that debates on major current events should be banned in a family. Indeed, taking time to discuss the facts and curiosities of the day helps children feel important and involved, as psychotherapist Mia Rosemberg claims.

Don't judge them

Like everyone, even children can have unpopular opinions. In their case, however, age and inexperience justify them and for this reason they should never be judged nor scolding the child is the solution. According to Mia Rosemberg "it is important that when children start talking about something, parents listen without prejudice". This does not mean not asking questions, but that it would be better to ask them in a gentle way, so as not to put the child on the defensive.

Give children choices

Never take things for granted, especially when it comes to preferences and tastes. Giving them the opportunity to choose freely is a great way to help them say what they think and what they like.

Read also: Children's self-esteem: 8 tips to pass it on to your children

Don't label them

"You are a tomboy", "you are spoiled", "you are the smart son", "Do things as a small child". According to Kathryn Ely, JD, counselor and founder of the Empower Counseling & Coaching center in Alabama, "children easily adapt to the labels their parents put on them and that makes it difficult for them to identify with something they truly believe in." Being supportive and not complimenting on labels is the solution to not sticking that label on children. "It is useful to compliment something the child has done, using the correct adjective." Don't say "You are a speck" but "You said a funny thing" limits the compliment to a given situation and bypasses the labels.

Help them reinforce their views

Children make choices and to increase their self-esteem the parent should support and value them, for example by informing themselves and adding information to the child's knowledge. In fact, demonizing his opinions does not help him to self-assert himself, but only to limit the power of his voice.

  • esteem
  • confidence
  • child psychology
  • empathy
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