Building confidence

Building confidence in our children—our role as parents and as a community

Iftikhar Ahmed, Silicon Valley Majlis

We all want our children to have confidence in their choices, decisions, and interactions with others. But as parents, sometimes it becomes a challenge to choose the approach we take and how we act, especially in situations which could turn into opportunities for us to nurture this important characteristic in them. As a community most of us have grown up in different cultural norms. We aspire that our youth can develop the confidence to integrate within a society which is built on the notion of a melting-pot and yet they are able to confidently participate and model as Ahmadi Muslims with pride.

The thematic approach to consider is one of building confidence through encouragement. Note that encouragement is clearly different from praise. Praise–especially too much of it–focuses on influencing the child to consider what makes “others” happy. If not balanced, it could have the opposite effect where the child begins to expect approval from parents and others through their praise. Encouragement, on the other hand, can enable them to get the positive vibes that they are heading in the right direction. It also enables them to consider what effort they put in this time around that helped them in accomplishing a milestone. It further compels them to ponder over what they could do in future to raise the bar for themselves.

It is important that we control our tendencies to expressively compare the child with others (whether it is other children or siblings, another generation, or even ourselves). Here are a few suggestions to consider both as parents, and as elders of the community whenever we interact with Ahmadi children around us in mosques and social settings:

As parents:

  • Model the behavior: Let the child observe us as we try to accomplish something ourselves. It is ok if they see us trying a few times before we achieve something in real life. Share how you are trying to get to a goal and how you are trying harder to achieve them until you get there.
  • Appreciate their effort: Instead of jumping to, “you are such a smart boy” or “you are such a good girl” type of feedback, consider sharing your observations and letting them reflect on their own processes and accomplishments. How about something like, “I notice that you worked hard on this puzzle, and got farther this time.”
  • Ask questions/their ideas and suggestions: Sometimes it helps to ask how they did something, and acknowledging (not over praising) their response. Seek their ideas and suggestions to plan or work on something (keep their level of abilities in mind).

As community members:

  • Identify and share positive feedback: As children take part in Jama’at’s activities, share with them, one-on-one, what they did well. Everyone can find at least one positive feedback to share.
  • Nobody is perfect: Please avoid the temptation to identify and share what he or she missed out or did not do well (harder for some of us, I admit).
  • Recognize: Acknowledge their presence, participation, and effort in making something better (an event, a Waqar-i-Aml activity, participation in an open forum or conversation, etc.). Ask for their input and suggestions for next time.