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Raising Children to Become Confident, Competent Adults

Posted on November 3, 2015 at 3:00 PM

Just reread Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World by H. Stephen Glenn and Jane Nelsen (2000) Three Rivers Press.  Chapter 4 "Developing Strong Perceptions of Personal Capabilities" is filled with detailed examples of ways to build a child's sense of being capable as well as the words we use that can discourage or inspire independence.  It was a good reminder for me to focus positively on the parts of a responsibility that the child accomplishes and to leave out the "but".  "I love it when you remember to put your dishes in the dishwasher." is much more encouraging than adding, "But you forgot to put your bowl in the right place."

Children as young as eighteen months show their desire to be independent with the common statement, "Me do it."  I recall a two year old loving to help his mom dust and clean up messes.  At first his enthusiasm was more entertaining than helpful.  However, because of her consistent praise and positive guidance, he became more competent and continued enjoying learning new ways to contribute to the family.


Children benefit by being responsible for their homework, contributing to household chores, helping in the kitchen, being included in care of neighbors, and participating in community service.  Giving them a voice in family meetings and developing their ability to "Say What's Wrong and Make It Right" nurtures their potential for thriving as an adult.  Allowing children to have input and choices means life may be less predictable and contain fewer conflicts.  You might be outvoted in choosing a picnic over the beach.  And that could turn out to be a positive adventure in the long run.

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1 Comment

Reply Carla
4:25 PM on November 23, 2015 
Isn't it simple yet brilliant what parents can achieve with consistent positive reinforcement/praise?