When you reach an age when you have young kids, or you're just thinking about having them, you start to become curious about what's best for them.
If you look back on your childhood there are probably things you wished you had experienced that might have better prepared you for the world. Perhaps there are passions you wish you'd have followed, if only you'd had a little nudge in the right direction and the opportunity.
Our natural instinct is to want our children to have a better childhood than we had (even if we really didn't have anything to complain about) so that they can go even further in life than we have.
You want to feel secure in the knowledge that your child will go on to function happily once they're out in the world, sporting a healthy sense of self-confidence that will help them achieve success in whatever avenue of life they venture down.
There has been a lot of talk about Dublin’s new Nord Anglia International School, set to open this September. It's part of a global educational network that aims to inspire students to become global citizens and, with links to world-class organisations like UNICEF, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston, and the Juilliard School of performing arts in New York, build up their life skills like creativity, collaboration, and confidence.
So what better opportunity to look at the various ways you can raise your child to be a more confident person?
Contemplate the future with them
Ask them to think about what they'd like to do when they grow up and help them think through what they might need to prepare for and accomplish in order to achieve that. Of course they may pick an outlandish option, but don't dissuade them from following the idea. The important thing is that they're thinking about what they might one day do.
Their future outside of the home needn't be a daunting thing, but rather an end destination on a path that you and your child have worked together to pave.
Expose them to other cultures
The wider world can be a scary place for someone who is unprepared for it, so let your child know what to expect from different cultures and people.
Put them in communication with pen pals from other countries, allow them to try different types of cuisine, encourage them to attempt other languages, take them on trips abroad — this exposure alone will allow them to increase their understanding of the world.
Giving kids the opportunity to develop the confidence to conquer the unknown is an important part of contemporary learning.
Illustrate how to set realistic goals
Children should be encouraged to set goals early in their lives, as this is an essential life skill.
The earlier they come to understand the importance of hard work and delayed gratification, the sooner they will find themselves succeeding in classrooms and in social spheres, improving their self-esteem.
Support their pursuit of passions
If you notice they are drawn to a particular area, let them follow it. Don't get in their way, but rather let them see that they can make their own choices.
They may gravitate towards outlets like drama, dance or art, where they'll build invaluable skills like teamwork, creative problem-solving, and self-expression, which will stand to them throughout their lives regardless of the career path they take.
Allowing them to express themselves without interference will let them know that they can be comfortable in their own skin and impact their own future.
Introduce them to mindfulness
You wouldn't ignore the physical health of your children, so why would you ignore their mental health?
Adults aren't the only ones who experience anxiety, stress or depression and they can be hugely harmful to confidence. So give your child the tools they need to deal effectively with these symptoms of modern life.
If you observe your child struggling with a homework assignment, show them how to do some deep breathing exercises or simple yoga poses, offer to go out for a walk or even just let them lose themselves in a colouring book for a bit — the healthy habits of stepping away for a moment will help them throughout the course of their life. And when they come back refreshed to their assignment, they’ll maybe even find the solution that had eluded them before.
Practice problem solving with them
Can you bring to mind that warm sense of satisfaction that comes with solving a tough problem? Experiencing that feeling on a regular basis can really help boost a child’s confidence.
Mistakes are inevitable when we face problems, be they mathematical or personal, but our self worth grows as we see ourselves improving and effectively overcoming obstacles in life.
Accomplishing something you thought you would not be able to do — the feeling of euphoria surrounding that and the self-esteem that accrues from it — is character growth.
Introduce them to volunteering
While helping those around us can be rewarding, helping those in need is even better.
Encourage your child, letting them know they can make a positive difference in the world and praising them when they've done something good for others, and their hearts will swell with pride. In the words of Pablo Picasso: “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”
Nor is this just a matter of confidence, as volunteering will also help your child develop a more altruistic character. It's an important part of a more holistic education.
This also feeds into the idea of service learning, an educational approach by which learning occurs while the student performs a service for the community. This method works best when tailored to the child's level of development, so a five-year-old might help make cup cakes for a charity bake sale while a 17-year-old might organise a table quiz for a large group of people.
Impelling students into activity outside their normal comfort zone is key to increasing self-esteem and confidence and ultimately growing character.
Tell them you love them
This is the simplest thing you can do to boost their confidence, but absolutely vital to childhood well-being.
Showing your son or daughter a healthy amount of affection and telling them regularly that you love them and are proud of them will increase their sense of self worth which will become an invaluable foundation for them in life.
Encourage them to participate in activities
Apart from the obvious health benefits of getting your child involved in group activities like sports, it's also good for their personal well-being and for developing their social skills.
Forming friendships, accepting defeat gracefully, performing in front of an audience and seeing their own contribution to a group effort all contribute to the building of an individual's confidence.
And it doesn’t have to be the usual sporting activities. Let them experiment with alternative activities like wall climbing, tae kwon do, or different forms of dance. These varied activities will nourish your child's development and enthusiasm for new experiences.
Principal Paul Crute of Nord Anglia International School Dublin believes that encouraging kids to step outside of their comfort zone is a crucial part of their development. Crute said: "If you want your child to learn resilience, you must think about the type of situations where resilience is required. It is required when we fail, and we sometimes fail when we take risks. Risk taking, therefore, must play an integral part of building resilience. Resilience is courage by another name."
Or as TS Elliot put it, "To find out how far we can go, we must risk going too far!"
Teach them to be independent
There are aspects of life that most schools just can't prepare your children for, so you need to identify those things and assist your children in developing the flexibility and resilience for dealing with them.
You want to be safe in the knowledge that when they've flown the nest and are experiencing the world on their own, they'll be ready for any challenge that's thrown their way.
And if they're confident enough, they really can take on the world.