Lessons In Parenting Confidence Learned From My 4 Year OldJan 13, 2022
Do you worry about what other people think of you as a parent? Do you need other people to think of you as a good parent, in order for you to feel like you’re doing a good job? I ask this because that was me. I was not a confident parent, but I had a child that was naturally confident — I learned a lot from her.
My daughter was born opinionated, and she figured out a way to express her very strong opinions before she could even speak. I used to pick clothes out for her and she would violently shake her head and point to what SHE wanted to wear. At the time, I would get frustrated because I had always loved seeing the little girls in cute clothes with all of the matching accessories, but my daughter wanted nothing to do with it.
She had her very own distinct sense of style — the more outrageous and over the top the outfit, the more she liked it. One morning when she was around 4 she came downstairs with pink glitter ballet flats, pink striped tights, a floral pink skirt, another patterned pink shirt, and a hot pink and green argyle cardigan sweater to top it all off. She was so proud of herself because she decided that since everything was pink she “matched”.
We were rushed trying to go out the door to get to church on time, and what ran through my mind was what in the world would everyone think of this crazy outfit. Caught up in the moment, I looked at her and said “You look ridiculous, let’s go pick out different clothes”. Now, writing this, reliving that moment brings up horrible guilt and shame. What loving mother would say that to her daughter? That could have been a moment that scarred her and would come up later in therapy as the defining moment that sent her down a lifetime path of shame.
Thankfully, it did not go down that way and I learned a VERY valuable lesson. Instead of being ashamed, my daughter looked right at me and said “I do not look ridicoolus, I look like a princess”. It stopped me in my tracks. I realized that it didn’t matter what other people thought, what mattered was what SHE thought.
She thought she looked like a princess and felt so beautiful, and who was I to tell her otherwise? I quickly recovered and told her that she was right and that she did look like a princess. Off to church we went. And of course, since my daughter felt so wonderful and so beautiful, that was the day that she decided to dance in the aisle to the music… and with my new insight, I let her dance.
As my daughter was dancing, I looked around at the people in the aisles wondering what they were thinking but from a very different place. That morning I didn’t really care what they thought because I knew that I was doing the right thing as a parent, and I was able to observe from a place of curiosity. I just wondered what they might be thinking because it had held such a grip on me in the past.
In looking around, it turned out that there wasn’t nearly as much judgment as I had imagined. There were some that had pure grins of delight, some that had small knowing smiles, and one girl in middle school that was obviously horrified. Thankfully her mother standing next to her was smiling so I chose to believe she understood and supported my parenting decision.
I think that I was given an opinionated daughter because she is so very different from me. You see, I was a people pleaser. I didn’t have strong opinions of my own because I was always trying to conform to what other people thought I should do.
Unfortunately, this started affecting how I was parenting. I spent a lot of time worrying about what I thought I should be doing as a parent, and how my kids should be acting because I was concerned about what other people would think of me as a parent. My opinion of myself as a parent was based on other people telling me that I was doing a good job.
That morning with my daughter and the “matching” pink outfit gave me so many opportunities to decide whether I was going to support my daughter’s image of herself, or try to get her to conform because I was worried about what other people might think of me as a parent. I’m grateful I realized that standing up for my daughter and supporting her image of herself as a princess was more important than what other people thought. I knew in my heart that I was making the right decision, and was confident in my parenting choice.
My daughter’s complete confidence in herself and lack of concern over what I, or anyone else, thought about her taught me that I could be confident in myself as a parent, and not worry so much about what everyone else thought of me.
I would like to say that I completely stopped worrying about what other people thought and was able to always parent with confidence moving forward, but people-pleasing was a deeply ingrained habit. So I’ve been working to parent confidently independent of other people’s opinions ever since.
Do you struggle with feeling confident as a parent? You’re not alone, and I can help. It’s a common issue that I work on with most of my clients. Remember, kids don’t come with a parenting manual. Stop expecting that you should simply know what to do to be a great parent, and know that help is available!
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