As parents, we have always striven to give our lovely girl confidence; that intangible ability to find strength from within and shrug if the world around you tries to tell you otherwise. But, no matter how much we fill that proverbial balloon with love and compliments, ego-boosting and well deserved congratulations, the balloon has a leak and seems to deflate pretty quickly.
So much so that a compliment makes her scowl, a good mark makes her hide her workbook and she presents her effort grades as ‘I got three Bs’ instead of ‘I got nine As and three Bs’. We do not put academic pressure on her – she is her own little pressure cooker so needs no input from us. We have always said the mantra of enlightened parents everywhere that trying your hardest is all we want her to do (she is eight remember!). All the same, those wise words fall on deaf ears.
Our wee one is academically bright (not off-the-scale bright but very able) but the speed at which she works is slow in comparison to others. Her teacher is very understanding and I saw the sweetest note written in the margin of her book today. Our daughter had been asked ‘What would you like to improve on this week?’ to which she had answered ‘Speeding up my rate of work’. The teacher had said ‘What a great goal. I think this is to do with your confidence. I know you can do it, believe in yourself and I am sure your rate of work will speed up’. Thank you lovely teacher.
Sometimes, if she is in the right mood and homework is not a battleground, short sharp bursts of encouragement can get her through it. We get on a roll, high-fiving and thumbs-ups puff, puff, puff up that balloon of self-belief and she finishes it without the usual head in hands, hot tears and pencil breaking.
Self-esteem in social situations is just the same. Put our daughter in a room full of adults and she will work the room, charm everyone, engage them in conversation (I can tell from the inflection in her voice and casual toss of her hair that she has put on her invisible acting cloak and is playing a part). But, when it comes to a room full of her peers, the cloak vanishes and she is left there stumbling over her words, standing a little too close for comfort, three steps behind the conversation and then ends up talking to the teacher instead. None of the confidence boosting has worked – the balloon has deflated yet again.
If I had one wish, it would be to mend that leak and make the balloon as air tight as possible.