My husband and I went for my three-year-old daughter’s preschool parent-teacher conference today. While the assistant kept her in one room playing with sand art and easy reader books, we went into another and discussed her progress. Overall, she’s doing fabulous and we’re so proud of how far she’s come.

When it came time to discuss our concerns, though, I knew exactly what I wanted to say. “I just hope when the time comes for her kindergarten assessment, she’ll be confident and assured enough to show her teachers what she knows.”

Here’s the thing. Our daughter is bright beyond her years and light years ahead of where I was at her age. She’s rattling off sight words, counting to 100 and reading until the wee hours of the night — at home. When I pick her up from preschool, she clings to my legs and doesn’t act any older than her two-year-old brother right beside me. It frustrates me, but I know it shouldn’t. I know that with a little bit of time and grace, she’ll grow into the confident little girl that her family knows she is. I also shouldn’t pass judgment or even worry all that much because I know precisely where she gets her timidity from: me.

I’ve been shy and nervous all of my life, with a general sense of anxiety that tends to ramp up when I’m around a large group of people. I trace it to my stutter, though it’s likely a condition that’s simply exacerbated over time. Yet, it’s not too late to reverse the trend of self-doubt and with a few simple, daily exercises, both my daughter and I are learning to speak clearly, hold our heads up a little higher and walk more proudly into any environment, regardless of how nerve-wracking it might seem.

For me, my kryptonite is a conference room full of executives. For her, its a classroom full of four-year-olds. Either way, we’re overcoming it and while the shift is gradual, I can tell it’s happening. Here’s what we’re doing:

1. Repeating positive affirmations.

We’ve all seen that adorable YouTube video of the little girl giving herself a precious morning pep talk, right? If not, I’ll give you a second to Google it and it will make your day. Well, since I saw that, I decided to start doing the same thing for my daughter. Every morning, we use the preschool bathroom and get ready to walk in to the classroom. But first, I prop her up on the sink, get her face really close to the mirror, and ask her to repeat these easy phrases: “I am smart. I am strong. I am nice to people. I am kind. I am beautiful.” Notice I leave beautiful for last because I want to lead with her intellect and her abilities. Yes, she’s a stunner, but that should be the least interesting thing about her, in my opinion.

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2. Resisting the urge to nit-pick.

Every morning, she comes to me with two shoes. Every morning, she asks, “Mama, is this the right way?” Every time, she’s holding them backward and I correct her. Most of the time, she’ll proceed and put them on correctly. Other times, she still puts them on the wrong feet. When the latter occurs, I just get down on her level and calmly switch them back.

I try to have the same reaction when she “does” her own hair for school or church, or when she picks out an outfit that’s a little funky. As long as it’s modest and seasonally appropriate and she can be comfortable with it on the playground, almost anything in her closet is fair game. I praise her for being creative and for taking initiative. It’s worked and she looks forward to her morning routine now so much more.

3. Being a positive example.

I was paid a compliment on my shoes recently and, as my knee-jerk reaction is always to do, I responded with “Oh, gosh. These are so old. They’re from college and I’m surprised they’re still holding together.” I then realized my daughter was watching and heard every word, soaking it all up like a sponge as kids tend to do. Later, when someone complimented her on her hair, she didn’t respond. Why? I didn’t give praise any reaction in my life, so why should she?

Now, I’ve started talking more positively about myself and accepting a compliment when it’s thrown my way. I let her see me working at my computer and I remind her that she can have a job and work when she gets older and that it can be in any field she wants. She goes outside with me and does yoga in the morning, or runs alongside my jogging stroller as I push her brother through the fields behind our house. She’s full of questions and I don’t have nearly all the answers, but I can try with all my might to set a good example of the kind of self-affirming, positive, healthy woman she wants to emulate.

We’re still walking this journey together, but it’s my privilege to be the one who gets to guide her. As we grow in confidence, we’re also growing closer together and every day we get a little farther along than the next. I know soon enough she’ll be bouncing down the halls of her elementary school, her arm around her friend chit-chatting and the shy toddler who wouldn’t let me leave will be but a shadow of a memory.

So for now, we’ll talk to the mirror and put our shoes on backward and laugh at how silly and significant it is all at once.
Featured Photo Courtesy: dassel via Pixabay