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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.