“No one will know you’re nervous,” I told my daughter. “But I am,” she insisted. We walked in silence for a bit. “I only know you’re nervous because you told me,” I continued. “But you don’t look it at all.” She grinned. “I don’t?” I shook my head. “Not at all.” She thought about that and then wrapped her arms around me and squeezed. I thought for a worried moment she wasn’t going to let go, but she surprised me, telling me she loved me and then turning down the hall. After she disappeared around a corner, her piano book clasped between her fingers and her sweaty palm, I realized she hadn’t looked back.
Kids go through new experiences all the time. Some kids handle their nervousness well, but a lot of kids worry or stress. Do you want to know how to help them get through something stress-worthy? Here are 4 times when you should tell your child to fake it till you make it and the tricks to teach her to project confidence along the way.
1. To Make Friends
“Everyone talks at the beginning of class but me. I don’t know anyone,” my daughter said, adding that it’s her least favorite class because of it. “So, I just sit there and try to read my book.”
If a child wants to make friends, she may have to push past her comfort zone and fake it till she makes it. For my daughter, that meant putting down the book. “When you go to class, have a smile on your face,” I said. “Even if it takes a little work, a smile tells people you’re feeling good about yourself. It conveys confidence. Plus, smiles are contagious. Try to make eye contact with the kids who sit near you, and then smile at them. It might be easier to start a conversation after that.”
2. To Do Something Hard
On Monday morning before school, my son still hadn’t gotten out of bed. “Why aren’t you moving?” I asked from the doorway. “I don’t want to go.” With a little more prodding, I realized he was worried about another tough week of math class. He’d done poorly on a quiz the previous week and admitted he’d “cried a little” in front of his teacher.
“It’s a new week,” I said. “New beginning. You know you can do hard things, so remind yourself. You’ve gotten through tough assignments all year.” Positive self-talk will help him to fake it till he makes it, so I suggested he try some affirmations: “I’m good at school. I can do tough stuff. I’m a smart and friendly kid.”
3. To Talk to an Adult
“I forgot,” my daughter said when I asked if she’d stayed after class to talk to Mr. Lee about the assignment. I gave her a look that said “I’m not buying it” and she squirmed until finally admitting the truth: “I don’t know what to say.” I understood her hesitation to talk to her teacher because she felt shy about not remembering the assignment’s directions. But if she didn’t talk to him, she wouldn’t know how to complete the work. My daughter needed to feel more confident than she actually was just to start a conversation with Mr. Lee and get the help she needed.
Talking to an adult could also include applying for a part-time job, talking to someone about volunteer work, selling cookies door to door, or joining the art club. Role play with your child at home and let her practice talking to you as if you were the adult in question. Then, help her prepare her questions or talking points ahead of time. Being prepared goes a long way to giving anyone confidence in nerve-racking situations.
4. To Confront a Bully or Mean Kid
A girl on my school bus started picking on my little sister one day. Upset, I stood in the aisle and made myself as big as I could so I could peer down at the mean girl. I didn’t relish the opportunity to confront another kid, but I didn’t want her bothering my sister anymore either. So, I made myself do it and tried to look intimidating as I glared at her. I told her in a loud, clear voice to back off. And it worked! The girl flipped her ponytail and retreated to the back of the bus. She never bothered my sister again.
Have your child practice Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy’s superhero stance—have her take up space with wide, straight legs and her hands on her hips. The idea is to open yourself up instead of curling into yourself. Look bigger instead of smaller. I’ve said to my daughter, “Do the Captain Marvel stance!” and to my son, the “Captain America stance.” If your child looks confident, even if she’s not feeling so, it’ll be a huge deterrent to bullies.
If your child looks confident, even if she’s not feeling so, it’ll be a huge deterrent to bullies.
What tips do you have to help grow kids’ confidence and help them to fake it till you make it?
ASK YOUR CHILD…
Who is your favorite superhero?