[callout]Every Monday, I’ll post about discovering genuine hope and authentic answers for living a healthy life.[/callout]

Last Wednesday, I wrote that training our children to ask for specific help can increase their confidence. Your children have to trust you to do this. Do they place at least part of their security in you? They won’t ask for help if:

  • they’re afraid you’ll only lecture them about not knowing what they’re doing,
  • you’ve been critical and not helpful in the past, and
  • you present yourself as perfect which might mean you can’t understand what it’s like to struggle.

What’s the big deal?

  • If they can’t come to us, they may find someone else to rely on. This person may or may not be a good influence.
  • If they don’t get help, they won’t do as well as they could have. This will lead to further discouragement and decrease their confidence further.
  • If they don’t feel safe with you, you’ll have fewer opportunities to speak into their lives about everything. It won’t just be that they won’t ask you for help; they won’t listen intently when you offer advice and instruction they don’t ask for.

What are some ways to increase trust between you and your kids when they’re confused by an assignment?

  • Ask “How can I help?” instead of “Can I help?” Do you see the difference? It may look small, but it’s not.
  • If they answer “You can’t help me.” listen to their tone of voice. If they don’t sound sure, you might respond with something like, “Are you sure?” Or, you can say, “Okay, but I’ll be in the den so feel free to come get me.” Then, in a few minutes, you might walk nearby to make it easier for them to now ask for help.
  • If your children are demanding of your help or whine and complain, you can walk away. Tell them you’ll come back when they’re ready to treat you with respect.
  • When offering help, try to get them to tell you specifically where they’re stuck. Look over their work to see what the difficulty might be. As an analogy, think back to learning long division. You can get the answer wrong because of a subtraction error or a dividing error. It’s essential to know what the problem is or we can’t help where children really need the help.
  • Let your children know what to do and what not to do. Both instructions can help. “Try this: ___________ . And, remember, you don’t want to do this: ___________ .” The contrast can sometimes help children understand why you’re recommending what you are.
  • When you see an error, if you can figure out why they got it wrong so you can address the process they used, that’s best. Depending on the kind of assignment it is, you might be able to notice it. Or, you might want to ask your children to explain to you how they arrived at the answer. Be careful of your body language, tone of voice, and volume. Prioritize helping and not judging. If they feel stupid in your presence, you’ll lose the privilege of helping them again in the near future.
  • The more specific your help, the easier it will be for your children to follow it. Remember that what looks easy and obvious to you doesn’t look that way to them. Break down the task as best you can.
  • Sometimes just being present is helpful. You don’t need to say a thing. What if your son works on his history paper at the kitchen table while you’re there writing a letter to someone, organizing recipes, categorizing receipts, or reading a magazine? This will make it so easy for him to just ask, “Hey, Mom, do you like this sentence?” And, “Dad, what’s another word for ‘surprising’? I’ve used it a few times already and would like a different word.”

What else can you think of? What if you shared this list with your kids and/or asked them what works and what doesn’t work when you offer to help them study for tests or complete assignments? That might be so beneficial. Let us know.

Confidence is essential for our children to grow and become. I’ve already written about increasing their confidence by just spending time together, affirming their smarts, understanding why perseverance is hard for them, and how to respond well when they believe something is “too hard.