Every time I hear a flight attendant tell me to put my mask on before I help my child, I realize how that moment might be worth the price of a the plane ticket, just for a reminder that I can’t help my kid if I can’t breathe.

The same is true of homeschooling. If you sound like you’re wavering about your choice to be a homeschooling family, then your kids feel less comfortable in that choice as well. And, ironically, self-confidence is one of those things that all parents say they want to inspire in their kids through education.

Luckily, you have a lot of influence over your child’s confidence, because self-confident people inspire self-confidence in those around them.

Do you wonder how self-confident you appear? Ask yourself these three questions:

1. Do I have a high level of optimism?
Optimism is so important that it’s a medical issue. Like other pre-existing conditions, we are born with our optimism set-point, and like our weight set-point, we have to work hard to change it, but the benefits are worth it. Optimistic people live longer, happier lives.

Sonja Lyubomirsky is a clinical psychologist who spends her days doing research to see what small actions we can take to improve our happiness. She has a book full of clinically proven happiness hacks. For example, give three random pieces of praise in one day. Or pet a dog each day. Lyubomirsky finds that merely trying to increase your optimism makes you more optimistic.

Homeschooling is a lifestyle that has few measures for success. We have to believe in ourselves internally, and optimism goes a long way to growing that belief.

2. Do I have a clear view of my strengths?
Ironically, though our strengths give us the most confidence, we are largely blind to our strengths because we assume everyone has them in some capacity. That’s why taking a personality test is so important. The information you glean from the results could be the most essential tools you’ll have as a homeschooler, because using the strengths that come naturally to your personality type means you’ll most likely find success in whatever you do.

The cyclical bonus of knowing what you’re good at: if you embrace your strengths you’ll be better at receiving praise, and that, in turn, builds optimism.

Once you can identify your own strengths you’re better at identifying strengths in your children. And this is the type of key knowledge that truly makes you a better parent.

3. Do I know where I’m going?
Goal setting is the most important activity to improve your self-confidence. And since kids need to set their own goals to gain self-confidence, you can lead by example.

The worst thing that’ll happen if you tell your kids to set their own goals is that they’ll be bored for a bit. But it’s actually important for your kids to experience boredom because that’s what drives them to find a goal.

Self-efficacy is the technical term for our belief in our ability to define a goal and reach it.

Did you answer no to all three of these? Then you probably need a jump start in the confidence department.

Your behavior is a reflection of your beliefs about who you are and what you think you are capable of, but this process can also run in reverse. Economist Richard Easterlin found that you can change your behavior even if you don’t believe in yourself, and that behavior change actually changes how you feel about yourself.

That works because if we change one habit, we actually have a stronger ability to change other habits. And meeting a goal is an inherently confidence-building activity. Gretchen Rubin’s new book, Better Than Before, is a great tool for making one small change, and then another and then another.

You’ll be tempted to use the book to get your kids to make changes in their own life. But remember that the biggest impetus for change is having a goal you want to meet. The best goals are internally motivated, so model good behavior and your kids will follow when they’re ready.

11 replies
  1. KT
    KT says:

    This is such great advice! We often forget that our kids are watching our every move, catching all those nuances, and reacting accordingly. When the decision to homeschool (or continue homeschooling) is made, we have to show our kids that we absolutely believe in what we’re doing and that we’re doing it well. Thanks for the great tips on how to keep that up so the kiddos will keep believing in our lives as much as I do.

  2. DMom
    DMom says:

    This is so spot on, and true for every decision parents make for the family, especially homeschooling. I’ve found that if my husband and I waver about *any* decision – say, taking a family trip to Kalamazoo. If we let the kids know that we aren’t 100% happy with the decision, and that instead we really want to go to Timbuktu, the trip will be a disaster, with the kids complaining the entire time that going to Timbuktu would have been soooo much better. If, however, we keep our ambivalence and insecurities to ourselves, and tell them that the trip to Kalamazoo will be an amazing adventure, all will gladly go along for the ride, thereby significantly increasing our chances of having a successful trip. Same goes for homeschooling: Parents who openly hesitate about their decision transfer this ambivalence to their kids who, instead of embracing their homeschooling life, will constantly question it and perhaps even resent it, always focusing on everything they are “missing” by not being in school. Parenting sometimes requires good sales/marketing skills, and the ability to fake it if you have to. :)

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Fixed. Thanks for telling me. Also, I love knowing that people click these links.

      Penelope

  3. Gena
    Gena says:

    ” Children should be allowed to get bored, expert says” – may be one of our biggest achievements in homeschooling is the decluttering all the meaningless things from kids lives so they can become the best that they can be?

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I want to stay focused on the decluttering. I think my instinct is to worry my kids aren’t doing something someone told me they “should” do, and then I clutter my kids’ schedules with that stuff.

      The other day I said to my son, “Come downstairs and talk to me so I don’t have to worry that you were on the computer all day.”

      And he said, “Okay. I’ll eat potato chips with you so you can feel like you’ve had solid parent-child face-to-face interaction today.”

      Somehow I felt like I had advanced — from clutter to maybe-pointless facetime.

      But anyway, I am working on the idea that my goals for childhood are clutter in my kids’ childhoods.

      Penelope

  4. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I suspect you are inspiring self-confidence in your sons by participating with them in their music lessons. I’m thinking specifically the Suzuki Method where you take notes and coach them on their lessons. Whether or not you can play well is immaterial. You’re there with them as they learn.

  5. Jenn Gold
    Jenn Gold says:

    And surrounding yourself, learning from and emulating the success stories. It builds faith which then produces good results,

  6. Hannah
    Hannah says:

    Richard Easterlin is my favorite macroeconomist, I’m glad you somehow stumbled across him. Though, as with all conclusions based on survey data, these particular conclusions are suspect to reporting bias.

  7. lisa
    lisa says:

    God bless your good intentions. Unless you have a valid reason to be disillusioned by the public system consider the following:
    Your children are not learning social skills
    Your children aren’t learning to trust and respect authority outside the home.
    Your children may not want to learn from Mommy – who is, after all, Mommy and not a Teacher.
    You are not a qualified, certified teacher with professional training.
    Would you enroll your child in a school with unqualified teachers? Probably not. As a certified, education teacher with 18 years in the field, I have never had respect for homeschooling parents. They just don’t know what they are doing.
    I wish you the best. For your children’s sake I hope you change directions and put them into school with their peers.

  8. Angela
    Angela says:

    I am also a “certified teacher” (which really means I was lucky enough to be brain washed by the system I was educated in and then financially able to continue jumping through its hoops). I completely disagree with your comment Lisa and if you have children I hope for their sake you take them out of the system :)

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