What My 9-Year-Old Taught Me About Confidence

Anyone who knows our daughter Kira knows that she fills up a room with her bright energy. Her enthusiasm for life bubbles over as she goes through her day, and is apparent even in the littlest things. She's been this way since the day she was born. And while she radiates positive energy, she is always authentic and honest. She started talking quite early, at only a few months old, and has been "telling us like it is" ever since.

I often marvel at my daughter and her seemingly endless reserve of energy and confidence. I watch in awe as Kira approaches whatever she tries with joy, focus and a tremendous amount of patience — sports, academics, art, performance, reading, writing, musical instruments, foreign languages — and I wonder how she got this way. Although she certainly takes after her Dad more than me in many ways, neither of us can take credit for her radiance — it’s all her.

I also often wonder if confidence is just the natural state of all children, and therefore all people, unless it becomes suppressed somehow. Maybe confidence isn't built, but either allowed to thrive or not. I frequently feel that my children are teaching me way more than I am teaching them, and that my job — other than keeping them fed, safe, and clean — is to stand back and watch with appreciation as they create their lives.

Here are five things I've learned about cultivating confidence from watching Kira so far:

1. It's good to have a selective memory.

Kira doesn't worry much about things that may be going wrong, or not according to plan. Just like anyone, she has ups and downs throughout her day, dramas that transpire on the playground and circumstances beyond her control that she wishes were different. But Kira isn't a complainer; she usually chooses to move on from anything unsavory pretty quickly, and doesn't let those memories linger and replay themselves in her mind. She focuses on the positive and shakes off the rest.

2. Always look for a way to have fun.

Kira is on a never ending quest for fun, and she finds it everywhere. She hardly lets a millisecond go by without being excited about something, whether it's a song, a game, an inspiring idea or something yummy to eat. Her constant desire for fun can feel like perpetual distraction to me at times, but then I think — wouldn't I rather be distracted by making up a spontaneous dance instead of doing my taxes — or better yet, while doing my taxes? It isn't that Kira shirks responsibility, she just always finds a way to enjoy herself no matter what she’s doing.

3. Make friends with everybody.

From the time Kira could crawl over to another baby in playgroup or walk up to another child on the playground, she has come back to me to triumphantly declare, “I made a new friend!” Over the years, she’s noticed that her mama is shyer than she is and has tried to give me lessons in making new friends. “You just have to think of something to talk about that you might have in common with someone and then go talk to them,” she tells me, as if this is the easiest thing in the world. And for Kira, it is.

4. Expect things to go well for you, knowing that you deserve it.

Kira asks for what she wants. Because she communicates her needs so clearly, she typically expects to receive what she asks for. And that doesn’t mean she is given everything on a silver platter or refuses to earn her keep, but she holds the attitude that good things come easily for her and she deserves them. On first glance, this could seem like the behavior of a child who is “spoiled,” but in Kira’s case, she is a child who sees the Universe as abundant and loving — and I believe life will continue to respond to her in that way as long as she holds that attitude.

5. Don't be afraid to give feedback.

Since Kira is so clear about what she wants most of the time, she isn’t afraid to give feedback when she isn’t getting it. She tells me, "Mom, you could say that nicer," when I bark orders at her and her sister, or "I'd rather you be messy than mean," when I'm stressing about a messy house — and she keeps me in check. Even though I’m the mom in the relationship, I trust Kira’s feedback. I know that she is wise — not because of what she has learned so far, but because of what she hasn’t forgotten.

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