As parents, most of us hope to raise our children so that they become well-rounded, responsible adults. However, a child isn’t going to grow into a well-rounded adult if she (or he) doesn’t ever gain the confidence needed to express herself. This is why you hear so many people talking about the importance of encouraging self-expression in children while they are young.
It can often be difficult for those of us with young children to do this because we still have the natural instinct to protect our children. You know the saying, “mother knows best”? While this may be true, we can’t coddle our kids forever. They have to learn on their own through trial and error in order to gain the self-expression and confidence they need to succeed in life. Below are a few ways that you can encourage self-expression in your little ones.
1. Choosing an Outfit without Help. Starting at the moment our children come into this world, we dress them. After all, they’re too little to do it on their own as babies. For many parents, this practice continues on into grade school because it’s just easier to do it for them. The problem is that these parents are denying their children self-expression. When your children begin to verbally express their opinions (usually around age 3), it’s time to start letting them choose their clothing.
Does this mean you can’t help them when they’re that young? No, but instead of choosing the outfit for them – hold up two or three shirts and let them pick out the one they want to wear. The same principle can be used for formal wear. Hold up two little girls’ dresses and let your daughter choose which on she wants to wear that day. When your child is around four, (s)he will be ready to pick out shirts alone.
2. Participating in Arts and Crafts. The great thing about young children is that they are so easy to please. Everything is an adventure to them and they love to explore new things. Arts and crafts provides a creative outlet for young children to begin expressing themselves. Whether they are finger painting or making a candle, these types of projects give children the room they need to explore their own likes and dislikes. Therefore, encourage your children to participate in arts and craft projects.
3. Group Outings with Other Children. When children get together with other kids around their own ages, they naturally begin to interact with each other. This is an encouragement of self-expression. As a parent, it can be hard to take a step back and watch your child with other kids, but it’s necessary. Therefore, begin taking your kids to group outings with other parents and their children when they are toddlers. You’ll be amazed at how quickly their little personalities begin to develop during these outings!