Academic success was always of the utmost importance in my youth, and the pinnacle I was heading for was earning a degree in medicine or law. It seems like it’s a Jewish mother’s dream to announce that her child is either a doctor or lawyer (or is marrying one of the two).
As a youngster, I didn’t care if I had to get tutors over the summer or come in an hour early or stay late to meet with my teacher for extra help. I wanted to be the best. All my good grades were hard-earned, and I was proud of my academic accomplishments.
But with my kids, I am going to depart from the stereotype of raising a Jewish doctor or lawyer, and will not put an exorbitant amount of pressure on them about their grades. Instead of being the best in class, I want my daughters to be their happiest, most self-assured and confident selves.
I do not feel the need to push my kids, because life is going to throw enough hardship at them without their mother being another source of stress and pressure to measure up and answer to.
And honestly, even if my kids do not receive direct pressure to be the best, I imagine they will have the internal drive and competitive nature, because that’s my natural tendency, and my husband’s too. My comfort with not pushing my kids comes by way of taking a page out of Freakonomics (remember the craze?) where success of offspring is mostly predetermined before they are born. Being set up with social advantages will help my kids—a lot. My children’s academic success is not something we need to hustle for, in my mind, because it’s ingrained in our family’s way of being.
But where my kids could use my extra help (and who couldn’t?) will be finding what brings them joy— and going after what they want with confidence.
How do you teach confidence and self-acceptance? Is there a handbook somewhere? I’m sure there are plenty of books on the subject, but my 5-year-old is still learning to write her name. I would like to spare her the hassle of creating her own self-help library.
Self-confidence is not something you can force. When pushed, it looks pathetic. If self-confidence is something I want my kids to see and embrace, I realize my main goal will be to achieve it for myself first and lead the way.
When I feel confident, where does my confidence come from? I possess no secret knowledge. In fact, I am sure I do not have it all figured out. No one feels like “they’ve got this” when it comes to being 100 percent happy or successful. We are all just doing the best we can as we float along in life.
Self-confidence comes from holding on to what I know to be true, but also listening to my instincts. It comes from knowing I feel better when I act morally and ethically. I also have learned that if something feels exciting and a little scary, I should go for it.
These principles are like having a mini set of instructions for my life, and I am adding to it in tiny ways every day. I don’t have every answer, but I’m trying.
I hope it’s enough to give my kids the confidence and self-acceptance they need to try every day too.