Of all the traits that contribute to success in life, confidence rates at the top of the list. Unfortunately, children who have been born with physical or neurodevelopmental disabilities often receive messages from the world that chip away at their confidence.
When I was a child, I was clumsy and lacked coordination. The only way I learned to balance well enough to roller skate was to go across the width of the sidewalk.
Riding a bicycle was even more of a challenge. My two brothers and I shared one (boy’s) bike, and I was having a struggle learning to balance. Frankly, it didn’t seem like I would ever be able to ride a bike.
A bachelor neighbor, Uncle Charley, took pity on me after watching my frustrating attempts at bike riding. We lived just down the street from our elementary school, so Uncle Charley told me and the other kids to gather on the blacktopped part of the playground.
He said that he had a “magic rope” that would solve all my problems. Uncle Charley tied a short length of rope to the back bumper of the bike and told me to hop on and just ride. I wouldn’t need to worry about falling over because he would hold the other end of the “magic rope,” and it would keep the bike balanced.
Since I was a child, I never questioned whether a rope tied to the back bumper of a bike could hold it up. I just hopped on the bike and rode away because Uncle Charley had given me all the “magic” I needed to have confidence in my ability to ride a bike.
When my own children were young, I wanted to spare them the frustration of not being coordinated enough to play in group sports. Our daughter went to dance classes early, and she is very physically adept. She participated in a high school dance team, skated and surfed on a competitive team.
Our son was born with a missing hand and other birth defects. When he was in second grade, he began to see double. We were so worried and took him from doctor to doctor, finally ending with an optometrist who specialized in vision training.
He recommended that our son should go into one of the martial arts classes because the patterned movements they learn would help with his neurological development that the doctor thought was key to the eye problems.
I was very worried about putting our son in Tae Kwon Do which involves a lot of high jumping kicks and breaking boards. I stayed at every class to make sure he didn’t get hurt. David did very well, and his double vision miraculously went away.
While attending an exposition, I won a free year of Tae Kwon Do. Although I never would have considered this before, I decided to give it a try. I can remember the Korean master, who was not much taller than I am, going behind me saying “you got to get coordinated.”
I have always had trouble with left and right, but gradually, I did learn the patterned movements and broke my share of boards. (Board breaking takes the ultimate in confidence.) I even moved through several levels of belts.
These baby steps in confidence building led to the big breakthrough for me. My husband’s new position required that he learn to play golf. His company sent him to golf lessons, and I decided to try a golf clinic for women and children.
Before that, golf was a game that I thought was more boring than watching grass grow. That is, until the first time I connected with a ball. Then I was hooked.
Golf is a very difficult game and requires many different skill sets. But the first instructor I had told me “you can do this” and just like with Uncle Charlie, my belief helped me overcome the natural balance and coordination problems I have.
I will never be an Annika Sorenstam, but I didn’t start playing golf until I was 59, and I have shot as low as 92, more than once.
So, if you want to give your grandchildren the gift of confidence, tell them “you can do it” even if they are not natural athletes or scholars or whatever they are trying to learn. Even a little magic like Uncle Charley’s rope can help because children are not skeptics.
If your grandchild has problems with balance and coordination, gift them a trial at a family oriented martial arts studio or send them to dance, horseback riding, or tennis lessons. Whatever they might have an interest in trying. Individual activities are often the best choices so the child can progress at their own pace.
Make sure to visit the instruction studio first to be sure the teachers are encouraging to students who may not have natural gifts in the beginning. A positive experience now can give your grandchild the building blocks for a future that is brimming with confidence and the willingness to try new things.
Putting the magic of confidence in your grandchild’s Christmas stocking may be the best gift you ever give them.
How do you encourage your grandchildren to live with confidence? What gifts have you given them that taught them to trust they can do whatever they wanted to do? Please share with our community and let’s learn from each other’s examples!