Fort building has helped parents grow self-esteem in kids for decades. Whether woven of blankets and pillows in the bedroom, constructed of scrap wood in the backyard or crafted from a Fort Magic kit across the dining area, forts bring families together and build inner strength in our kids.
Perhaps you have not stopped to consider how this is so. Maybe you did not even know this reality. Let’s give it some thought today. As the Confident Mom blogger states, “Healthy self-esteem is a child’s armor against the peer pressure and challenges of society.” What better defense can we build in our children to combat the bullies and naysayers, natural discouragement and life struggles they face now and in their futures?
Self-esteem guards our children’s hearts with the truth about their characters and abilities to hold them strong in the face of adversity. Without this important quality, we leave our kids unprotected in the storms of life. Let’s be honest, try as we might, we cannot be present at every turn of their days and years to prevent hard or hurtful things from happening to them. As we talk more, perhaps you will see that our children’s best interests require something else of us.
While words of encouragement and affirmation go a long way in bolstering self-worth, quips, and terms of endearment fall short on their own. In fact, the activity of experiencing the world and measuring our responses to it gives us confidence. As parents we seek to protect our children and right the wrongs in their lives, these efforts and fixes go too far when they strip kids of experiences which include mistakes, failures, problems and even hurts.
Your parent-heart may be crying out or shutting down now! After all, each of us wants to see things go well for our children. Our hearts break when theirs do. Our tears run alongside theirs. Should not all pain be thwarted? It turns out that failure and hurt make us emotionally stronger, build resilience and grow self-esteem. So it is with our children.
Maybe we need to shift our parental thinking. Perhaps, it is time to recognize the good in the struggle and find ways to safely expose our children to it. Let’s briefly explore how fort building does this in a safe way for our children (and, for our tender parent-hearts as well). The fun of forts gives our children opportunities to to do many things.
1. Problem Solve
Imagine the problem-solving skills involved in coming up with the fort design in the first place. Think about the issues that arise when keeping the fort stable or managing a destructive little sibling or family pet.
Tackling these problems builds capability in our kids. Through experience, they learn of their abilities to think outside the box and successfully address problems.
2. Take Risks
New fort designs, ever-changing play options, and active imaginations push our kids to move beyond what they have always done. They risk starting over, and even failure, in front of siblings and friends when adventurous fort designs go awry.
Accepting these challenges pushes kids to call on their bravery to try new adventures. Always working in their known skills and successes limits children and may eventually leave them timid and afraid.
3. Experience Failure
Consider what happens when a fort falls down or a design looks nothing like the intended castle. Opportunities for failure arise throughout the fort building process. The rebuild and the response to these mistakes bring about fortitude and bright ideas in our kids.
Some of the world’s greatest successes came after failure upon failure. Our children have the privilege of learning this resilience in the safe space of fort building. We as parents must learn to hold ourselves back from jumping in and fixing all of the problems.
4. Succeed Unassisted
Have you heard the excited squeal? “Mommy, Mommy, come see what I built!” The joy of a fort standing tall, constructed by a child’s own hands, creates an I-can-do-it spirit. The yell of elation as a child finally figures out how to make the fort hold together makes a lasting internal impression.
The satisfaction of these successes builds a resilience in our children to overcome the obstacles and mistakes to reach this point. The sweet taste of victory proves even sweeter when a child accomplishes it on his or her own.
5. Receive Praise
Periodic recognition of a child’s perseverance in building a fort fraught with aggravations or struggles guides and bolsters a child’s self-esteem. Of course, affirming and encouraging words play an important role in self-worth even before your youngster finishes the fort.
We must beware of the negative impact of too much or the wrong kind of praise. Why? This practice leads to a false sense of confidence which produces more hurt in the end.
Problems are solvable. Risk is not to be avoided. Failure is not to be feared. Success and praise wrap it all up. These lessons of fort building are powerful in the building of self-esteem in our children. How do you use fort building to help build your child’s self-esteem? Share your ideas with us below!
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