FAIRWEATHER: Is your child cocky, confident or competent?

Tommy Fairweather, Teachable moments

Spring cleaning is necessary to put your house and your yard in good order.

I suggest that parents similarly take periodic stock of their parenting and then make appropriate needed corrections. One worthwhile area is to review how your children measures up in developing and exhibiting their knowledge and skills to others. Are they cocky, or do they have the confidence and competence to demonstrate their abilities.

Just what is cocky? Cocky is an adjective that means conceited, often in a bold way, and it also means having an over-inflated view of self. 

When asking a group of young teenagers if they knew anyone who was cocky and to describe their behavior, they had these responses:  “A kid that thinks he or she is better than others,” and “kids who never listen to others.” This can be said of adults who are cocky, as well. Children or adults may know more than others in specific areas, but not all.

Nevertheless, these individuals become conceited know-it-alls. They do not listen to others or let others have their say. At home, this cocky behavior can be lessened if you teach your children to listen and evaluate what each person in the family thinks about a topic. To encourage research within my own family, I would ask, “What is your source?”

Confidence, meanwhile, is self-assurance of performing a given task. This means that the child feels like he or she has the capability to do something that is usually mental and/or physical. Of course, the child gains confidence by observing and doing. If you can’t demonstrate and teach what the child would like to do, you need to find a person who can.

However, you should, within reason, provide the required space and materials.

Confidence can be broken by someone berating a child, especially early in the process of learning — and it is usually someone close to the child who extinguishes these little lights.

It can be a parent or it can be a sibling. Search for the person who is doing the berating and limit the time that the child is alone with that person. Parents who are extreme perfectionists can cause this problem if they expect perfection too early in the child’s process of learning a skill. False praise will not help the child, either. It is best to teach children to learn to evaluate themselves. 

Lastly, competence describes the individual as being efficient and capable. The individual has the confidence, ability, knowledge and skills to do something useful when tested. The old saying, "Practice makes perfect” is very true. So you need to be sure that you guard your child’s time to allow for practice. In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, "Outliers: The Story of

Success," he gives many examples of practice making perfect. One such example is that the Beatles spent many, many hours as a band in Germany before they finally started to make it big in Great Britain and the U.S.A.  Most individuals or groups continue to practice once they reach the top of their field. I saw an interview with Tony Bennett, who has been at the top of his field for many years. The 86 year old states that he still practices daily.

Obviously, you want your children to skip being cocky so they won’t be embarrassed when put to the test by peers or adults. Thus, you should support your children by carefully leading them through the process of gaining merited confidence while developing true skills and knowledge in an area of interest, and then being able to demonstrate their competence to others.  Most likely, they will realize this is the path to success in many, if not all, endeavors.

Tommy Fairweather is a retired Walton County teacher, who lives in Destin.