As parents, we want to raise confident kids with positive self esteem.
Who better to ask than an educator who has worked with thousands of children.
That’s right, thousands!
Meet Director of Education Heidi Smith Hyde
For over twenty-eight years, Heidi Smith Hyde has been immersed in the field of education.
She’s a director of education at a religious school in the Boston area, working with toddlers through teenagers. A graduate of Brandeis University and Harvard Graduate School of Education, Heidi is a well-respected leader in the community.
Tips to Raise Confident Kids
Heidi has some simple but profound tips for promoting positive parenting and raising confident kids.
1. Follow the advice of author Alan Cohen: “It’s important to put away your to-do list and take out your TO-BE list.” Children (and parents) sometimes need to JUST BE.”
2. Make every moment count because the time with your child is precious.
3. Realize that you’re part of your child’s journey.
4. Never underestimate the difference you can make on a child’s life.
5. Appreciate children and let them know their presence matters.
6. Understand that what you do and say makes an impact.
7. Keep your promises.
8. Be consistent—children take notice!
9. Show respect to earn respect.
10. Remember that children are evolving souls, so we must tread carefully even when they try our patience.
11. Build a relationship by engaging in conversation. This means turning off the TV during dinner and taking the opportunity to talk.
12. Be available to support children when they’re sick, upset or sad.
13. Listen to understand a child’s thoughts and feelings.
14. Make children feel like valued members of our community, and that their voices are heard.
15. Get children involved in social action. It’s a great way to gain perspective and feel more connected.
An Interview with Heidi Smith Hyde
This is part of my “Tips from the Pros” series, where I interview professionals who work with children. You’ll benefit from their years of experience as they share helpful advice.
What’s Your Background?
For many years, I worked as an academic advisor at Northeastern University, where I counseled at-risk freshmen. When our eldest son was born, I decided to pursue part-time work by becoming a religious school teacher and family education coordinator. This job grew into a full-time director of education position.
It worked out nicely because as our sons grew, so did the job!
Our sons are now twenty-six and twenty-nine years old. In my spare time (is there such a thing?) I write children’s books detailing the Jewish immigrant experience in America and abroad. Feivel’s Flying Horses is a National Jewish Book Award Finalist, and Mendel’s Accordion is a Sydney Taylor Notable Children’s Book and winner of the Sugarman Award for Best Jewish Children’s Book.
How Do You Work with Families and Children?
As the full-time director of a busy religious school, I have the privilege of working with teachers, parents, lay leaders, and children ranging in age from three-year-old through high school. I take each aspect of my job very seriously.
Of course, the children come first.
This means making sure they receive an excellent education, and meeting their spiritual and emotional needs.
But it’s equally important to nurture my relationship with the parents because they know their children best. I keep in constant communication to ensure that their children are enjoying their religious school experience.
Another goal is to encourage parents to be active members of the community.
Finally, my work with teachers is crucial—they are in the trenches, educating the children. At the same time, teachers are also learners who require mentorship and support. It’s a balancing act.
What are Some Key Parenting Challenges?
The biggest challenge is learning how to live happy and healthy lives while fulfilling our daily responsibilities.
Kids have a lot on their plates.
In addition to the day-to-day challenges of homework, extra-curricular activities, and the ups and downs of friendships, kids deal with social media, terrifying news events, and peer pressure.
Many parents work full-time and do their best. They shuffle kids to and from activities, manage homework, help navigate friendships, explain the scary news, try to get kids to do chores, and do many more things. It’s a lot while trying to live happy and healthy lives.
How Can Parents Overcome These Challenges?
It’s all about relationship building. This may seem trivial, but it’s important.
Each day at religious school, I greet the children and parents at the door. In addition to welcoming them with a big smile, I say to each student, “Have a good class!”
At the end of the day, I stand outside and talk with the students until their parents and caregivers arrive.
During the week, kids are often exhausted from their busy day at elementary school. If they’ve had a bad day, they bring their “baggage” with them. Would some of them rather be home? Absolutely!
But our time together is precious, and I want every moment to count.
What’s Important to You?
I want our students to know that they’re welcomed at our religious school. The teachers and I are happy to see them. Religious school should be an oasis—a place to cultivate friendships, learn about values, and engage in social justice work together. Our students deserve a positive experience.
It’s important for kids to know that their presence matters. We appreciate their commitment and contributions.
I can’t ease their homework burden or control what’s happening outside our school walls. What I can do is ensure that our students feel like valued members of our community. Their voices are heard.
Do You Have An Example?
Recently, one student was having emotional difficulties and felt disconnected. After a long talk, I discovered that he was interested in helping hungry people. At this time, the school was involved in a can drive, with a hefty goal of collecting 360 cans for a local food pantry.
Then I had an idea. He could be our food donation ambassador!
When I asked if he was interested, he smiled and jumped at the opportunity. Each week, he counted and organized all of the collected cans. He visited each classroom, reminding everyone to bring more cans to school.
Social action helps us “get out of our heads” and be involved in something meaningful.
This may not seem significant, but it meant a lot to this student.
We need to build relationships and be supportive when children are sad, upset, or lonely.
Is There Anything Else?
“Never underestimate the impact that you have on a child’s life.”
As an educator, there’s nothing more exciting than seeing my “grown-up” students. One former student’s child is now enrolled in our pre-school program! And some are even our religious school teachers.
You are a part of a child’s incredible journey. What you do or say has an impact.
Remember that children will soon be adults. As parents, the days seem interminable, but they DO grow up.
Trust me, you will even miss carpooling kids to and from activities.
You’ll miss those conversations.
Thanks for reading Heidi’s interview. Do you have tips for raising confident children? Please share your ideas in the comment section below.
“What genius ways to turn difficult situations into incredible teaching opportunities!”