“Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.”
― August Wilson
My oldest daughter is full of energy. Her zest for life is contagious, while she dazzles and entertains everyone with her singing, dancing and perspective on life. But if you are meeting her for the first time, you may not see all of these qualities. In fact, you may not even see her face because she's burying it in my chest...
Practicing conscious parenting has inspired me to embrace my girls as they are, but I must admit, a little piece of my heart breaks whenever I sense my oldest daughter's fears and uncertainty. It's a delicate balancing act to encourage her to try new things, yet not push her too hard.
While embracing the role of facilitator of experiences, not teacher of them, I watched my oldest daughter play on a new playground. She was quiet and nervous, taking it all in as she surveyed the equipment and watched other children play. I saw her eyeing this volcano apparatus. As she observed other children climb up and down with ease, I sensed that she too, was eager and curious to try it for herself. Sure enough, the moment came whenever she expressed to me that she indeed was ready to give it a try.
I became her biggest cheerleader and encouraged her to go for it. I assured her that I was just a few steps away, and no one would let her fall. The first two steps went well, but I noticed that my sweet girl began shaking as tears streamed down her round cheeks. Older girls were already at the top and encouraged her to keep trying and that they will not let anything bad happen to her. With her new friends, some teachers and her mommy cheering her on, she made her way to the top! I don't think I've ever seen her smile so bright!
My oldest daughter has made countless trips up and down that volcano ever since, and all it took was belief in herself to get her to overcome that fear.
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines self-esteem as "a confidence and satisfaction in oneself." KidsHealth.org says it best. A healthy self-esteem is like a child's armor against the challenges of the world. Kids who know their strengths and weaknesses and feel good about themselves have an easier time handling conflicts and resisting negative pressures.
We parents must guide our children into feeling capable while also feeling loved. Helping our children learn how to embrace who they are is a key element towards a child obtaining and maintaining a healthy self-esteem.
So what is our role as parents? What can we do?
- Where's your focus? Focus on rewarding effort and completion instead of outcome.
- Walk the walk and talk the talk. Be a positive role model and nurture your own self-esteem.
- Words matter. Don't let your child get away with self-defeating, negative talk about himself/herself. Immediately identify and redirect such language, using warmth and humor. We don't have to be in denial of those "weaknesses," but never should we let those things bring us down.
- Keep it real. Positive and accurate feedback is an essential element to nurturing a healthy self-esteem in your child. Be spontaneous with it! Don't wait until your child's dance recital to tell her that she's a great dancer. Give praise openly and honestly, without overdoing it.
- Provide opportunities. Help your child become involved in activities that encourage cooperation rather than competition.
- A positive home environment is EVERYTHING. A safe, loving home environment where everyone's feelings matter and trust is never in question allows children to feel like they can share their deepest feelings and concerns, while getting the guidance they need to solve life's challenges.
- Books are invaluable teaching tools. My book, Empty Shoes, is about a young girl who learns at a young age to embrace and celebrate who she is. At first she thought that being someone else would be the answer to her problem, but she soon discovers that she is meant to be herself and NO ONE ELSE.
Perhaps one of the most challenging aspects to being a parent is witnessing those awkward moments of self-doubt and uncertainty in our children. Remember that while you cannot and should not live their lives for them, being a parent affords you an incredible opportunity to guide your child to developing a healthy self-esteem.
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