Everyone likes a pat on the back, recognition, strokes, praise or affirmation of his or her ability, goodness and worthiness. Our children have not yet formed images of themselves and need these positive inputs even more than adults. Children are not sure if they are able or not. They are small in such a large world. They are learning and thus making many mistakes as they try to learn how to do things correctly.
In our attempt to help our children we often tend to point out their mistakes more frequently than their successes. The mistakes are what are more obvious and thus we feel the need to point them out. The successes are taken for granted. We over-emphasize what our children do wrong. This undermines their sense of ability, and they start to doubt whether they can really succeed. Thus they become preoccupied, worrying about whether they will be able to do it, and whether they will be criticized. Thus little energy is left for focusing on what they are actually doing so that they can do it correctly and succeed. Then, if our children’s performance suffers, we become even more critical. This creates a vicious circle in which our children’s sense of ability, success and worthiness is completely undermined.
Later in life we seek incessantly to prove that we are okay, a success, by attempting to gain money, fame and respect from others. But it is a losing battle because inside us we are programmed to believe that we are not okay, not able. Although we may become very successful, we will likely be unable to satiate our need to prove our ability over and over. On the other hand, we may simply perpetuate the belief that we are failures and create continual failure in life, by undermining our success in relationships and at work and perhaps our sense of self-worth through alcohol, drugs, tranquilizers or other means.
If we want our children to succeed, to accept themselves, to be happy and to have the self-confidence which is required to proceed in life, then we must give them plenty of positive affirmation of their ability and goodness.
A SIMPLE TECHNIQUE
A simple technique will help. Every day sit quietly for a few moments and relax your body and mind so that you can concentrate. (Breathing deeply a number of times will help). When you feel relaxed and concentrated, then bring your child to your mind. Visualize the child healthy, happy and full of self-confidence. Now bring to mind five positive qualities or characteristics that you recognize in that child. Imagine these positive qualities increasing every day. Then again see your child in the screen of your mind, full of light, health and happiness. Imagine yourself and the child in loving embrace, or dancing or singing or in any type of harmonious, happy communication. This will take from about five to ten minutes.
When the opportunity occurs naturally, we can then inform the child of these qualities or abilities, which we recognize in him or her.
We need to let our children know that we love them, respect them, and believe in their ability to make decisions, to be responsible and to cope with life. But we also need to clarify that your love is independent from the positive characteristics or abilities, which we recognize in them. They should not be left to feel that we love them more because they do well in school, or sports, or are pretty or handsome, or capable. Our love and respect should not be associated with specific qualities. Otherwise they will get the message that they must always be this way or else the others will not love and respect them. This will create anxiety.
Affirming our children will help them develop the strengths and abilities they need to be successful and happy in life. It will also do wonders for our relationships with them. It is much more effective than criticizing and blaming them for their mistakes. Mistakes should be pointed out for the sake of learning from them, but not for the purpose of rejecting the other or making them feel badly.
Also, we need to gain our own self-confidence. Otherwise we might be intimidated by tour children’s abilities and subconsciously want to undermine their success or intelligence. This sometimes occurs between fathers and sons, or mothers and daughters, when the children are entering adolescence. It is sometimes difficult for us to accept that our children have their own ideas and almost impossible for our ego to accept that these ideas may be better or more advanced than ours. We as parents may subconsciously be motivated to play power games with our children, rejecting them because of our insecurities. As our children enter adolescence, we must gradually learn to let go of our previous roles and become more of a friend or counselor (who gives advice when asked). Otherwise a conflict may arise between our children who need to assert and affirm their personality, and us the parents, who does not want to let go of our roles of directors of their lives.
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