I LOVE YOU… BUT I DON’T LIKE YOU!
My sweetheart! I love you… so
much… but… You’re my
darling… my sweet lovey baby, but… You’re
the sunshine of my life, but… my reason for living, but… my reason for being
put on this earth!! But… you’re
making me absolutely NUTS! I love
you but you can make me so mad. First,
you do this, then you do that… then you do this AGAIN, and that AGAIN!
When I think that’s all under control, you come up with brand new
stuff! You’re so creative… so
creative at taking simple and safe stuff, and making it exciting, messy… and
dangerous!! And that look you give
me when I tell you to stop… you know what I mean… that “duh…
whatcha-talk’n-about? Bambi innocent look.”
Stop it! Just stop it! You’re making me mad… you’re making me not
like you! You’re making me
feel like I betrayed you because I forget I love you sometimes and really really
don’t like you. And, that makes
me feel like the worse person in the world… or, at least, the worse parent in
the world!! Honey, I love you…
but I don’t like you! Aaargh! What’s
wrong with ME!!
loving parents get caught in this dilemma.
They feel that loving their children must also mean that they must always
like them as well. And, try as hard
as they can, there are times when they get so upset and frustrated that they not
only don’t like them, they also forget they love their kids.
Some parents find this so disturbing that they try to deny the reality to
themselves and to their children. However,
their children can still feel the frustration and anger.
They often can see through the denials, and subsequently experience their
parents being hypocritical. Or, if
the children can’t see through it, they become confused.
Their instincts and experiences of not being liked is contradicted by
their parents’ insistence that they still like them.
Remember, when the verbal and non-verbal parts of communication don’t
match, it is the verbal part that is normally dismissed as the lie, and the
non-verbal communication experienced as the truth.
“Mommy loves you always (even though my voice is getting shrill, my
eyes are squinting, my jaw is set, and my body full of tension).”
Forced to deny their experience as they are told (intimidated) by their
parents, children begin to distrust their own perceptions.
Denying reality always costs.
people have, what I call “Fantasy Pants” in their closets.
Sometimes they are “Fantasy Skirts” or “Fantasy Dresses.”
They are the “Fantasy Pants” because it’s a fantasy that you’re
ever going to be able to fit yourself in them ever again.
Every once in a while, I have to replace my “Fantasy Pants” with a
new pair, because they’ve gone delusional!!
Denying reality will always cause pain and waste energy.
Try and put those pants on… the 32 inch waist size on your 34 inch
waistline. Pain and wasted energy!
Why would people subject themselves to go through such agony?
Usually, because they have an ideal self that is unreasonable and
unattainable. “Hmmm, 48 year old
man wanting a 24 year old man’s waistline.
NOT!” (See articles
V.1.7 Ideal Self vs. Real Self & V.1.8 Play You Like That for
a more complete description of the ideal self).
This grandiose ideal self asserts that the loving parents they aspire to
be would always keep the love in their heart so pure that they would never lose
that love even temporarily… much less actually not liking their own children.
In other words, they decide that being a good parent means being a saint!
Well, most parents aren’t saints, and neither are their children!
Being a good parent is not about being superhuman.
It is about accepting your humanity and sharing that humanity with your
children while honoring and fostering their humanity.
And, a part of being human in human relationships (especially, with
someone you are deeply emotionally invested in) is getting frustrated at,
getting angry at, and even forgetting your love and like for those special
people in your life.
LOVE & LIKE
is important to let your child know that you will never fall out of love with
him/her, but you do occasionally fall out of like with him/her.
Parental love is always and unconditional (hopefully) at the deepest and
most fundamental levels. With that
love comes the desire and mandate to parent the child to become the best
possible human being. This will
often be difficult and frustrating. Children
will not always be under control- certainly, not always under your control (if
you have control issues, you sort of made a career error in having children!).
When that happens, the stress of the moment may make you forget the love
that ironically initiated the circumstances in the first place!
This is normal and human. Accept
your humanity, knowing that the core love will not be tarnished or forgotten
forever. The love is always there deep down (sometimes, deep deep deep
deep down at the moment!). While
parental love is (or should be) always and unconditional, “like” can be
transitional and much more conditional. It
is OK not to like your children sometimes.
Some people experience their parents disliking AND rejecting them, or
disliking AND shaming them, or disliking AND abusing them, or some other hurtful
combination. Such people may project onto their children the pain they
felt as children. Normally,
this is not the case. Such vigilant
parents would actually tend to error in the opposite direction by denying the
dislike and overcompensating for assumed harm.
Disliking behavior or naming the behavior as “bad” may bring up
intense anxiety. As children they
may have been taught that their behavior was their essence.
If the behavior was bad so were they.
However, good people can make bad mistakes. Good people can do bad things.
Good parents can parent badly at times.
Distinguish between the essence of the child and relationship (who/which
you love unconditionally) and the behavior of the child (behavior, which you can
dislike or even hate). When
you realize and accept that it is permissible and even normal to get mad at your
child, forget for a brief period that you love them, AND even actually dislike
them for a while, then you will not be disabled by one of the more disturbing
words that can come out of your child. In
fact, you will be able to seize upon it as a great opportunity to teach how to
be upset and angry with boundaries. And how to dislike and still be civilized.
HATE YOU! I DON’T WANT YOU TO BE MY MOMMY ANYMORE!”
a child will be so upset with his/her parent that he/she may snap, “I hate
you! I don’t want you to be my
mommy (or daddy) anymore!” The parent’s reaction is often of absolute devastation.
How could my baby be so hurtful to me?
What have I done? What can I do? The
child is so hurtful because somehow he/she has learned (from modeling?) that
hurting someone when he/she is upset or hurt him/herself is appropriate.
Normally, the parent has nothing more than discipline the child, set a
boundary, or somehow disappointed him/her .
Fortunately, the parent can and should do a lot.
In fact, this is a wonderful crisis (danger & opportunity).
The danger is for the child to learn hurting others as a way to express
his/her own upset. The opportunity
is to teach the boundaries between having hurt and appropriate behavior…
between self-expression with ownership and vindictive attack. What should the parent do?
First of all, discipline (probably with a scolding or a timeout
on timeout! You’re on timeout
because you said you ‘hate’ me… because you were trying to hurt me on
purpose. You took my love for you
to use to hurt me… saying you didn’t want me to be your mommy (or daddy)
anymore. You are NEVER allowed to
hurt someone on purpose. Yes, you
were… are mad. That’s ok.
It’s hard to remember that you love me and that I love you when you’re mad.
You don’t like me right now. But
hurting someone when you are mad is NEVER ok.
Yes, you were upset. That’s
ok. But it’s NEVER ok to try to
hurt someone just because you are hurting too.
You can say you’re upset. You
can say you’re angry. You can say
what you wanted… are disappointed. But
you can’t be mean on purpose. You
see, later on when you’ve forgotten that you wanted the extra cookie… or
another 15 minutes of TV, if you hurt me on purpose, or even by accident, the
hurt will still be there for me. As
much as you are ready to make up or move on, the hurt will still be with me
after whatever it was doesn’t matter anymore.
And, that’s not fair. That’s
not right. And, if you do it over and over… hurt me over and over,
then I will have trouble remembering that I love you, and won’t be able to
like you. I’ll be hurt too much.
Some people do that all the time. And
when they do, they hurt the other person so much that soon the other person
can’t be around them anymore. He/she
will just hurt too much. If you
learn that it’s ok… if you think it’s ok to hurt someone when you’re
mad, you will make people stop wanting to be with you.
Because I love you even though I am mad at you right now, I need to make
sure you know it’s not ok. Even
as I am mad, I will not try to hurt you on purpose like you tried to hurt me
because you were mad. So, for
trying to hurt me on purpose, you’re on time out because you can’t with
people when you think you can be mean to them.
You’re not on timeout for being upset.
Not for being mad. But for
being mean on purpose. Mommy or
Daddy may accept and forgive you, but in the real world people will punish
severely for this. Sit here and
think about other ways you could have shown that you were upset and mad.”
POSSIBLY YOU CAN UNDERSTAND YOUR CHILD
possibly you can actually understand your child.
These issues (Knowing
Yourself, Being a Model of Self-Love, Taking Care of Yourself...First!,
Being Emotionally and Physically Available, Being able to Separate,
Distinguishing Love & Like) need
to be resolved or addressed before a parent can have enough clarity to actually
understand his/her child’s needs, moods, physical states, emotional states,
temperament, environments: physical, social, emotional, familial, peer,
and school. Otherwise, unresolved
intrapersonal and interpersonal issues will continue to obscure that
you have the strong foundation in your own self-esteem and understanding, you
cannot really understand your child. In
the book, “The Wizard of Oz,” before entering the Emerald City, Dorothy and
all other visitors and residents had to put on deep green glasses.
With the green glasses, everything that she and everyone saw looked green
no matter what their actual colors were. It
was a trick of the Wizard’s to make every think that the entire city was made
of green emeralds. Often there is a
trick of childhood stress (and perhaps even trauma) that causes a grown child-
now a parent to see everything in a certain light or tone. You must work to remove those childhood lenses.
Your comprehension, until then will be distorted by the filter of your
own issues, or you will not be able to accept the information that is given to
you. Your child may tell you in
his/her behavior and serene security that he/she is fine with a change, but if
your childhood filters from your own neglect are in place then you will project
anxieties into him/her irregardless. Or,
your child may cry out for more structure and discipline, but your childhood
perspective of discipline being harsh, punitive, and dismissive will prevent you
from receiving the message. And if
you don’t understand your child your cannot give him/her the support
(parenting) he/sh needs. And, if
you do… you will. Understanding
also frees you from some of your guilt. And, understanding allows you to also like your child so much
part is the beginning of building self-esteem as well as the last part of your
foundation to build self-esteem. This
is the ground floor. THIS
IS ALSO WHERE PARENTS USUALLY BEGIN BUILDING, RATHER THAN WITH THE FOUNDATION.
Unfortunately, since they may have skipped the foundation, they cannot
build it properly. Remember how uneven
and rough the ground was before you dug down into your childhood and life
experiences). Just as a great
dinner doesn’t begin with jumping to the cooking but begins with great
preparation, great parenting begins with becoming a great (happy, secure,
stable…) individual- YOU!
that the FOUNDATION for Self-Esteem has been established (or understood), next
comes the BUILDING: Seven guidelines to Building Self-Esteem in Children.
KNOW I’M NOT A BABY! BUT CAN’T I STILL HURT!?
Skipping… running… jumping… whee! Fun…fun…whee! Skipping… running… jumping… What if I put my foot
there? And, my other foot, there?
And, then, swing my arms like… like this? Or…or… like that?
And wiggle my bottom like that? Hee
hee hee! Cool!
Look at me! Look at me!
What? Don’t what?
I’ll what? Oh…
oh…OH… OH…OH OH! Ahhhh!
Help… Help! BOOM!!
-Stop it! Stop crying!
That’s what you get for climbing on that.
Stop it! Stop crying! You’re not a baby anymore!
it hurts! OW! But…
-Stop it! You’re not a
baby! Don’t be a crybaby!
but… it hurts! I know I’m not a baby, but… can’t I still hurt!
TO BUILDING SELF-ESTEEM IN YOUR CHILD
the previous articles, we discussed at length at setting the foundation for
building the Self-Esteem of your child- building your own emotional,
psychological, and physical health. If
that foundation has been set, you can now build the “house.”
You’ve done the hard part already.
In real life, the foundation is your
own self-esteem; it is something you should always be working on.
That is the great challenge of life; the process of continual growth.
It is also the great joy of life- to feel oneself constantly becoming
more and more able and healthy. Unfortunately,
many people who have had major traumas and stresses in their younger lives,
suffer damage to their own self worth. Instead
of addressing their own issues, they often compensate by seeking to build and
rescue their child’s self-esteem- to give to them the support and nurturing
that was not given to them. They
may be become disabled by their own issues to the point, that they helping their
children becomes so much harder.
mother (let’s call her “Jean”) who as a child suffered emotional and
physical abuse from her parents, had sworn never to allow that to happen to her
children. Her very feisty and very
normal 2-year-old twins could be challenging at times. Despite their somewhat
rambunctious energy, they responded very well to clear boundaries and
discipline. Yet, constantly she
doubted herself whether she was disciplining them properly, and most
importantly, whether they were being harmed- even traumatized by her discipline.
I focused her on the lively joyous energy of the girls; they looked
anything but traumatized! They were the happiest kids around! What was she worried about?
Not really about the girls, but worried that “little Jean” would be
betrayed again, and this time by “big Jean.”
Only when she was able to recognize that the little girl she was who was
abused by the parents she had, was not the two little girls she now had… that
the desperation and abandonment she felt, was not the experience of her two
little girls, could she focus on giving the loving boundaries and discipline the
girls needed for their energy to stay appropriate individually and socially.
the other hand, you have all seen (perhaps, been) the parent in the vignette at
the beginning of this article. Often
such a parent has suffered very similar abuse as “Jean.”
However, his/her response may be different.
He/she may find the child’s distress far too familiar just like
“Jean,” but instead of trying to rescue or protect the child from the
distress, would want the child to ignore or deny the distress- not for the
child’s well being, but so the adult won’t fall into distress.
Often a child’s distress brings an adult back to the despair and
hopelessness, he/she had experienced as a child when his/her parent was hurtful
or neglectful. Feeling with (having
empathy with) his/her own child drags the adult back into his/her abyss of
despair so powerfully, that the urge to shut off the despair surges forward,
even at the cost of denying his/her own child’s distress- “Stop it!” This is quite dangerous as it fundamentally denies the child
his/her emotions… denies him/her the reality being experienced.
have stabilized own emotional and psychological health, then you can start (if
it isn’t you still
must start! Just be sure to work on
First, you must build the framework of the
“house”… of Self-Esteem. Everything
to follow in the structure goes on the framework of validation.
VALIDATE YOUR CHILD-
This is difficult to do this without understanding him/her.
That was why it was so important to clear out your prejudices,
distortions, ghosts, and other issues that confuse and obscure how you see and
understand him/her. How can
you validate your child- meet his/her needs if you do not really know what is
happening to and inside him/her? Being
sensitive to his/her needs is not the same as assuming he/she has the identical
needs that YOU had when you were young; that would be projecting your
sensitivity onto your child whether or not it applies (remember Jean taking care
of “little Jean” instead of her own children?).
Support your child when he/she has fears, insecurities, and
doubts; this is not the same as supporting his/her fears, insecurities, and
doubts. You are supporting the child when he/she has these
anxious feeling. You can still
address the logic of the fears (or the illogic)… still set boundaries about
how to behave or not behave, but most importantly do not emotionally abandon the
child while he/she is in distress.
the difficulty of the feeling and validate it must be hard to feel it. "You feel scared, huh?", "I understand… it's
hard isn't it?", "It doesn't feel good does it?" “You must feel
really rotten.” Do not minimize
or try to undo the bad feelings by explaining why he/she doesn't need to feel
scared, or why there "really" isn't any danger, or telling him/her
that they are or will be OK (this can be taken as they should be OK).
Doing this invalidates the child just as much as calling him/her a
"baby", or "silly", "stupid", and so forth.
When we try to explain away the child's bad feelings, it doesn't work.
In addition, we get frustrated at the child’s lack of reason (but
that’s how children think!) We
also get frustrated at the lack of reception we are getting from him/her...the
imagined lack of respect, deference, and listening. This often has the effect of provoking our internal sense of inadequacy, impotency, insecurity, and
ignorance. This can be quite
frightening, especially since we have been trying to avoid these feelings…
possibly, for years. This is where
we tend to ask these loaded questions: Beware of trying or how you try to get
explanations from your child for his/her behavior. Many statements or questions have both a surface and an
implied underlying component. Be
careful that the underlying component is not a dangerous accusation. For example, the simple question, "Why?" can easily
have an underlying question of "What's wrong with you?"
That underlying question is actually an accusation that “Something IS
wrong with you!” (In a previous
article, V.1.3, The
Most Dangerous Question a Parent can ask the Child "Why did you do
that?", I discussed this common and seemingly innocent
question more extensively). Another dangerous implicit message underlying “Why?” or
“How come you’re scared?” or some other request for explanation, is that
you must come up with a logical answer, or else you don’t have the right to
your feelings. In other words, you
must justify yourself in order to have the feelings.
Not surprisingly, this harmful communication comes up often with couples
in therapy that I’ve conducted.
& EXPERIMENTATION; STUDY & PRACTICE
let your child be a child. And,
a child will mess up; in fact, will mess up and actually needs to mess up A LOT!
The primary process of learning according to cognitive developmental
theorist Piaget comes from exploration and experimentation, and that means
having some explorations and experiments blow up in your face!
The Chinese calligraphy for “learning” is two words written together
to indicate the interplay between them creating the meaning: study and practice.
While practice doesn’t always make perfect (actually, practice makes
for lots of mistakes while hopefully, moving towards greater proficiency), it is
critical normally for learning. Study,
including study of one’s mistakes works in conjunction with practice to
facilitate learning. A child needs
to be allowed to mess up without being labeled or made to feel like a mess up.
A mess up is hopeless; messing up is curable or transitory.
Children need to understand this in order to learn and grow.
Their adults need to understand this in order to validate children in
your child is in distress because of some “tragedy” or mistake, connect
emotionally first. Validate
the child in his/her distress. You
can do this if you are emotionally available (because having taken care of your
emotional/psychological health as part of the foundation to building Self-Esteem
we discussed in earlier articles). The
words you say are less important than whether you use touch, the tone
of your voice, your facial expression, and body language to
convey your concern and caring- NOT your problem solving skills (yet).
Be sure that your child gets your concern and caring is genuine.
Then, you can lead the child to his/her strength or his/her
security in your strength and proceed with problem solving.
the metaphor of building the house, after the foundation (you) and with the
framework established (validating your child), now you can add the first of many
key elements to the structure.
TEACH RESPONSIBILITY WITHOUT SHAME, BLAME, & FAULT-
Responsibility is about power and control.
Respond + Ability = Responsibility.
Children and adults, both need to learn how to take responsibility in
their lives. Unfortunately, instead
of responsibility, many people are taught instead that they should have shame,
guilt, and feel at fault. Responsibility
is positive. Shame, guilt, and
fault, however, are about ones rotten inner essence.
Our society often likes to blame. Many
people, including people in positions of authority are not willing to take
responsibility for the ills in our society. We confuse blame with responsibility. While we all assert and preach that everyone must take
responsibility; one cannot take blame- it means one is a rotten person.
Many adults have used the word, “responsibility” incorrectly and have
contaminated it for others including their children.
When does someone tend to talk to you about your responsibility?
The problem is, normally when you haven’t been responsible AND
are about to get in trouble for it. “That
was your responsibility!” is
virtually always spat out as a damning accusation.
Avoid blaming and shaming when interacting with or disciplining your
child. You can do this better as
you better deal with your own shame and guilt issues.
It is hard to avoid blaming and shaming if you still blame yourself, feel
guilty, or feel the need to be forgiven. Show/model
responsibility and give/expect responsibility.
Look for the process of responsibility and not the product of
responsibility; looking at the product leads to failure and the blaming and
shaming that come with failure.
MILK THAT LEAVES NO STAINS
child runs into the room (he/she has been told not to run inside before), slips
and runs into the table and causes the glass of milk to spill onto the table and
onto the rug below. If he/she is to
blame, at fault, and guilty of this horrendous act, then even if he/she picks up
the glass, cleans it, refills it with milk, wipes the table dry, and cleans the
rug so that there is no stain, a stain remains on him/her.
The stain upon his/her character… upon his/her worth remains no matter
how much care he/she takes not only in making amends for the mistake, but in
ensuring that he/she does not make the mistake again.
It won’t matter. Many
adults carry such stains from mistakes that their parents shamed and blamed them
for as children. However, if
the child was not blamed or shamed, but held responsible such enduring damage
can be avoided. The child is held
responsible for running in the house (you can allow a child to be a child, but
that doesn’t mean that you still don’t teach responsibility), remains
responsible for drying the table, cleaning and then refilling the glass with
milk, and continuing so no stain stays on the rug.
And, because he/she was held responsible and not shamed and blamed, there
never was a stain upon his/her soul. AND,
he/she continues to be responsible by taking care to prevent repetition of such
can create and direct opportunities for the child to have control and power, to
be responsible, to solve problems, to choose without blame or guilt.
When he/she does positive things, reflect back to him/her the good
choices and the responsible behavior that he/she executed.
When he/she makes mistakes, help him/her take responsibility by finding
out how to problem solve the mistakes and make amends for the harm they may have
caused, FIRST! Then, reflect
back to him/her the poor choices and irresponsible behavior that he/she
executed. The reason to focus on
the problem solving first (after validating the distress) is to focus the child
on affirmative processes- his/her power and control in the situation despite
negative issues. The child is
already feeling bad about messing up… already in distress, and would
experience the “responsibility speech” as insensitivity or being punished…
salt added to the wound. Part of
the core of the distress is of having made a mistake and having no power or
control over making it, nor of fixing it. As
you validate the distress of messing up (and inner fear of being a “mess
up”), you cannot help him/her undo the mistake, but can help your child
address the distress of losing power and control by giving guidance and support
to either fix it or make amends for it. How
can you do this? You can do this if
you are not overly drawn to or sensationalized by the mistake (the behavior)
itself. How do you do this?
You can do this if you can distinguish your love of your child from
liking or not liking his/her behavior (part of the foundation to building
Self-Esteem we discussed in earlier articles).
The mistake or the behavior was not done “at” you… not done
purposely “to” you. Of course,
you don’t like it; you’re not supposed to like negative, hurtful, or
disruptive behavior- purposeful or accidental.
That why you teach… discipline… parent a child to recognize what
should be done instead, what can be done now, what the poor choices were, and
what better choices would be. And, why do you bother?
Because you love your child. However,
love is not enough. Work,
introspection, health, growth, and… responsibility! are vital too.
you learned your responsibility as a parent?
Or, do you feel blamed, shamed, and guilty? Can you make the distinction?
I and others can honor… however you, above all must honor your
distress at the mistakes you’ve committed.
Also honor your distress over the feelings of powerlessness and
loss of control. And, remind yourself
of your continued responsibility- ability to respond with better choices and
regain appropriate power and control as a good parent. AND, challenge yourself to look at your mistakes to
take responsibility for them and to learn from them.
33: NO!! (YOU DON’T HAVE THE
She’s a fierce one, that Hilary. Always
pushing it. Always gotta touch what you tell her not to touch.
Hotheaded Hilary! The-touch-everything girl.
I got my hands full with the dishes.
What’s she up to now? “Hey…
Hey… Don’t touch that!”
She’s pausing… she’s looking at me… there’s that little
smile… no, no… she heard me… she knows I don’t want her to touch it…
that’s why she’s smiling! How
Stop it!!” She’s looking
dead at me… smiling… moving her hand, slowly toward it.
She’s having fun messing with me!
“HILARY, I said don’t touch that! I know that you understand me… I know… hey, hey, HEY!
I said… I said…” She
touched it! She TOUCHED IT!! I
KNEW she would touch it. Aaargh!
Darn it! And, she’s still
looking me square in the eyes with that smug smirk on her face.
She’s enjoying this. She’s
messing with me! Well, I’LL SHOW
HER!! I’LL SHOW HER WHO’S
BOSS!! I’LL SHOW HER!! “YOU’RE
ON TIME OUT! COME HERE!
DON’T YOU RUN AWAY FROM ME! GOTCHA!!”
Darn kid! Grab her tight
around by the arms… sit her down on the bench!
Sit her down with firmness… sit her down with anger… sit her down out
of control… sit her down and hurt her with my grip on her arms and the force
of her bottom on the bench… With fire in her eyes, Hilary looks up and
snarls, “NO! Stop it!”
DON’T HAVE THE RIGHT
happens between an adult (perhaps, the parent) and a challenging child.
It is not something an adult may be proud of.
In frustration with her continued testing and acting out, the adult lost
patience and forgot… lost the person he/she swore he/she would always be with
young children. Hilary did not get
seriously or even mildly hurt; she suffered no injury or bruise.
But it did not matter. The
adult was too rough with her. An
adult who was three to seven/eight times a big as a small (admitted fierce)
child betrayed the responsibility of the caretaker to the developing youngster.
It is up to the individual and his/her real and ideal self to reconcile
the mistake. When Hilary snarled,
“NO! Stop it!” The adult (hopefully) was immediately stricken with guilt for
what he/she had done. And, filled
with shame… a fundamental betrayal of who to be for and with children.
The adult needs to take immediate responsibility for what he/she had
done, how it had gotten to that point; and, continue to take responsibility to
make sure that it would never (if at all possible)- violate a child like this
again. As stated in a previous
article, responsibility is about learning from your mistakes as a parent
(because you will make plenty!). Also,
in an earlier article (V.1.2 Feedback, Frustration, and Self-Esteem- “You
guys better be quiet! Or…
Or…!!”), I maintained that making a mistake does not destroy children. It is when mistakes happen over and over in a pattern of
behavior and interaction that they becoming damaging.
If the overall pattern is of attention, nurturing, and appropriate
discipline, then children can tolerate a parental mistake occasionally.
The mistake becomes an opportunity for the adult to learn about
him/herself and the greater complexity of the care-taking dynamic.
(By the way, if you are still horrified at what the adult did… that is,
be human, and you still chose to condemn, there’s not much I can say… about
your self-righteous, moralistic, judgmental, and shallow insecurity that needs
to put others down to boost your fragile ego!
I could refer you to a number of therapists or ministers to work on this,
but you wouldn’t go anyway!)
finished with an immediate quick process of shame and guilt to responsibility,
the adult (hopefully) was struck by the implicit message… the powerful
assertion of Hilary snarling, “NO! Stop it!”
“You don’t have the right!!”
“You,” in other words, “no one has the right to hurt
me!!” I told you Hilary was
fierce. Without a doubt, she had
many issues in terms of her behavior and how she affected the community of the
classroom and school, and her family dynamics that needed to be worked on.
On the other hand, her self-determination that she had the right be not
be hurt… to not be abused was something she already had… and asserted!
After the seven adult fundamentals to the foundation of building
Self-Esteem, come the first two guidelines to Building Self-Esteem in Children:
Validate Your Child and Teach Responsibility without Shame, Blame, and Fault
(discussed in the previous article, V.3.12 I Know I’m Not a Baby! But
Can’t I Still Hurt!? ). Hilary
despite her intense combative personality already had internalized the lessons
of the next guideline—expressed in part A and part B.
3A) TEACH THAT NO ONE SHOULD BE
ALLOWED TO ABUSE HIM/HER- (including you!) Far too often, parents and
teachers teach children to not let anyone abuse them, yet harm them with verbal,
emotional, and physical abuse (if not even, sexual abuse) within their own homes
and classrooms. A common response
for many adults challenged by a Hilary would to be embarrassed and rather than
take responsibility, hide the embarrassment with greater aggression and
intimidation against the child. Children
are extremely vulnerable to the adults that care for them.
They can be mistreated, abused, ignored, neglected, and arbitrarily and
unfairly treated out of the view of others.
Or, if such treatment were observed, other adults who decide to “mind
their own business give often permission by silence.
The more a person, people, or community is vulnerable to harm… the
greater their dependence is on those they must trust, the greater the
responsibility of the person, the people, or institutions that hold power over
them. Children are such
vulnerable people. As a society, we
are not too far removed from a time when children were legally considered
to the property of their parents, to do with as they saw fit, as they would do
with their other property. Remember
that the first child abuse intervention in the United States had no legal status
per se based on any mandate to protect children from harm, but was done by
officials who had to turn to an existing animal abuse law for legal
justification! There still exists
in many communities and families that same assertion that a family retains the
moral right to physically discipline a child, including to the extent that
severe pain and injury may occur. Or,
to emotionally or psychologically humiliate or terrorize a child to change
behavior, or whenever the adult’s mood turns violently.
grow up in a family where you not only experience abuse but are expected to
accept it, perhaps to deny that it is abuse, but call it “discipline”
instead, is to learn that you both deserve it and are powerless to stop it.
The bully/abuser always make it a point to blame the victim/abused for
“deserving” the bullying/abuse (as was discussed in the previous discussions
about the bully and victim dynamic). Someone
who grows up in such a family becomes very likely to enter into and stay in
relationships where they will allow their intimate partners to abuse them.
They replicate the pattern of helplessness and abuse from childhood into
adult relationships. Parents do not normally chose to abuse their children, nor
intend to duplicate their own childhood trauma, or train them to enter into
future dysfunctional relationships. However,
in the frustration of their lives, especially when they have experiences with
abuse and trauma in their lives (in particular, as children), adults can slip
past the boundaries between strict and fair discipline set by caring parents,
and arbitrary punitive violations committed by rageful out of control parents.
to be positive caregivers must acknowledge and admit their own errors. They must
understand their own dynamics: what makes them frustrated, what are their needs,
their issues with power and control, and so forth.
They need to get out of their Twilight Zones so they can be emotionally
and psychologically present for their children.
Only if they can do this, can they empower their children to assert their
right to be free from abuse—even from them!
Practically speaking it can be very difficult… even impossible for most
children to challenge their parents or teachers.
On the other hand, some children and parents get out of control and the
challenging becomes defiant and disrespectful; youthful passion and desires
devolve into selfish and self-righteous entitlement.
This makes it even more incumbent on the adults to be firm and fair, but
also sensitive and nurturing in their discipline.
It is important to find ways for your child to assert themselves even against
your best judgments at times. Perhaps,
that may mean letting them win some of the “smaller” battles or
disagreements. Parents become
over-controlling when all the battles are perceived as “big” and important
to win. Children who don’t
experience “winning” in the family become more prone to either rebel
eventually, or accept domination and exploitation later.
Let them tell you when you are wrong when you are wrong. Ya know, that does happen!
Can your ego handle that? Some will read this and feel it implies that
children be given permission to disrespect their parents and other adults.
Obedience is not the same as respect.
Silence is not the same as respect.
Hopefully, readers will see this as a call for adults to respect
3B) TEACH THEM TO ALWAYS TAKE CARE
OF HIM/HERSELF- ”Always” is an unequivocal word—a powerful mandate.
Co-dependent personalities are far from “always” caring for
themselves. Such people always give up themselves in order to “buy” other
people’s affection or cooperation. Or, to gain power (often, only an illusion of power).
The co-dependent personality seeks his/her own happiness by denying
his/her own needs (falsely, in a form of self-deception) in order to incur a
reciprocal obligation by his/her target. This
is not a true selflessness, but an admission of inability to control one’s own
happiness directly. Unable to
fulfill him/herself, the co-dependent manipulates the target who then “owes”
the co-dependent. The target must
then take care of him/her. Children
need to learn how to always take care of themselves.
Learn to ask them to take care of themselves. Teach themselves to ask themselves: “Is this good for me?
Or, bad for me?” “I want this now, but how will I feel later?”
“Is this healthy?” “Are the consequences to me and others going to be good?”
“How will this be for me now and later?” and other questions that
prompt them to care for themselves. Even
as you set limits and make decisions for them, be clear how the limits and
decision serve them. From this “selfishness,” they can then learn how their
needs can be met through, or can be compatible with meeting the needs of family,
partners, peers, and community. Sometimes
it is appropriate to give up your needs in order to balance the needs of the
group (family, peer group, classroom, workplace, etc.).
While this may sound contradictory to the mandate of “always” taking
care of yourself, taking care of the group dynamic and social harmony is about
taking care of yourself. Alienating
the group and then being ostracized or rejected (sent into the wilderness,
fired, divorced, and so forth) is not a good way to take care of yourself!
Balancing individual needs and group needs involves a complexity that
these principles can offer guidance for, but cannot be a specific blueprint for.
the other hand, you certainly cannot possibly teach children to take care of
themselves if your model is your sacrificing yourself continually for them!
Do you let others (partners, family, bosses, colleagues, peers,
authorities, children) abuse YOU? Do
you take care of yourself FIRST? Have
you integrated being the good caregiver with healthy selfishness? Are you a
model of self-love (sometimes, eating the last cookie… or buying the kind of
cookies you like!)? As you nurture
yourself, you can more readily and honestly be selfless with them. You model how never allow others to abuse you, and how to
take care of yourself first within a community context.
34: YOU CAN DO IT VS. YOU BETTER DO
one… this one goes here. Hmmm…
good. And this one goes… uh? here? no… here? Humph! Grrrr!
It goes HERE!! This way… that way… Aaargh!
Keep trying, honey. You can
way? No, that way?
Hmmm… Got it! Yes!!
And this one goes… where? here?
Umph! No… maybe… Grrrr!
Where does it go? Aaargh! “I can’t
You can do it. Try
turning it again. See where the
Blue? Blue here too… turn… Good!
Got it!! I know where this
one goes. It goes… here! NOT! Grrrr!
Humph! “I hate this
No, honey. I know it’s
hard, but it’s not OK to hit the puzzle.
You can do it. Try this
piece. See the big round part?
Can you find a hole that it fits? I
know you can do it.
Big round part… big round hole? Maybe…
Yes! And, this one… here.
And, this one… ahh… here! And,
this the last one… ummm… here!! I
CAN do it!!
Yes! You DID do it! I knew you could! Hip
hip hooray for honey!
“BEST” IS TRANSCENDED
parents want the best for their children. How
they “encourage” and “support” them varies to a great deal and is often
dependent on what they perceive is the “best” or, conversely the “worse”
for their children. What is the “best” for your child? Each parent’s definition of what is the best comes from
his/her own life experiences, challenges, difficulties, and even their trauma
and pain. For some, the “worse” is for their children to re-live the same
pain they had endured as children. In
the generation who grew up in the Great Depression, the “best” was defined
by the need to compensate for the suffering created by the economic hardships of
the times. Breadlines, assaults to
one’s dignity, financial desperation… fear, dominated the children’s
lives. As adults and as parents who
suffered, the “best” may mean financial security.
Emotional and psychological health and nurturing were overshadowed by the
stress of basic survival uncertainties. The
stress ignited painful and destructive emotional and psychological experiences.
A perception of their parents “failure” (although, there had been no
failure on their part, rather their being victimized by political and economic
circumstances beyond their control) may drive such a parent to define the
“best” in terms of anything that promotes financial acquisition and
a person who grew up in an emotionally barren home, the “best” may mean the
unconditional emotional availability of ones parents.
I am always reminded of the client who had emotionally unavailable
parents, on an overnight visit to her little girlfriend’s house.
She recalled watching with envy and longing, her friend’s mother gently
tucking her friend into bed, saying goodnight, and then giving her a gentle
goodnight kiss on the cheek. And
then being thrilled beyond words, when her friend’s mother came to her bed to
tuck her in as well, wish her a good night, and give HER a gentle peck on her
cheek- a simple act of affection that shone in contrast like a diamond amidst
the coals of her desolate family experience. Twenty-five years later, this
moment of caring still rang powerful and nostalgically in this woman’s life.
For her, the “best” for her children was driven by her need to
compensate for the emotional desert she endured as a child.
a son of a Chinese immigrant family, the “best” as perceived and promoted by
my parents had much to do with their experiences growing up in China culturally
in a Confucian feudal society, during a period of political and economic turmoil
and of ongoing warfare (late 1920’s and early 1930’s through the late
1940’s). On the other hand, my
formative years were the 1960’s of socially activist Berkeley!
Talk about a contrasting definition of the “best” as promoted by the
progressive-radical idealism of those times!
Reconciling their perceptions and teachings with my reality (Berserkeley,
as it was often sarcastically referenced) became a major challenge of my
childhood. For the children of the
child (now adult) of the Depression, their conflict would be between their
parent’s Depression (deprivation-defined) values and their current reality
based upon their actual lifestyle, which often can be relatively financially
secure and comfortable (normally and ironically, from the driven work ethic from
fear and anxiety of their parents). Their
definition of what is the “best” may evolve from and beyond the financial
security they already have, while simultaneously being stuck in the financial
insecurity that traumatized their parents.
For the woman who’s kiss from her friend’s mother was so precious and
sweet, her adamant nurturing of her children would probably give them an
emotional security from which they can grow from.
By gifting her children with this “best,” her children can transcend
it (and not hunger for it as she did)- if she did not smother them.
Compulsive loving, giving, and nurturing from this personal historical
insecurity however, can cause problems too (for example, result in a failure to
set appropriate boundaries and consequences for children).
With a healthy integration of this parental love though, such children
will have the emotional security to seek and define their “best” from it.
They probably can risk emotional disconnection and abandonment in seeking
other, additional, and higher forms of self-actualization more readily than
their mother, from having a stronger core of self-worth from the unconditional
love. They would have transcended
their mother’s needs (in a very positive manner).
is another reminder to not “give grandmother roller-skates!” In other words,
what is desperately precious to you may not be precious in the same way to your
children. Parents usually
compensate for what they wanted but did not receive as children, by
OVER-compensating in giving that to their children. And, as a result, eliminating any deprivation based longing
for that. This is not to say that
giving or promoting financial security, or love, or culture is not appropriate
or loving, but that intense urgency does not have to move into the next
generation. When parents are clear
in their own process (including their traumas and neuroses!), they progress so
they can more readily follow through on the fourth guideline on building
Self-Esteem in their children.
4) CHALLENGE / NOT PUSH; HAVE
EXPECTATIONS / NOT DEMANDS- Parents
sometimes push their children with demands that can be extremely stressful and
sometimes individually and/or developmentally completely inappropriate.
This happens when they develop rigid standards of behavior that have
little or nothing to do with their children’s actual needs or personality, but
that have somehow been raised to a high (often moralistic) level through either
personal experiences or the promotion of some authoritative “expert.”
The previous paragraphs give some examples of such personal experiences.
The experts may be an author, a teacher, a minister, some political
figure, in a book, from a magazine, on TV, and/or the movies.
While many such people and sources often give excellent information, they
are speaking to generalities and principles about “many” children,
“most” children, or “a significant portion” of children.
Many of these principles and concepts are excellent and soundly based
(some are incredibly off the wall, judgmental and moralistic, or archaic!).
However, even the soundest theories need to be examined for specific
applicability to your specific, individual, unique, one-of-a-kind child!
And, even if a theory is applicable to you precious one-and-only, how
specifically and variably is it expressed in your child… and when? And for how
long? Under what circumstances? Here
we go with the children are complicated and thus parenting is complicated
routine! Well, if they weren’t
complicated and parenting complicated, then maybe they wouldn’t be children,
but inert lumps of clay you can mold instead!
your expectations of behavior on child-centered appropriateness based on
research and study, instead of adult-generated standards, adult-generated fear
of failure, or your reaction to your own oppression as a child.
Individualize all your and society's stuff to your unique being of a
child. Accept him/her as unique and
special and treat him/her so--- individualize! Challenging and having expectations of a child differs from
pushing and making demands of him/her in the respect for his/her uniqueness.
To challenge someone, you need to find the edge of his/her comfort zone
and discomfort zone. To challenge
someone, you need to find the extreme edge of competence where secure competence
moves into uncertainty about one’s ability.
When you push someone, you push not matter where they are.
You are pushing them towards what may be highly uncomfortable or even
what might be highly dangerous. You
may be pushing them well beyond their capacity and competence. Such pushing pushes them into failure. Growth and learning happen at the edge of discomfort—not in
the secure comfort zone, but also not in the zone of radically unfamiliar or
foreign territory. The simple,
familiar, and secure offer no challenge or growth opportunities (is even
boring!) and the over-demanding prompts feelings of incompetence and creates
overwhelming anxiety. Challenging
differs from pushing in that the challenge to go beyond where one is, while
pushing is force one to a specific spot no matter how dangerous it is and no
matter how unprepared one is.
especially expectations to try, to be engaged, to struggle imply encouraging
children to be in a process of growth. Demands
define the goals explicitly and punish one for not reaching them. Demands are achievement oriented while expectations are
developmentally oriented. How is a
parent to distinguish between challenging and pushing? Between expectation and
demands? To challenge and have
expectations, you need to be aware of and respectful of your child’s
individuality, developmental stages, and personality. You need to know your child… as completely as possible.
Then, you can nudge, encourage, or bring them to their edge of discomfort
to conquer new horizons and grow. And,
be able to give them the appropriate support to handle the slight (not
you push your child to read? Or, do
you challenge him/her to explore words, stories, and books?
Do you demand performance to your standards?
Or, do you expect your child to try… to have values… to consider new
things? And, do you do all that
whether or not he/she is engaged, in distress, joyful, or anxious?
Do you provide the support his/her personality and aptitudes need?
Or, do you provide what Dr. BigShotChildlessExpert says ALL children
need? And, most importantly, do you
model and live challenge and expectations in your life?
Many parents push (uh… or “support”) their children because of what
they had not done or achieved in their own lives.
They push their children to reach their potential because of their
remorse and shame from not having reached their own potential.
Sometimes parents act as if their opportunity to grow and excel has
passed… that their responsibility to stretch is over or complete… that with
their personal failure, they are then obligated to give up on personal growth
and give 100% (or 150%!) to promoting their children’s growth and success.
At least, the next generation will “make it”.
Unfortunately, as much as they are invested in their children, they
compromise their support by presenting a live model of stagnation and surrender.
Several years ago, after four difficult years balancing a business, other
work, and family with a Masters of Psychology program, I completed the degree,
my first step towards a career change from education and child development to
becoming a therapist. My wife and I
decided to celebrate the milestone with a nice dinner with the family- our two
little girls and us. When I told
Trisha who was 7 years old at the time about going out, she asked me why.
She had been three and her younger sister not quite one when I had begun
the degree program. I told her,
when you finished Kindergarten? You
had learned a lot of things and worked really hard for ten months, and then you
and your friends had finally finished Kindergarten.
Remember how special that was? And,
then everyone got together to have a special celebration because finishing
Kindergarten is really great. Well,
you know I’ve been going to a school for a long time too… four years… it
was a lot of work and hard too. You
remember me staying up late and studying? And
being sleepy and tired? And, going to classes sometimes at night and on
Saturdays? Well, I finished! And, now I’m a Masters program graduate… kinda like you
were a Kindergarten graduate. I
finished too, and we’re going to dinner to have a family celebration for
always remember with great fondest as Trisha’s expression transformed from
curiosity to understanding, and a twinkle appeared in her eyes and big smile
spread across her face, and she shouted out sweetly with a pump of her little
fist, “Yea daddy!” As she grew over the years (presently, deciding on
which college to attend) and we tried to challenge (not push) and have
expectations (not demands) of her, it was not “challenge yourself although
your dad didn’t challenge himself… take these current expectations of ours
to see if they can be yours too, even though dad was scared to have
expectations.” Daddy is not a
hypocrite! Much more importantly
(significantly, more important than any achievement per se of mine), she had a
visible living model of challenge and struggle in daddy.
“Go for it? Take a chance?
Struggle for what you want? Do
something hard? Stretch? Sure!
Might be rough, but Daddy did it before, I must be able to
do it too! It was hard for him, but
he still did it. It may be hard for me, but I can still try… and
maybe (probably?) do it too! I’m
a can-do kid!” (Mommy has been
quite a model of growth and courage too, by the way!)
Both of our daughters are willing to be challenged and try to meet
expectations. For this, we are
happy. Better than that, is that as
teenagers, they are willing to challenge themselves and have expectations of
35: YOU’RE THE BEST… REALLY,
YOU’RE THE BEST… REALLY…
the best. You have so much ability.
how well you did in the last show. Your
timing… how you remembered all your lines…
other parents noticed too… really, you’re the best...
hope you realize how special you are… really…
Yeah yeah, Mom.
keep it up. I’m so proud of you.
You’re the best.
Uh… Thanks, Mom.
Give it a rest. Thanks,
nothing you can’t do. So smart…
How come she keeps on? Does
she REALLY believe it?
Maybe she doesn’t think I believe it! Or, SHOULD believe it!
are times when parents and adults just overdo it with praise.
They praise and praise and praise trying to build the Self-Esteem of
children. However, as they praise
they can also convey doubt… doubt that the children actually are worthy of the
praise, and/or doubt that the children really believe it.
In a previous article (V.1.4, Significance Meets Socialization &
Frustration), I wrote about how when the people that are significant to you,
find you to be significant as well build your Self-Esteem.
Praise comes from this principle. However,
just as there was more to building Self-Esteem than just significance, there is
more to significance than just praising children.
Frequent and undifferentiated praise
can have an unexpected debilitating effect.
Effusive praise can have the unfortunate effect of making people
dependent upon the approval of others. If
a child or a person becomes accustomed to… becomes dependent upon praise to
motivate him/her to give honest effort, to have high standards of performance,
and to achieve competency, then what may result is an individual who will not
remain conscientious if there is no one there to praise, to acknowledge, or
to reward him/her. Successful
people have expectations (a strong ideal self) and seek personal effort,
performance, and skills whether or not there is anyone else present to note it.
Most of us can enjoy praise, but being dependent on it is dangerous.
THE “INNER FRAUD”
the other hand, we recognize the danger of not praising children.
However, to what degree should we praise?
I can recall many a parent or teacher praising a child, repeating over
and over how great he/she was or is. The
child took the initial praise with some slight embarrassment.
As the adult continued, the child became more and more uncomfortable.
Some adults tell a child how much potential he/she has because he/she was
not meeting it- a backhanded way to criticize in the guise of support.
It is not unusual for a child to be uncomfortable with praise for another
reason. In fact, many adults have a
fear that their “Inner Fraud” would be exposed.
They fear they will be exposed as a fraud… that they do not deserve the
praise and even adulation that they receive… and worse yet, that they have
actually fooled everyone into thinking that they are competent, talented,
and deserving. How do people
universally acclaimed by appreciative and knowledgeable peers, friends, and
family become consumed with such anxiety despite their great skills and
outstanding performances? The Inner
Fraud develops when a person gets praise from significant people, not to
acknowledge competency or performance but as demands for competency and
performance that is often outside the comfort zone… the normal range of
functional and developmental ability of the individual.
Along with such praise/demands is an implicit “or else” message, that
failure to show competency or performance indicates ones inherent unworthiness.
Terrified to expose such unworthiness to those he/she finds significant,
the individual struggles mightily (often denying emotional and psychological
health and developmental needs) to deliver… to meet the praise/demand.
However, even as he/she is successful, the individual cannot celebrate
the accomplishment in as far as he/she feels success has been achieved by the
skin of his/her teeth or luck or deception.
Any satisfaction in his/her achievement lacks depth or meaning, and is
transitory. And, he/she fears that
he/she will be exposed as a fraud any second.
Worse yet, now others will expect it of him/her again!
Since there is a danger of creating an “Inner Fraud” through
demanding praise, the next guideline to building Self-Esteem in children is to
be able to
Is your praise really a demand for performance in disguise?
Is it a nice (but insidiously sneaky and destructive) way to express
disappointment? Is it sincere
praise rings hollow to even little children.
Praise for lousy effort is insincere and at it’s worse, reinforces the
lousy effort. There are
people who are sparse with praise who never or rarely acknowledge others effort,
competency, achievements, or performances. There might be family models or
cultural factors that limit or preclude praising children.
In totalitarian societies, self-esteem, which is promoted by praise, is
actually avoided, since it makes one stand out to be possibly harmed by those in
power. However, in our democratic
society, this cultural factor is not as relevant.
Those who have suffered the lack of praise from parents often resolve to
not to replicate such behavior, and easily and frequently praise their own
children. However, some adults
praise effusively and dishonestly for lackadaisical or careless effort.
I have often seen children scribble onto a piece of paper with
disinterest and minimal effort, then present it to a well-intended adult who
then praises it as a work of art! The
adult reinforces that mediocre effort and marginal investment will be accepted
in the real world to come (elementary and high schools, college, and the adult
vocational world). This
flawed approach is based upon an assumption that a child will be devastated if
he/she is not positively reinforced… that his/her self-esteem is so fragile
that it must be supported with false praise… with lies.
THE REAL WORLD
children move into the real world where no one loves them like their parents
love them, they will expect treatment and expectations similar to what they had
received from their parents. They
will continue to expect praise for poor performance and low investment. To their
surprise, others such as teachers, coaches, peers, supervisors, bosses,
boyfriends & girlfriends, and spouses will reject rather than accept minimal
and marginal effort and performance. They
will be devastated (in being rejected), disabled (by having not acquired the
skills or work ethics), and/or angered (from their sense of entitlement) as
others care little or not at all about supporting their self-esteem; and care
entirely about their performance or contribution on the job, in the classroom,
or in the relationship. False
praise can build up a false self that the child is aware of as being false, or
accepts as legitimate although others reject it.
Praise the process and validate the energy, if the process and energy
deserve it. How do you do that?
You must know the child to be able
to do this properly. You must know what is
developmentally appropriate for your child at his/her given age… and what is
his/her individual capacity- his locus of proximal development (as was discussed
in the previous article). How
should you respond? What would be
your goal? Is it just to criticize
the child? Of course, not.
The goal of parental/adult praise should be to teach the child how to
responding in a different manner when a child presents performance that is
clearly beneath his/her capacity (versus not meeting your standards!)… a
drawing for example.
YOU LIKE IT?
child asks, “Do you like it?” Children
often have learned early how to fish for praise from adults.
Many supportive adults may respond with the lie, “Oh, I really like it!
It’s so pretty. You did
such a good job.” Poor work
becomes supported. Expectations of
poor work being acceptable are created. The
adult may instead respond by asking the child, “Hmmm… Do YOU like it?” If the child is sincerely self-evaluative, he/she may
respond, “Well, I don’t really like it,” or “It’s OK.” Then the
adult can prompt, “Well, there’s some parts that are nice.
Over here… and over here. I
think you did a good job there. What
do you think?” The adult is
not only pointing out what is worthy of praise but also prompting the child to
be self-evaluative. The adult can
then add, “I think there are some parts that you can make better.
Do you see them?” While there is an acceptance of the quality that
exists, the adult also prompts the child to see where he/she can improve the
quality of his/her work. If
the child does see these areas and then is willing to work on them, he/she
should be praised for the self-evaluation and the conscientiousness of wanting
to improve. If the child has
difficulty seeing these areas, the adult should point them out.
If the child is hesitant to improve these areas, the adult should give
honest feedback that the quality remains marginal without improvement.
Depending on the circumstances, the adult may even sternly require the
child to do additional work on it. Once
the child has put the additional effort and work into his/her project, then the
adult should prompt the child to praise him/herself, “What do you think now?
How do you like how it looks now?”
Hopefully, the child will be able to self-acknowledge and say, “I like
it better now.” Then the adult
can respond with integrity, “I like it too!
Good job.” In other words, the adult should then praise BOTH the higher
quality of the project and the child’s additional energy in improving the
project (that is, if the additional effort was sincere as opposed to cursory…
again). “Aren’t you
glad you worked on it some more? I
think it was worth it, don’t you think? Tell
yourself, ‘good job!’”
you criticizing the child, or perhaps teaching him/her to criticize him/herself?
Criticism in of itself does not have to be negative or harmful- it is the
critiquing of performance or effort… it is not necessarily a judgment of the quality or inherent worth of the
individual. It is when poor or
mediocre performance is equated with an individual’s poor or mediocre worth,
or good performance is equated with an individual’s high worth that criticism
becomes dangerous. Criticism
may be difficult to present in a nurturing manner if the adult is unaware or
dismissive of the child's temperament and sensitivity.
It is incredibly difficult to do well if the critic is not staying with
the child's abilities. All
criticism should include praise; validate effort and energy; be honest; be age
and child appropriate. Criticism
(perhaps, further defined as evaluation and feedback) should be toward extending
the potential of the child- challenging at the edge of his/her potential, and not
according to some outside standards. Socialization
oriented criticism must be at the child's level of comprehension and relevant
(that is, of a positive service) to his/her life.
Self-criticism then serves the same positive purpose.
And, self-criticism should then include self-praise for good effort,
integrity, and performance as well. Many
people however are comfortable about praising others but can only be negatively
self-critical of themselves. They
are unable to acknowledge their own achievements and positive qualities; they
THE “RULE” OF FALSE HUMILITY
is often a basic hypocrisy in our culture that on the one hand encourages the
development of high self-esteem, and on the other hand, labels anyone who
actually self-acknowledges (much less dares to verbalize) his/her own ability, a
fathead! Sometimes in my workshop
presentations including ones on developing self-esteem in children, I purposely
provoke this contradiction in my audience by proclaiming that, “I am very good
as a speaker. In fact, I am an excellent presenter!” While some participants laugh out loud, other might
smile and nod in affirmation, but still others’ mouths drop open in shock,
broke the rule… you know… the RULE. The
rule that says you must be humble… you must pretend that you don’t have
skills, abilities, or talents. You’re
supposed to be self-deprecating. Deflect
any praise, deny any praise… not… not say you are good at something!
Even though, you may have been working all your life to become good at
it… even though, everyone else says you are good at it.
Even though, I’ve been sitting in this room thinking, feeling that you
ARE good at it… But, I’m supposed to say it… NOT you! And, then you’re supposed to be humble and blush and…
and… You’re supposed to build self-esteem in children… NOT ASSERT IT IN
rule of false humility does not serve children becoming strong.
If they cannot give themselves deserving praise and no one is around to
give it to them, then there is no reward for positive behavior. Some people claim they do not need praise because, “Doing a
job well is praise enough.” If
that were true, then why do they so readily praise everyone else!?
And why are we so encouraged and pleased when we get praise?
Doing a job well is praise enough, if you can self-praise when you
deserve it whether or not anyone else can or will.
Adults often need to be first to break the rule of false humility so that
their children can see and experience the adults’ model of
self-acknowledgement. Once again, the adults’ ability to love themselves gives a
healthy model for children to love themselves.
Teaching children to self-praise leads to the next guideline to building
Self-Esteem in children.