Through years of observing and noticing what works best for me and my students, I’ve come up with a list of my top five ways to teach your children how to love themselves.
1. Make them feel important.
When your kids want to talk to you, put aside what you’re doing, look them in the eye and be genuinely interested in what they’re talking about. It may only take a minute or two for the entire conversation, but it will make such a positive lasting impression for them. The last thing you want is for them to feel that your iPhone is more important than they are.
Also, say “I love you” all the time. No, it won’t lose its effect if you use it multiple times throughout the day. Make sure that they never doubt that you love them. Even when they get a bit older and they seem like they’re sick of hearing it, they’re not. Keep saying it.
Another pointer: When talking to friends or relatives, I know it can be easy to vent about the latest trouble your mini-me’s may have gotten into. Try to focus on the good, and make sure they overhear you praising and speaking highly of them.
2. Give them opportunities to stretch outside of their comfort zone.
If they normally like to take dance classes, encourage a soccer camp or music lessons. Letting your kids see that there’s little to be afraid of when trying new things will give them the confidence to make this a lifelong habit. Who knows? This could encourage them to do a stint with Americorps or travel to foreign countries as young adults. These enriching experiences, paired with the confidence to pull it off will result in more self-love.
3. Show them how to give to others.
When you give to others, whether with time or material things, you experience such a beautiful feeling. You feel warm and connected to others. You realize that those you are helping are important and worthy. In turn, you’ll feel the same for yourself.
This shouldn’t just be delegated to the holiday season, either. Make it last throughout the year. I know life gets busy, but try to gently prioritize your life. What’s truly important to you? Not to everyone else, but to you. This will help you find time for the things that you want to do and experience.
4. Encourage your children to see their strengths.
What are they really good at? The skills and strengths that we all possess are not necessarily traditional or obvious. You may have to dig a little to find those original and unique little nuggets, but once you do, you start to notice all of the areas that a particular strength comes in handy. It’s pretty cool, actually. Do this activity together, find your own strengths as well. Help each other out if you need to. That can be a really nice bonus, too.
5. Show them by example.
Take time for yourself, away from your responsibilities. Eat healthy foods. Spend time with positive and uplifting people. Speak highly of yourself and others. Cultivate a satisfying hobby. Exercise. Drink lots of water. Cultivate a positive mindset towards yourself and life in general.
Children learn by example. We can tell them to do these things over and over but if they see us living in a way that contradicts our advice, they won’t be nearly as likely to take it on for themselves. Not only that, but you’ll be a happier mama overall, and have so much more energy to spend on numbers 1-4 above.
I hope these tips help you to encourage and teach your children to love themselves. The sky is the limit when we already feel great about ourselves, and I definitely want my children to be able to be, do and become anything they want. I want them to experience amazing things in life and not be held back by limiting beliefs about themselves.
Alex Chatzoglou Special Education Teaching Professional
Your child is quick to fault others for … well, everything. If he gets a bad mark in class, he says it’s because a friend wouldn’t stop talking to him. And when you see his muddy shoe prints all over the carpet, he claims they’re the dog’s! “Kids this age don’t understand that everybody makes mistakes,” says Kate Roberts, Ph.D., a Boston-area psychologist. “Blaming somebody is simply their way to avoid disapproval and negative consequences.” These smart tips will help your kid go from “It wasn’t me!” to learning to be accountable for his actions.
Connect the Dots
Help your child make the link between what he does and what happens by pointing out real-life examples, suggests Rachel Robertson, director of education and development at Bright Horizons Family Solutions in Watertown, Massachusetts. For instance, you could say, “Because you studied hard, you got an A on your spelling test” or “Since you jumped in a puddle, your shoes are soggy.” You can ask him to think of a cause or an effect for certain situations. One could be, “Mom overslept on Tuesday,” and he has to come up with a possible consequence. Expect some wacky responses (“Mom overslept, so she had to go to work in her pajamas!”), but just roll with it. The more experience he gets identifying causes and effects, the easier it will be for him to work through this inner dialogue before and after his own actions.
Make Honesty Easy
If you want your child to come to you with the truth (or admit to it when asked), try to keep your cool when expressing your dissatisfaction about her poor behavior, suggests Philip Dembo, Ph.D., author of The Real Purpose of Parenting: The Book You Wish Your Parents Read. Being calm and approachable makes it easier — and more likely — that she’ll fess up in the future. Let her know everyone makes mistakes and what matters most is that she’s truthful, learns from the situation, and tries to right her wrongs. Then, discuss what she could have done differently, how she can make it better, and any consequences. Don’t forget to praise her honesty if she owned up to her actions.
Stick to the Rules
Sure, we all allow some things to slide on occasion. But if you often let your child’s adorable face, charming ways, or pitiful pleading persuade you not to enforce punishment, your kid learns that he doesn’t have to take the rules seriously and can convince you to go easy on him. To be accountable, he needs to learn to accept the consequences of his words, actions, and decisions, and the only way he’ll do so is if you’re consistent with rules and discipline, says Dr. Dembo.
Keep Track of Progress
To help the lesson stick, turn it into a challenge. Tell your child that she’ll begin the week with 5 points, and each time she makes an excuse or tries to place blame on others, she loses one. Use a chart on the fridge or a dry-erase board hung on her bedroom door to keep track. If she can make it through the week without getting to zero, reward her improved behavior with a trip to the park or an extra 30 minutes before bed one night. Though her points may dwindle at first, this chart will remind her to be conscious of what she does and says so she’ll be less likely to pass the buck next time.
Originally published in the January 2014 issue of Parents magazine.
Alex Chatzoglou Special Education Teaching Professional
I’m sure you want your children to be honest-not to cheat, lie, sneak, cover up or steal. But what’s the best strategy to teach them to be truthful?
Some parents might believe it’s in a child’s nature to lie and it’s the parent’s job to punish dishonesty to prevent it from taking over.
Actually parents often set their kids up to lie.
Here’s the mistake they make. They confront their kids accusingly with anger or threats. But if you’re harsh and punitive, they’re afraid to tell you the truth. If you make it safe for them, they will be honest. So be firm on honesty and gentle on your kids.
Here’s an example of what I mean. Let’s say you’ve discovered that your nine-year-old child shoplifted some candy at the grocery store. Let me give you two scenarios.
Mom: (In an accusatory voice) Where did you get that candy?
Child: I found it in my pocket.
Mom: Did you steal it from the store?
Child: No, I didn’t!
Mom: I think you did. Your sister just told me she saw you take it. And now you’re lying to me too.
Child: No, she’s lying. I didn’t take it.
Mom: Well, then where did you get it? Now you’re going to get punished twice-once for stealing and once for lying to me.
Mom: I see that you have some candy. But I didn’t buy that for you and your sister just told me that she saw you take it off the shelf when we were in the store.
Child: (Looks down)
Mom: I don’t believe in tattling, and I’ve told your sister that. But it’s also important not to steal. And it’s just as important that we don’t lie to each other. You know we’re a family that really values honesty. You trust me and I trust you.
Child: I didn’t mean to. It just happened.
Mom: I know, Honey. The temptation is so great. But I’m so proud of you for telling me the truth. That’s a hard thing to do and I appreciate it so much. Now, let’s get going back to the store. I’ll stand by your side while you return the candy.
1. Talk with your children-beginning very early- about how much you value honesty in your family. Tell them how important it is to all of you that you can always count on each other to tell the truth-even when it’s difficult. If there’s not honesty between parents and children, there won’t be trust or closeness in your family either. When my two daughters were young, we focused on how honesty was the very backbone of our family. It formed the bedrock upon which our family relationships and mutual trust and respect were built. I told them explicitly that I would go out on a limb to support them, defend them, even fight for them, but if I ever found out they had lied to me, it would change the nature of our relationship dramatically. Once that trust was broken, it would take a long time to build it back.
2. Model honesty for your children-not only in your words but also in your lifestyle.You can’t expect them to tell you the truth if you’re not honest with them-even when they ask you an awkward question. Be brief and be age appropriate in your response, but if you lie to them when it’s embarrassing to tell the truth, you can’t expect them to blurt out the truth when it’s tough for them. Obviously, both parents and children have a right to a private life and you need to draw careful boundaries when sharing intimate details that are over their heads or too personal, issues of the past you are still struggling with or things that will just plain freak them out. But your goal should be to create an open environment where there are no secrets and everyone feels comfortable being truthful.
3. Let them know that you put more emphasis on their honesty than on the punishment for their dishonest behavior. Yes, you can impose consequences for their lie, but they need to know there’s a benefit for them in being honest. If you glide right over their courage in pouring out the truth and jump to a punishment, they won’t be quick to fess up the next time. My daughter told me once that she could tell me the truth because she didn’t fear me. She trusted that I’d be compassionate and not sneer at her, harshly criticize her or be unfair. If it’s still necessary to discipline after they’ve bravely spilled the beans, do it with respect, be tender with them and let them know how much you appreciate their honesty.
Everyone has the ability to be honest, but if you don’t practice it, both you and your kids may develop the habit of cutting corners, fudging and telling white lies-because it’s easier. As a parent you have the opportunity to help your kids develop the characteristic of being honest, but it has to be nurtured. Don’t lower your standards, but do understand that they might not be perfect every time. Fortunately, perfection isn’t one of our goals.
This post originated on Care2.com.
Alex Chatzoglou Special Education Teaching Professional