It starts with a spark.
The personality of the beautiful baby you carried in your arms starts to form. You see the eccentricities, the quirks, the beautiful and wonderful things that make them human and individual. Your heart swells with pride but you worry.
You worry about that spark.
The parenting instinct to protect children is a strong one. We stress about food, being independent, exercise, education and instilling messages about stranger danger. But there is one thing we truly struggle to protect our children from and that’s society itself. Those beautiful, individual characteristics we so admire and love in our children might be the very thing that sees them teased and bullied in the schoolyard.
We try and help them so we dim that spark – little by little.
Be quieter. Smile more. Don’t talk so much. Talk a little louder. Join in. Stop joining in so much. Hold back. Push forward.
We give this advice to our kids to try and shape them into the culture around them in the hope that they’ll be safe from the awful bullying with tragic results that we see on our screens every day. But by dimming that spark are we taking away the thing that might bolster their strength? Are we diminishing their capacity for self-love?
You can’t be what you can’t see
Confidence is not a trait that we are born with. Self-confidence, self-esteem and self-love are positive attributes that can be role modelled for children. And that role model can be you.
Think of the way that you talk about yourself in front of your children. Are you proud of what you can do? Of what your body can do? Or do you speak down about your physicality?
Are strengths celebrated in your house or is it a place where only weaknesses are pointed out? Choosing to celebrate what everyone in the family is good at, including you, promotes the idea that everyone is unique and everyone has value. Think of it as ‘anti-bully spray’. Building your children up so they are confident, not cocky, could serve to battle some derogatory messages they might hear to the contrary from those who would seek to harm them.
“You can’t be what you can’t see” means that children often need to see examples of behaviour in order to have something to aim for. If you can work on loving your self, you can then model that for your children. Positive affirmations are one thing but truly believing that you are worthy of love and happiness will instil a similar ethos in your children as well. No inspirational quote can replace the value of solid, hard-earned self-esteem.
Living your best life
Make the most of your time with your children. Some days are shit – there’s just no denying that. But some days are absolute magic. Embrace who they are and where they’re at right now and know that it’s exactly where they need to be. Don’t project onto them your fears or your wishes – let them be who they are and reflect that back at them by connecting to your own sense of self-worth.
Teaching kids to love themselves… self-love
If this is an area of your parenting you’d like to work on, there are plenty of resources available. Take a deep breath, listen to this pep talk from Kid President and go get ‘em, mama. Love yourself first and the kids will follow suit.
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