One of my favorite services to offer is to help clients parent their children more effectively. I teach parents skills offered through the S.T.E.P (Systematic Training in Effective Parenting) program among other strategies. I enjoy helping parents improve their child's self-esteem, for our children are our future .
Secure and confident children will help create a secure and peaceful world!
Articles on Parenting written by Gale Cleveland;
BUILDING SELF-ESTEEM in CHILDREN February 2, 2017
Our children are our future so in deciding what kind of future we want we need to bring up our children in synchrony witht that vision.
As a practicing psychotherapist, parents often bring their children to me and ask that I increase their child's self-esteem as though I can wave my magic wand over them and POOF!! they now have positive self-esteem! Not true. I tell parents I cannot do that. The notion that some external force can implant positive self-esteem in a child is ludicrous! Look at the word SELF-ESTEEM for the clues. Self-esteem does not originate from an external source but an internal source from within the child's self. It is how the child feels about the core of who they really are.
Parents are the most important catalyst in helping their child love their self which leads to positive self-esteem. However, all too often parents overlook how they can do this. Parents often become so overwhelmed with the responsibility of parenting, they deprive their child the opportunity to share in the responsibility to self-parent. It is actually so simple it is complex. The following are some strategies of how to help your child increase their self-esteem;
-Ask your child how various situations they share with you make them feel about themselves. For example, if they helped a friend at school respond to them by asking, "How did helping your friend make you feel about yourself?" Likewise, if they share something negative like getting an F on a test also ask them, "How did getting an F make you feel about yourself"? These questions from a parent place the responsibility exactly where it is needed, with the child. They also help a child turn inward instead of outward for affirmation.
-Ask your child the complete question and not just part of it. It can feel awkward for parents to talk with their children in this way so sometimes they only ask half the question such as, "How did that make you feel?" They leave off the ,"about yourself" part which I feel is just as important as the first part of the question, for the latter part is what punctuates going inward.
-Refrain from offering praise too quickly to your child for that deprives them of praising themselves first. Again this reinforces them being more dependent on the inward process than the outward process of pleasing their parents. Pleasing parents does not create positive self-esteem as mucs as pleasing ones's self. Does this mean parents shougld never offer praise to their children? Of course not, just let the child offer it to their self first. So after you have asked your child, "How does helping your friend at school make you feel about yourself?" and they respond with something like "good or proud", then certainly share your praise with them as well with sometheing like, "I am very proud of you for helping your friend".
-Affirm your child's feelings whatever they are. Remember affirming means you "hear" them and does not mean you have to "agree" with them. Feelings are like food to our children and they need to be affirmed if they are to develop positive self-esteem. Anger can be the most difficult feeling for parents to affirm for their children and is probably one of the most important. I will speak more about this in a future post on parenting.
-Last but not least, affirm you child's uniqueness even if it is different from you. This can be extremely challenging for parents. If children sense their parents do not like their uniqueness it will be impossible for them to love themselves. Remember we all need to be affirmed and loved for who we really are. Even though your children are of you, they are also beyond you. They are each unique beings and there is no one like them in this universe. Self-acceptance leads to positive self-esteem.
I am convinced that as we bring up children with positive self-esteem, our future world will be reflective of this positive energy and we will all flourish as a result.
ROOTS & WINGS February 3, 2017
"The only legacy we should leave our children is roots and wings". Years ago I saw this quote artfully written on a card. Back then I was quite young and being a parent was just a glimmer in my eye. However, as a young psychotherapist at the time there was something in these words that captivated me and stuck with me through the years. As I became a parent to my now adult daughter and son and provide therapy to countless parents, these words have woven through much of my philosophy on parenting.
"The only legacy we should leave our children is roots and wings". This statement just about sums up effective parenting. Even though I am usually not one to promote the shoulds in life, this should I approve of! The roots for our children are composed of providing them with their basic needs; a loving family; opportunities; solid values; and a sense of competence. The wings consist of our children feeling loved unconditionally by their parents and believing in their competence enough to venture off in their own directions to experieince their unique selves. This often involves them leaving their homes and families at least temporarily to launch out onto their own path whether it be going to college, a vocational school; joining the military; backpacking across the United States or Europe; just to name a few possibilities.
Some parents experience much difficulty in giving their children permission to truly launch into their own lives. The "empty nest" stage for parents can become very stressful and a loss. And some children also have much difficulty in leaving home. Is this because in part they are getting mixed messages from their parents and consequently the child might think their parent does not have confidence in their child to make it in the "cold, cruel world" or needs the child to stay home for the parent's benefit? Parents might ask themselves does love equal encouraging their child's dependency or does love equal encouraging their child's freedom. Currently there is a much higher percentage of young adults living with their parents than in previous generations. Some might argue it is because of the economy but maybe it is also a reflection of how we parents may be overprotecting our children. Are we really doing our children a service or disservice in the latter situation?
It is rather paradoxical but I feel that until we truly embrace someone, it is hard to let them go. So if your adult children are still living with you and it feels more permanent than a stepping stone, sourl-searching might be in order whereby you ask yourself if there are ways you could embrace their uniqueness more. Sometimes parents like to flatter themselves and claim that it is becuase they and their child are so close that the child stays close by. I might argue that the more emotionally close parent and child are in a healthy way, the more likely the child will want to leave the parent to individuate and experience the world for themselves. The parent's unconditional love for their child becomes the launching pad for the child to pursue all kinds of adventures of their choosing and to eventually self-actualize. Remember Dr. Zeus' book, "Oh The Places You'll Go"?
Yes, "The only legacy we should leave our children is roots and wings". As with many things in life this is easier said than done. It means we parents need to let go of trying to control our adult kids and perhaps getting a life outside our children. Some parents may become fearful and feel if they really give their children their blessing to fly away from home they may never return. My retort to those parents is, "Then you never had them in the first place". In addition, please do not underestimate parent child love, for it remains in our hearts forever and, therefore, we will eternallly be connected.