As our children develop their sense of self, they aren’t predisposed to question their worth. In my opinion (I’m not a doctor), our children feel “worthy” until shown or told otherwise. This feeling of unworthiness and self-doubt can grow over time. With a combination of both words and actions from others…and dare I say that unbeknownst to us, we, the parents, are occasionally the culprit. I know we’re all doing our best and want our little ones to experience all life has to offer and not be held back by their own limiting beliefs. Therefore, we can do a few things to nurture their self-love and worth.
Make Them Feel Important
We’re all busy, and often multitasking looks like reading an email on our phones while we “listen” to our children jabber on about the game they played at recess and how Conner didn’t actually tag him, and blah, blah, blah. I know firsthand how painful it can be to act interested in the trivial conversations our young ones wish to have, especially when I have a deadline or something deemed “more important” to do.
However, I once heard a quote from Catherine M. Wallace that has stuck with me over the years. “Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big things when they are big because to them, all of it has always been big stuff.” So put aside whatever you’re doing, look them in the eye, and be genuinely interested in what they want to share. They want to feel seen and heard. Likely, the conversation will only take a minute or two, but actively listening will make them feel loved, important and worthy. Besides, the last thing any of us want is our children to think our iPhones and the strangers on Instagram are more important than they are.
Nurture Their Strengths
Your child may have an obvious, God-given talent or a skill they have practically perfected through practice. Or perhaps their most extraordinary skills and strengths are not necessarily traditional or obvious. You may have to search a little to find their original and unique talents. Focusing on and promoting their strengths will stroke their egos. Encourage them to keep working on them, adding more skills, and most importantly, it will build their confidence. My oldest kid’s penmanship is chicken scratch, and his spelling is mediocre at best. Still, he’s a born entertainer and a great ice skater. So we practice the former and nurture the latter.
Give Them Opportunities to Grow
Stepping outside our comfort zones is where the most remarkable growth occurs. Therefore, encouraging our kids to try new things can cultivate fearlessness and even give them the confidence to make it a lifelong habit. Keep in mind when presenting these opportunities, it’s important that they are aligned with their capabilities and the growth trajectory they are already on. Meaning: don’t ask them to try a backflip if they haven’t mastered a cartwheel.
Nurture Their Internal Motivators
We often praise our kids with, “I’m so proud of you.” This is great but can lead to a child becoming a people pleaser. In addition, it’s important to say, “and you must be so proud of yourself.” By using this phrase, our children begin to recognize the internal pride that becomes an intrinsic motivator, and they can tap into it in the future.
Have them Practice “I AM” Statements
I am statements are some of the most powerful words we can speak. These two little words and those that follow them have the ability to manifest and empower or disempower. As a parent, I want to give my children all the possible tools to feel empowered and to love themselves. Hence, we say I am affirmations every morning. A little tip I picked up from Mel Robbins is for them to place their hands on their hearts, and the only rule is that they must include, I am safe, and I am loved every single day. These are two things I want them to embody and know unequivocally. Outside of that, they can say whatever “I am” statements feel right for that particular day. I have also coached them to use these statements as often as they want throughout the day.
Show Don’t Tell
I once heard these very wise words, children will do whatever you do, long before they do what you say. Therefore it’s of the utmost importance to treat yourself with love and speak kind words about yourself. If you want your children to love themselves, be their role model, and as Oscar Wilde said, “To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.”
Lastly, it may go without saying but take every opportunity to say “I love you,” even if they roll their eyes and it’s the hundredth time they’ve heard it today. You’ll never regret telling them, but you might regret it if you don’t.