We all want our children to have a very positive self-image. But what does that really mean…a positive self-image?
Let’s imagine this: As your son or daughter awakens to their day, a curtain pulls back in their mind’s eye showing them a movie of the person they are to become that day. In the early years, this movie is constantly evolving and changing, as toddlers and young children learn from the messages taught by parents, teachers, and peers.
The self-image is in constant flux, changing and adapting to the important lessons of life in these early stages. Critical or traumatic events can dramatically shape the nature of the self-image, and become a source of pain or a source of inspiration and joy.
As the years go by, the self-images start to solidify and become less adaptable to the input of the world. In teen years, the self-image is much more inflexible and we tend to honor exactly what the image ‘tells’ us to do.
All of us, including our children, become the subject of the self-image that we awaken to each day. If it’s positive and healthy, we follow its lead. If it’s negative and painful, we still follow its lead.
Each morning the curtain pulls back, and we follow its lead. We have limited choice, once the self-image is created.
I once heard this story. The farmer was growing pumpkins, and one day early in the season, he was walking the fields. He found a jar, which had been thrown in his field, but a baby pumpkin had begun to grow inside it. He left it alone. When harvest time came around, he stumbled upon the pumpkin. Rather than full-grown, the pumpkin had been stifled and forced to live within the constraints of the glass jar.
Our self-image is much like the glass jar. Your child develops inside that self-image, and we must obey the limits that our self-image sets for us. Or course, we can break free of this, with the right tools later in life. But this is hard, and many never find the right set of tools to do this.
For our children, it’s important to realize how might be setting artificial limits on their self-image. Worse yet, we might be giving them a negative self-image even when our intention is the opposite. Thus, we must have clarity on how to avoid promoting a negative self-image, and then we can learn the tools required to build a positive self-image.
Do’s and Don’ts of Self-Image Building for Parents
1. Don’t say the same things over and over.
This includes reminders, prodding, coaching and repeating yourself. We do this because we don’t want our child to experience the consequence of doing the wrong thing. Yet, we need a better system if we want to teach keys lessons, like just brushing your teeth without reminders.
Repeated reminders have a hidden message that destroys a child’s positive self-image. The hidden message is: “You don’t get! I have to keep telling you over and over because you don’t get it.”
Can you imagine the limiting power of such reminders, prodding, and nagging upon self-image? You remind them again and again, to do the same things. You repeat and nag…and you hate it…but you keep doing it. Now, what if each reminder shrinks their self-image, making them feel more and more inadequate? The only thing they hear is your voice, whispering… “You don’t get it…do you? You need me to remind you …because you just don’t get it!”
We must do it differently! This is toxic and dangerous to a child when we hope that they develop a self-image showing them the opposite!
• Do: Say it once. Only once.
It’s not a big deal to use an occasional reminder. This is fine. However, if you are relying on words to teach these lessons, you will often find yourself using more and more words with less and less effectiveness. If that doesn’t work, then you will need a better parenting system, not more words! The system, if correct, will show you how to eliminate repeating yourself over and over. Without it, you will (often) get pulled back into self-esteem destroying habits, and one of the worst… is to keep saying the same thing over and over again.