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Giving Our Children a Resilient Sense of Self-Worth

My first ever blog post was called A Child’s Worth.  I still remember writing it, pouring over each word and struggling for hours to create a (rather ugly) website to publish it on.

I opened the post with the following quote –

“When we realise we are worthy, simply because we were born, we no longer look outside of ourselves for validation and approval.” – Emmanuel.

The point I wanted to empasise was that we’re here, so we’re worthy, no question, and my intention since publishing the post has been to pass the knowing of this spiritual truth onto my boys.  To give them a sense of worth that they would never have to doubt became the first purpose of Nurturing Little Souls.

Admittedly, my purpose was born of my own pain, the weighty sense of unworthiness I don’t remember not having.  As my spiritual journey continues, I am gradually believing more in my own worth but it’s possible that I won’t have fully “got there” in this lifetime.  When I wrote that first blog post,  I had hoped that I could somehow ensure that my boys would never feel unworthy like I have.  That was the gift I wanted to give them.

 

IS UNSHAKEABLE SELF-WORTH EVEN POSSIBLE?

But now I am starting to wonder if we can give our children an unshakeable sense of worth.  Don’t most of us live, to some degree or other, in a constant to-and-fro between fear (ego) and Love (spirit) – perhaps not Jesus, Buddha and Ekhart Tolle, but the majority of us for the majority of our lives?  I’m disappointed.  I wanted to spare my boys the pain of self-doubt.

I guess that, as I’ve written my blog, I have become far less idealistic.  Writing has helped me to get practical about spirituality, parenting and kids.  And I do see a beauty in the “mess”.  Abraham Hicks points out that, in any situation, the learning is in the contrast.  Through experiencing what we don’t want, we become clearer about what we do want.  Without the night, we wouldn’t know what daytime was.  Without the fear that we might be unloveable and unworthy, perhaps we can’t discover the true depth of our inherent worth?  We have to know both to know either – and so do our children.

Not to mention the times have been the one undermining my children’s worth.  I told my son once he was “annoying”.  When disciplining them, I have judged them in anger.  I have ignored their opinions and wants when it hasn’t been convenient.  I’ve done my share of parental ranting.  I have provided them with plenty of contrast!

 

RESILIENCE

I think I was right when I said in that first blog post that every interaction we have with our children is an opportunity to show them their inherent worth and I listed some ways that parents can do that.  Ultimately, my message was that our unconditional love reflects to them their unconditional worth.

However we each go about reflecting our children’s worth to them, though, the component I didn’t address was how to teach our children to cope in those inevitable times of self-doubt.  Perhaps they have disappointed themselves or been humiliated in some way.  Perhaps a parent has said something regretful to them in the guise of “teaching them a lesson”.  At these times, how can we help our children to return to themselves as an inherently worthy soul?

 

3 Ways to Teach Our Children Resilience When Doubting Their Worth

  1. Be there, loving them, despite their behaviour.
  2. Get their self-talk on-board! Help them to choose thoughts about the situation that support their picture of themselves as inherently worthy.
    Eg. Instead of “I missed the goal and let my team down”, “I gave the kick my best shot and tried hard for my team”.
  3. Help them to know themselves as Spirit and that they are not their thoughts & feelings. In this way, their sense of self isn’t tied up in these forms. The key to this is developing our children’s ability to observe themselves.  By watching themselves having a thought or feeling, they realise that their real self is the watcher, not the thoughts and feelings themselves.  We can teach them to watch through discussion and through teaching them practices such as meditation.

 

IN SUMMARY – A 2-PRONGED APPROACH TO SELF-WORTH

Trying to give our children pure, unshakeable self-worth is maybe impossible but it is not pointless.  I am not giving up, it is a high priority for me and a driving factor in both my parenting and my writing.  But I have realised that we need a 2-pronged approach when raising our children, involving these 2 things –

1. Reflecting our children’s worth to them.

2 Enabling our children to return to their sense of self-worth when it has been undermined in some way (resilience).

 

To finish, I’d like to share my favourite quote of my own from that first blog post

a person's worth doesn't need measuring, it just is

 

Much love to you and your little souls,

 

PS – How do you teach your children resilience in the face of doubting their worth?  Comment below.

 

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A Child’s Worth

When we realise we are worthy simply because we were born, we no longer look outside of ourselves for validation and approval” – Emmanuel

I love the wisdom of this quote.

We are all worthy.  Worthy of love.  Worthy of respect.  Worthy of happiness…  We all have something valuable to offer.  God put each of us here and He doesn’t mess about, we’re each an important part of his plan, we’re each his child.

It has taken me years to understand and believe in my inherent worth.  As a child, I thought I had to earn worth by being a “good girl” and achieving high grades at school and being well-rounded (no amount of physical education was going to give me co-ordination or any interest in sports).  I was compliant to the detriment of my own voice, I was a stressed & exhausted teenager, spending too much time studying and I felt humiliated by my short-comings.  My sense of unworthiness left me quite powerless in my own life, both as a child and an adult.  But I’m not the only one who has felt that way.  I grew up in a culture that measures worth by external indicators – achievement, material success, fitting in…  But worth doesn’t need measuring, it just is.

So, without a model for it, how do I show my boys their own worth and help them to believe in it?   How do I do it while living in a world largely still using the same yard-stick used to measure me?  I think I am doing it in small ways already:

  • I light up when I greet them, I smother them with affection when I say goodnight or goodbye.
  •  My love and affection is unconditional.  I’ll tell them “I’m cross with what you did but I know you’re great and I love you”.  Cuddles are available even in the middle of a meltdown.  Their worth and their behaviour are two separate things.
  • I apologise. They are worthy of an apology.  My age doesn’t let me off the hook.
  • I stop and look and listen when they have something to say. It tells them that what they have to say is valuable.  Manners are still required – “excuse me” etc.  (I could be more consistent with this, it’s difficult to give my full attention when I’m in the middle of something.)
  • I spend time with them throughout the day.  Not always the long stretches I’d like to, but time spent together shows I consider them worthy of my time.  They are important enough to get a place on the day’s priorities.
  • I am responsive to their feelings.  I’ll say “I’m glad you’re looking forward to going to Grandma and Grandpa’s house” or “I know it’s frustrating that you haven’t finished your Lego building and we have to go”.  Validating how they feel shows that their feelings are important, even though the outcome doesn’t always change (eg. There’s not time to finish the Lego project if we’re to get to school on time).

These are small but consistent ways I show my boys their worth.  Every interaction I have with them  is an opportunity to show the reverence I have for them.  As a mother, I am a representative of God’s love.  As they get older, life will get more complicated and my boys will be able to think about things in increasing depth.  There will be opportunities to go much deeper with them and discuss worth more thoroughly.

Already, though, we have had an experience through which to teach Jake (5) his own worth and that of others.  At kindergarten, he had on-going issues with another child who would shout and strike out at him.  At first, Jake just took it, he’d never really had to stand up for himself before.  My husband and I had to teach him that it wasn’t ok for someone else to be mean to him.  We taught him to say “Stop it, I don’t like it” and to get a teacher’s help when he needed it.  We also explained that it wasn’t ok to return the boy’s unkind behaviour because then the boy would feel upset and it wasn’t respectful to him.  Jake got pretty good at standing up for himself firmly but respectfully.  After a while, he labelled the boy “naughty” and “bad”, something I had been avoiding.  I told Jake that no one is good all of the time or bad all of the time and that, although the boy did things he shouldn’t have, he wasn’t bad.  In time, the boy’s behaviour improved and he and Jake had many fun times together.  Jake, rather a wise soul, said to me, “I think I’ve taught him how to be nice”.  I was thrilled for him to have realised his own power.

I think I touched on concepts of worth when coaching Jake through that tricky relationship at kindy. Our sense of our own worth and the worth of others steers our behaviour.  I don’t think I’ve used the word “worthy” with Jake.  I have discussed “respect” often but I’ll try to introduce the word “worthy” when I see a place for it.

There is so much more to this idea of worth, which I hope will unfold as I live and write.

 

STILL WONDERING…

  •  How is showing unconditional love and affection different from giving approval?  I don’t want my boys to seek approval but to use their own internal compass to guide their behaviour.
  • Does showing that I see their worth really help them to see their intrinsic worth when others won’t always treat them in the ways they deserve?
  • How do I help my boys to see God’s child in everyone, even those whose behaviour is unkind or even abhorrent?  (This is closely tied in with non-judgement and compassion.)

 

Much love to you and your little souls,

julie_signature

 

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