Does Your Child Have Low Self-Esteem? Try This!

Self-esteem is not easy to come by in today’s world. Our culture communicates that “ordinary” is not “good enough”…that self-esteem is based on performance, achievement, being better than the next guy. This leads to a self-esteem built on sand, shaky ground at best. The common answer to this problem is to shower our children with praise. Unfortunately, this does not help. In fact, research suggests that lavishing our children with praise may either lower self-esteem or make our children less willing to pursue challenges.

So, what can we do to help our children gain a more positive self-image? Eileen Kennedy-Moore gives a very insightful answer in Greater Good Magazine. It may sound strange, but the answer lies in helping our children take their eyes off themselves and learn to focus on something bigger than themselves. This is a great answer…and we can help our children do it at any age! Here are a few ways.

  • Immerse your children in a project or experience that they both enjoy and are challenged by. This might include building a model, drawing, reading, studying a favorite topic, playing a sport. Encourage them to get lost in the adventures of great books or music or hiking, rock climbing, or art. You’ll know they have experienced this when they become absorbed in the activity, lose track of time, and enjoy the challenge presented.
  • Let them bear witness to acts of courage, generosity, and virtue in other people. This will motivate them to care about others and to act courageously in expressing their care for others. They can bear witness to caring, generous, and courageous people by learning the stories of heroes. Tell them stories about family members and friends who have engaged in generous, kind, virtuous acts. Talk about historic figures who have engaged in generous, kind, virtuous acts. As Mr. Rogers has said, “Look for the helpers” and then point them out to your children.
  • Nurture compassion in your children. Children begin to feel compassion at a very young age (this video shows children leaning toward the “good puppet” for whom they have compassion as young as 18 months). Nurture their compassion by letting them witness your compassion in helping others. Provide opportunities for compassionate action as a family. Visit a sick friend or a nursing home. Involve them in volunteer work as part of your family. Volunteer at a shelter. Run in an event raising money for a need you and your child care about. Encourage them to care about their friends’ well-being and teach them practical ways to do so. Nurture compassion.
  • Experience awe as a family. Make it a point to enjoy those things that elicit awe. Watch a sunset together. Enjoy the vast, panoramic view of the ocean, the star-filled sky, or a mountain range. Enjoy the moving harmonies of great music or the intricacies of fine art. Experience the soul elevating times of worship together. Introduce your children to those things that move you to awe. And, when they discover something that moves them to awe, experience it with them.  

Each of these tips will help your children focus on something bigger than themselves. As they do, they move away from an excessive self-focus and self-evaluation, both of which hinder a positive self-image. They move toward curiosity, caring, and values that promote a positive confidence and a deeper, more joyous life.  

Build-a-Spouse

I’m sure you’ve heard of “Build a Bear.” If you have children (or, if you’re the romantic type), you have probably even visited “Build a Bear” shop and…well, built a teddy bear for the one you love.  Imagine what it would be like to “build a spouse.” You’d have your budget already set as you walk into a store filled with various traits you can purchase. You’d allocate your finances for the traits you desire in a spouse—a large part of the budget toward those traits you desire most, the deal-breakers, and a small part of the budget toward those traits that are nice but simply not necessary. And, poof…out pops a spouse, built to specification.  Sounds crazy, but….

Researchers at Swansea University actually did this (well, metaphorically speaking, without actually “building” a physical spouse). They gave over 2,700 college students from across the globe (Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Norway, the UK, and Australia) a budget and a list of eight qualities they might like in a spouse. Armed with finances and a list of attributes available, these college students “built a spouse.” The eight attributes included: physical attractiveness, good financial prospects, kindness, humor, chastity, religious involvement, the desire for children, and creativity. (I would have added a few other traits, but I wasn’t creative enough to think of the “build a spouse” study.) Each participant had three opportunities to “build a spouse” based on these attributes: one time on a low budget, one time on a medium budget, and (you guessed it) one time on a high budget. Comparing the choices made on various budgets allowed the researchers to determine traits that participants deemed necessary verses traits deemed a luxury.

Overall, across cultures and genders, kindness received the lion’s share of the budget (22-26%). Physical attraction and good financial prospects were the next two most desired traits. Physical attraction, however, was rated as a “necessity” for men more often than women (22% of the budget for men vs. 16% for women). Good financial prospects were deemed an important trait for women more so than men (18% of the budget for women vs. 12% of the budget for men). Still, neither rated as high as kindness. (For an overview read Kindness is a top priority in a long-term partner.)

Kindness was the number one priority to have in a long-term partner in this study. Chances are, you and your spouse put a high priority on kindness in a spouse, too. So, if you want to have a happy, healthy marriage, practice kindness in your marriage and family. To help you get started, here are 31 Acts of Kindness to Strengthen Your Marriage. (Read the Mighty Power of Kindness for Families to consider how kindness will impact not just your marriage but your family and our world.)

I would have added a few other traits to the list of possibilities for purchase—traits like honesty, trustworthiness, and loyalty. I wonder what would get the lion’s share of the budget then? What traits would you add to your “build-a-spouse” project? What are the most important traits to you in a spouse? Why not spend a little time discussing these qualities with your spouse this week—perhaps over a cup of coffee or a dinner date?  

“Cheat Codes” for Dads: Confidence

If you play video games, you know the value of a good “cheat code.” They help the player advance to a new level or gain a special power. Other “cheat codes” help the gamer obtain a special tool or weapon needed for greater success.

If you’re a Dad of daughters, you may feel as though you need a “cheat code.” You may want inside information to help you move toward an advanced level of understanding in relation to your daughter. You likely desire a “cheat code” that will provide a gateway to the special power needed to influence your daughter toward maturity.  If so, I have just what you’re looking for: “cheat codes” for dads raising daughters.

The last “cheat code” provided information about “Spending Time With Your Daughter.” Here is another “cheat code” for raising daughters: Showing Confidence in Your Daughter’s Abilities.

The Cheat Code: Showing Confidence in Your Daughter’s Abilities.

Purpose: Showing Confidence in Your Daughter’s Abilities will…

Value: Every day, your daughter’s confidence and inner strength is undermined in a multitude of ways. Our cultural obsession with a particular brand of beauty leads to a lack of confidence in our daughters. In fact, 80% of 10-year-old girls have been on a diet because they lack confidence in the appearance of their body! Struggles at school with teachers and academic work also impacts our daughters’ confidence. Conflict with peers, jealousy, boyfriend problems, girl drama…it all threatens to crush your daughter’s confidence.

Fortunately for us, children first gain a sense of confidence from their family. More importantly,  you, her father, have a special power to boost your daughter’s confidence. You do it by simply Showing Confidence in Your Daughter’s Abilities.

Instructions: Showing Confidence in Your Daughter’s Abilities involves…

  • Praise specifically. Don’t just offer a broad acknowledgements like “Good job” for something she did well. Offer a specific praise. For instance, “I really liked the time you went around the defender to shoot the goal. That was fancy footwork.” Or, “I love that blue color you chose in your drawing. How did you choose that?”
  • Expose your daughter to challenges. Climb trees and mountains with your daughter. Go backpacking. Let them drive on a snowy day. Support them in trying out for the school play. Applaud their solo. When we support our daughters in taking risks, we show our confidence in their ability. And they learn to have confidence in their abilities as well.
  • Let them go. Our children start exhibiting a desire for independence when they crawl away from us into another room or refuse to eat the mashed sweet potatoes on the spoon we are floating in front of their face. Encourage their age appropriate independence. Support it. Teach them and then show confidence in their ability to do what they have learned.
  • Listen to your daughter. Really listen. Let her teach you about her life at school, her friends, her music, her world. Show genuine interest in her and her world. Carefully consider what she says and let her words influence you. Acknowledge her wisdom. And, change with her as she grows and teaches you. You might even learn to like some of that “kid’s music” along the way. More importantly, your daughter will grow confident in her ability to voice her opinions.
  • Let your daughter do significant tasks that contribute to the household. Yes, this means chores. But make sure they know the significance of those chores to the household. Thank them for doing the chores…after all, we thank people for doing those things that are important to us.

A Surprising Contributor to Long Life

This surprising contributor to a long life was uncovered after examining data from 4,400 couples over the age of 50 and living in the United States. For eight years, these couples reported on their life satisfaction and several other factors believed to be related to longevity. Of course, this study confirmed several factors known to contribute to a long life…things like physical activity and access to resources. But, one factor was surprising. A happy spouse was associated with longer life. That’s right. Those participants who had a happy spouse tended to live longer. Those whose partners had a higher life satisfaction lived longer. It seems that higher life satisfaction (happiness) in one’s spouse led to greater physical activity and less stress for both partners. This finding held true even when other factors—like resources, physical activity, self-rated health, and partner death—were taken into consideration. In other words, spousal happiness had a positive impact on longevity of life regardless of other factors that also influence longevity. (Read a review of the study in People With Happy Spouses May Live Longer.)

If you want your spouse to have a long and happy life, learn to love life yourself. Build your happiness…your spouse will live longer as a result. For tips on how to do this, read:

And, if you want to live a long life yourself, promote your spouse’s happiness. Support your spouse’s dreams. Acknowledge your spouse’s effort. Thank your spouse for deeds done. All these will build their happiness…and contribute to your longer life. Even more, you’ll both enjoy your long lives together; lives filled with dreams and adventures you enjoy together; lives filled with satisfaction, joy and intimacy.

Pushed to Succeed-The New ‘At-Risk’ Group

We’ve heard a lot about adverse childhood events (ACEs) and how they detrimentally effect a child’s life. It makes sense. Trauma, abuse, bullying, poverty, parents who abuse drugs, incarcerated parents…these all have a negative impact on childhood and development. But, a recent “consensus study report” by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine has added youth who attend high-achieving schools to this list of “at-risk youth.” (Students in high-achieving schools are now named an “at risk” group, study says—Washington Post.) In other words, a consensus has been reached among the National Academies of Sciences that an overemphasis on personal achievement puts our youth at risk just as much as poverty, abuse, and trauma. Sounds crazy at first. But, consider just the short-term negative impact of an overemphasis on achievement.

Don’t put your child at-risk by overemphasizing achievement. Instead, encourage them to do their best. Accept your children as “wonderfully ordinary.” (Overcoming Fear of the Ordinary) Teach them kindness, gratitude, and good character rather than overemphasizing achievement. You might be surprised as you do this. Your children might just achieve more as they experience your acceptance and grow more self-motivated in response.

“Cheat Codes” for Dads of Daughters: TIME

If you play video games, you know the value of a good “cheat code.” “Cheat codes” help the player advance to a new level or gain a special power. Other “cheat codes” help the gamer obtain a special tool or weapon they need to succeed in the game.

If you’re a Dad of daughters, you probably feel like you need a “cheat code.” You want some inside information to help you move up to an advanced level of understanding or win points to deepen your relationship your daughter. You likely desire a “cheat code” for obtaining the special power needed to influence your daughter toward maturity.  If so, I have just what you’re looking for: “cheat codes” for dads raising daughters. 

The Cheat Code: Spend Time With Your Daughter.

Purpose: Spending Time With Your Daughter will…

  1. deepen your relationship with her,
  2. increase your understanding of her, and
  3. strengthen your influence with her.

Value: Why is spending time with your daughter important? Your daughter does not spell “love” with the letter “L.” She spells it with the letter “T” for T.I.M.E. Spending time with your daughter communicates your love for her. It increases her sense of value and self-worth.

Instructions: In order to communicate love effectively through time, you have to make some adjustments.

  1. Put down your cell phone.
  2. Turn off the TV. Quit reading the paper. Stop watching the game.
  3. Spend 20-30 minutes simply interacting with your daughter. You can do this by going for a walk with her or simply sitting down with her and talking. You could take a ride to the ice cream shop and talk over an ice cream cone. Let your creativity and your daughter’s interests guide the where and when of the conversation.
  4. Use your time to time to listen “twice as much as you talk.” Let her set the topic of conversation. If she does not initiate a topic, ask about her interests, her activities, her friends, or her dreams. Compliment some aspect of her that you admire.
  5. When she does bring up a topic, show interest. You may not really be interested in the “best color skirt” to wear to the dance or the ongoing saga of girl life in middle school. Show interest anyway. Ask a few questions. Be excited with her and mourn with her. Learn about how she thinks about everything. 
  6. As you spend time with your daughter, she will learn of her value. She will learn she is valuable enough to have your undivided attention for a period of time every day. You will also develop a stronger relationship with her…one that will last a lifetime.

Stay tune for more “cheat codes” to come!

4 Simple Ways to Build Cooperation with Your Children

As parents, we teach our children to help around the house, to become part of the household, to cooperate with chores. When we successfully involve our children in “running the household,” they develop a growing sense of value, purpose, and competence (If your children don’t know, send them this letter: Dear Children, The Real Reason I Make You Do Chores). In spite of these benefits and all our good intentions, our children rarely say, “Oh cool. Thanks for the work. I love it.” Right? They often respond with complaining, grumbling, some odd body movement or facial expression that elevates us to a surprising level of agitation, or slamming things around. It gets old quick. So, when I can find any hints to help build cooperation, I “swoop ’em up.”  The more options we have as parents, the better off we are. The more tools we own, the more problems we can fix. With that in mind, here are 4 tools to help increase your children’s cooperation around the house.

Give choices. Choices empower our children. Choices also maintain parental authority. What kind of choices can you give?

  • Our children can choose what they’d like to do to help. For instance, “Would you like to set the table for dinner or pour the drinks?” Or, “We have to clean up before our guests arrive. Do you want to clean the tub or run the vacuum?” “Would you rather take a bath or a shower tonight?” 
  • At times, our children can choose the timing of their cooperation. For instance, “Do you want to take a bath before eating your snack or after your snack?” “Would you rather cut the grass today or tomorrow?”
  • They can help make family decisions with their choices. “Would you rather have green beans or corn with dinner tonight?” “Would you rather go to the library today and museum next week or the museum today and the library next week?” You can even include your children in the choice vacation places and times. “We have to decide between camping at the ocean or by the lake. Which do you want to do?” Just be sure you’re willing to take their input seriously.
  • Children can also make choices about clothing and styles. “Do you want to wear this red shirt or the blue one tomorrow?” “Which swimsuit do you want to take to the party?”

Offer a carrot not an ultimatum. Offering a carrot involves the promise of a more enjoyable and preferred activity after the chore is done. For instance, “We’ll head to the park and get some ice cream as soon as your room is cleaned up.” “I’ll get the movie ready and, as soon as you’re done taking out the garbage, we’ll start watching it.” Notice the carrot is offered as an incentive rather than used as a threat of what they might lose. Incentives are kinder than threats. Incentives build cooperation; threats and ultimatums build walls and elicit anger. Offer a carrot.

Be specific with your requests. Let your children know “how many,” “how much,” and “how long.” “Bring the towels to the laundry” may result in them bringing 2 of the 5 dirty towels you wanted followed by them complaining when you telling them to go back for the rest. Start off with a more specific request, “Bring all the dirty towels to the laundry. There are at least 5 of them.” Or, “I need your help for about 15 minutes. Then you’re free to go.” “We need to wash the dishes. It will take about 20 minutes then you can meet your friends.” This specificity gives an end in sight and helps them focus for the time needed to complete the task.      

Be polite.  Everyone is more willing to cooperate when asked politely. Aren’t you? And, your politeness models politeness for your children. Be as polite to your children as you want them to be toward you. It’s a two-way street starting with your politeness toward them. (Read Children: Jesus in the House for more on this 2-way street of politeness.)

Give choices. Offer carrots rather than ultimatums. Be specific in your requests. Be polite. Do these 4 things and you will experience a whole new level of cooperation coming from your children!

A Less Stressful Family in Only 20 Minutes!

A study published in Frontiers in Psychology has established, for the first time, the effective dosage for a safe prescription aimed at reducing stress. This study established the most appropriate and effect dosage over an 8-week study in which participants followed various levels of the prescription 3 times a day. The treatment prescription did not involve medication in any form. It only involved spending at least 10 minutes during daylight hours outside “interacting” with nature—no aerobic exercise, no social media, no phone calls, no reading—just enjoying nature. That’s right. Spending time immersed in nature was the prescription.

The results indicated that 20 minutes in nature “significantly reduced cortisol levels,” one of the biological markers of stress. In fact, 20-30 minutes was the “sweet spot” in which cortisol levels dropped at their greatest rate. After 30 minutes, a person still experienced a decrease in stress but at a much slower rate. 

Do you ever feel stressed? Do you ever notice your family feeling stressed? Here is a simple prescription to relieve that stress: leave your cell phones, books, and computers in the car and spend 20-30 minutes walking in the park or the nearby woods or along the creek…you know, in nature. Enjoy the sounds and the colors. Enjoy the birds and other wildlife. Enjoy “Shinrin-Yoku,” or “forest bathing.” Your stress will decrease. Your family’s stress will decrease. If you go with your family, you may find yourself enjoying one another’s company as well. Decreased stress. Increased connection. No negative side effects. Sounds like a great prescription. I’m inviting my family to take this prescription with me today. How about you?

Savor Your Spouse

I love cheesecake, especially my wife’s cheesecake. However, it is a process to make…and very rich. So, I eat it slowly. I savor each bite to make it last as long as I can. As I linger in the moment of enjoying the creamy taste of the cheesecake, I learn to appreciate and enjoy it even more.

I also love to savor a sunset…to sit quietly and watch the sun slowly sink into the horizon as it casts hues of reds, yellows, and oranges across the sky. To recognize and soak in as much beauty as I can relaxes me and fills me with peace.

I also love to savor my spouse and our times together.

  • I savor the moments when we have an engaged conversation in which we open our lives and honestly share our innermost selves with one another.
  • I savor the moments when we reaffirm our love through words, actions, touches, or a simple smile. Those moments when the glint in her eye communicates the joy she takes in our shared love.
  • I savor those times when she appreciates me in front of our children or publicly acknowledges her affection and love for me.
  • I savor the times when we experience and share something unique and special, like driving through the vastness of Iceland or watching the beauty of a sunset together or walking down a street filled with color and vendors after a nice dinner or…the list goes on.

Each of these moments helps me recognize and appreciate my wife and the life we have together. Each one helps me slow down, relax, and savor the joy of our marriage. Each moment of savoring builds a stronger love and nurtures a greater intimacy. And, each one builds anticipation for the next moment of savoring.

Yes, I love to savor my wife. In fact, I’m going to make some time this week to sit down with my wife and recall some of these wonderful moments. As we share our memories, we can savor them all over again. Won’t you take the time this week to do the same with your spouse? Believe me, you won’t regret it!

A Roadmap to Rebuild Trust With Your Teen

Let’s face it. Teens do some crazy things at times. I did some stupid things as a teen. You probably did too. And, our teens probably will as well. They may do one thing we never thought in a million years they would do; and, in so doing, break our trust. It may be simple, like staying out past their curfew. Or, it may be more serious, like getting caught with drugs or sending a revealing picture to the “new love of their life” (or convincing their “new love” to send the picture). Whatever it is, big or small, it shatters the trust we once had for our sweet, innocent child. We discipline and work to assure the behavior won’t happen again. But how do we rebuild the trust we once had? How do we begin to trust our teen again?

  • Be open with your teen. Explain your feelings to your teen. Let them know their behavior hurt you. You may have sounded angry, but underneath the anger was hurt and disappointment. Explain your desire to trust them again and your continued love for them. Let them know you recognize their potential and believe in their ability to reach that potential. Recall times in which your teen has acted in ways that built trust and increased your pride in them. Let them know you still remember those positive behaviors as well.
  • Develop a balanced view of your teen. Recall the positive things your teen has done and said that give you a sense of joy and pride in order to balance any feelings of disappointment and hurt you may have experienced. Remember, you have also done wonderful things and things of which you are not proud. Allow your teen the same freedom.
  • Deal with your feelings. You have talked to your teen, now deal with your own emotions. They are your feelings and your responsibility. Don’t let your emotions interfere with your changing relationship with your teen. Resolve them. 
  • Clarify boundaries and expectations…but be careful as you do. Do not set up unrealistic expectations in a knee-jerk reaction to the behavior that broke your trust. Be reasonable. Discuss limits and boundaries with another adult to get a more objective viewpoint. Discuss them with your teen as well. Work to reach an agreement on what constitutes reasonable expectations for your home and family.
  • Develop a clear roadmap for regaining trust and watch your teen’s journey on that road to redemption. When your teen meets an expectation or follows a rule, make a point to notice it and allow it to enhance your trust in them. Realize no teen is perfect, so allow for some  minor setbacks. A rule of thumb is to allow your teen 1 setback for 5-6 trust building actions you observe. Keep your eyes open for those trust building actions. Don’t let them slip by unnoticed.  
  • Take a risk. Parents have the tendency to hold their teen closer and micromanage their every activity after trust has been broken. Unfortunately, this only increases frustration. It leads to greater conflict and a further deterioration of trust. Rather than micromanage, allow your teen to engage in a “trial run.” Explain the “trial run” to your teen. “I am trusting you with this job or activity. When all goes well and they return, you will have nurtured trust. If you revert to the behavior that originally broke our trust, you will have further damaged our trust.”
  • Finally, talk about other stuff. Don’t continue repeating the conversation about your fears and their behavior. Find some areas of interest to talk about. If they enjoy music, talk about music. If they enjoy fishing, talk about fishing. Find areas in which you can enjoy conversation with your teen. Doing so will build relationship and trust.

These 7 actions are not simple. But they will help rebuild trust with your teen and deepen your relationship with them.

« Older Entries