Tag Archive for self-image

6 Tips to Raise Confident Children

Do you want to raise a confident child? Of course you do. We all want our children to grow confident—willing to tackle healthy risks, able to stand firm in the face of opposition, willing to persevere through setbacks, comfortable with their ability to explore and achieve. With that in mind, consider these six tips for raising a confident child.

  • Little Super Hero Rescue ChildDevelop a warm, trusting relationship with your child. Spend time with him. Talk. Have fun. Spending time with your child communicates how much you love him. A child who knows he is loved by his parents comes to see himself as lovable…and he grows more confident.
  • Trust your child with significant tasks. Give him an important job to do in the home and teach him the significance of that job. Inform him how the job helps you, his family, and his home. Praise his effort on this job. Thank him for doing it. Publicly and privately acknowledge his work. A child who knows his parents view his work and efforts as important will grow confident.
  • Know your child. Become involved in his life. Get to know his friends. Learn about his interests. Be present for his activities. Have an awareness of his daily schedule and life—who he is with, where he is, what he is doing. By knowing your child in this manner, you communicate how much you value him. A child who feels valued becomes more confident.
  • Set clear limits. Every child needs limits to protect him and encourage his growth. Age appropriate limits increase his opportunity for successful experiences. Successful experiences increase confidence. So, set healthy limits that reflect your family values. Communicate those limits clearly and concisely.
  • Practice self-control. Don’t be a pushover, enforce the limits. When you tell your child “no,” stick with it. This will demand you think through your “no’s” and have good reasons for saying “no.” Explain your reason in a brief sentence, then let your “no” be “no.” No need to debate or justify. You have already stated your reason. Now have the self-control to stick with it. When a child experiences a parent who will briefly explain a firm, loving limit and then stand by that limit, he feels secure. Most likely, he will eventually internalize that healthy limit. A secure child who has internalized appropriate limits becomes a confident child.
  • That being said, as your child matures allow him to have input into the rules and limits. When limits are somewhat flexible, be willing to negotiate. Give you child some voice. Listen to discover your child reasons for wanting to modify the limit. Ask questions to make sure you understand his reasons and to help him clarify his own reasons. Strive to truly understand your child’s reasoning. Clearly communicate your concerns as well. Then, when both your child’s reasons and your concerns are clearly understood, you can negotiate. Sometimes you may choose to go with your child’s idea. Sometimes you may not. Either way, a child who feels his ideas are heard and respected becomes a child who has the confidence to speak up.


Combining these six tips will create a warm, trusting relationship between your and your child while setting and enforcing clear limits on a consistent basis. This combination will help your child:

  • Feels loved and see himself as lovable,
  • Receives acknowledgement of his significant contribution to the home and sees himself as significant,
  • Experiences success within the clear boundaries of a structured family life, and
  • Internalized the values inherent in that structure.


In other words, you will have raised a confident child!

A Neglected Ingredient in Your Child’s Happiness

Many factors contribute to the emotional health, happiness, and success of our children. As parents we work hard to bring those factors together in our children’s lives. After all, we want happy, successful children. We want children who have resilient emotional health. To that end, we seek out opportunities for our children. We introduce them to positive activities, steer them toward healthy peer interactions, teach character, and encourage gratitude. In the process we often overlook one very important ingredient…an ingredient that, if left out, will neutralize the effectiveness of all the other ingredients put together. This often neglected ingredient is taking care of our own emotional health and happiness. If parents do not take care of their own emotional health, their children’s health and happiness is at great risk for several reasons.


four childrenFirst, children imitate their parent’s emotions. As early as 6-days-old children begin to imitate their parent’s emotions. Within months they are basing their response to the world on their parent’s emotions.


Second, people tend to become similar when they spend time together. Specifically, the person with the least power tends to become like the person with more power. In a parent-child relationship that means children will become more like their parents…for better or worse, happiness or not.


Finally, a person’s happiness is influenced by the happiness of the people he or she is connected to. A happy family will likely create a happy environment and raise happy children. In other words, a happy child lives in a happy family.


That’s all well and good We know that we, as parents, must take care of their own emotional health and happiness in order to raise emotionally healthy, happy children. The tough part is doing it. Here are four ideas to incorporate into your lifestyle to help you take care of yourself. You might think, “But I don’t have time.” Consider this…do you have time to increase your children’s happiness? Taking time to increase your happiness will increase your children’s happiness and security. It’s worth the time, isn’t it?

  • Build supportive adult relationships. Make some friends and nurture those friendships. Go out for a cup of coffee and talk with your adult friends. Do you grocery shopping together. Get together for lunch. Find a way to build and nurture supportive relationships with other adults.
  • Learn to create quiet time for yourself. This will involve not only training yourself to take some quiet time, but teaching your children to allow you that quiet time. Go for a walk. Walk the dog. Read a book. Meditate. Choose your modus operandi for quiet time and enjoy some every day.
  • Get some physical exercise. You can go to the gym. In fact, go to the gym with a friend and you will be knocking off two of these ideas “in one fell swoop”! If you don’t have the time to go to the gym, go for a walk. Get an exercise video and exercise at home. Physical exercise has a myriad of benefits to enhance your happiness. So enjoy a little exercise.
  • Last, but definitely not least, strengthen your marriage. A strong marriage enhances happiness for husband and wife. A strong marriage improves our parenting. A strong marriage offers a buffer against stress. A strong marriage…the list goes on. A strong marriage is a little taste of heaven. Nurture your marriage and your marriage will multiply the joy in your life…and your children’s lives.

Get Your Child’s Head in the Game with MEATT

Parents like to see their children perform well. Who am I kidding? I like to see my children perform well. In fact, if you are like me, you may get more nervous than your children do when they get out on the field for the big game or up on stage for the first act. We want pianothem to experience success. That success, however, begins long before they walk onto the field or stage. It begins even before practice starts. Our children’s performance success begins with their mindset…and their mindset begins with us! How we encourage and praise our children helps develop a mindset that promotes success or a mindset that promotes fear and anxiety. Praise that focuses on innate, natural talent promotes a fear of failure. If our praise voices a belief that genetics or natural talent made our child the excellent performer, we have raised the ante on performance anxiety. I know it sounds paradoxical; but, if I think my talent is inherited, “just who I am,” or a natural ability, I may believe that failure simply shows the limit of my ability. Rather than face that limit, I might underperform. I might stick with what I know I can already do and not risk reaching the limit of my ability and the start of my failure. Praise that focuses on natural talent creates anxiety and teaches our children to underperform. When they experience failure (which we all will) or finds themselves struggling (which we all do), they may believe they have reached the limit of their ability and quit…since other kids seem to have more ability now. Broad, generic statements like “You are really smart (or talented or good)” will have a similar result.


On the other hand, when we send a clear message that we value effort more than achievement, we promote success. Studies suggest successful people, even elite performers, have at least four things in common:

  1. They practice hard and they practice deliberately.
  2. They practice consistently.
  3. They practice consistently over the long-term in spite of any experience of failure or temporary setback. In fact, they come to see failure as a key factor in their growth.
  4. They believe that persistent effort will bring success.


Notice what each of these factors have in common: practice, effort, and hard-work! When we teach our children to believe that hard-work and effort (not simply natural talent) reveals the true extent of their ability, we have helped them get their head in the game. When we let our children know we value effort more than achievement, and practice more than perfection, we help them get their head in the game. So, here are five ways we can send the message (he real “M.E.A.T.T.” of teaching our children the importance of effort) that effort is more important than the final product.

  • Model working hard toward a goal and enjoying your work toward a goal. Children learn a lot by watching us!
  • Encourage your children to persist in reaching their goals. John Hayes, a cognitive psychologist, found great composers, athletes, and artists had a “decade of silence” in their field before reaching success. This “decade of silence” was filled with practice…practice…and more practice. Effort!
  • Acknowledge the effort your children exert in reaching a goal. Rather than simply praising the finished product or performance, let them know you recognize their effort and enjoy watching that effort pay off. “You put a lot of effort into learning that and it really paid off today.” “I can tell you worked hard on that picture/song/pitch. It’s very cool.”
  • Teach your children how to practice deliberately. This might include breaking the final goal into multiple steps, breaking a task into component parts and practicing each part individually. This also includes slowing down, practicing specific skills, and getting feedback.
  • Teach your children to have fun! Add variety to their practice to avoid boredom. Let part of the practice involve aspects your children really enjoy. Work hard and have fun!


Give your children the MEATT of effort and you will find their persistence improves and, as a result, their performance will improve. They will have their head in the game.

You Can’t Unfriend Family

I remember a saying I heard when I was 9-or 10-years-old: “You can pick your friends and you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your friend’s nose.” All the boys laughed and the TuneaPianoButYouCantTunaFishgirls let out a loud “Ewww” in chorus. Still, we all got the implicit message: there are certain things you do not do. A few years later, REO Speedwagon (a rock band popular in the 70’s and early 80’s) came out with an album (you know, those 10-12 inch vinyl discs, grooved on both sides, that, when rotating under the needle of a record player, produced music) entitled “You Can Tune a Piano But You Can’t Tuna Fish.” Well, today we need a new saying along those same lines…and I think I have one. Here it is: “You can unfriend people on Facebook but you can’t unfriend family from your life.” I know, it needs a little work. It lacks the pizzazz and flair of the “picking your friends” thing and the whit of “tune a piano-tuna fish.” But, it does communicate an important truth. You cannot unfriend family. They go with you wherever you go. Any anger we harbor toward family will follow us into other intimate relationships. Apron strings left uncut by “Mamma’s boy” or tied to tight by “Daddy’s little princess” turns into a choke-leash that holds us back from intimacy with others. Unrealistic adorations of our perceived “perfect family” or fairy-tale expectations of an elitist family will only set us up for disappointment, hurt, and failure in future relationships. Each of these aspects of our family will follow us wherever we go. You can’t unfriend family. Instead, you have to emancipate (unravel) family. Here are 3 essentials to emancipating family relationships.

  • The first step in unraveling family is acceptance. Realize that you cannot change your family or anyone in your family. You are not responsible to make any family member feel or behave a certain way. All you can do is accept each person for who they are…warts and all. Accept them in their weaknesses, their mistakes, and even their irritations. Accept their love for you, even if it is miscommunicated or lost in translation. You may increase your acceptance of each family member by considering things you like about them. Take time to recall things they have done or said that you admire or appreciate. Realize they have strengths as well as weaknesses and recall those strengths often. Learning more about their life may also increase your acceptance of each family member’s idiosyncrasies. Consider where these idiosyncrasies may have come from? How they suffer as a result of them? And, what their idiosyncratic behaviors cost them? Unraveling family begins with acceptance.
  • Second, forgive. If any family member has done anything to hurt you in any way, forgive. I’m sure some of you are saying, “There is no way I’ll forgive them. What they did was too much to forgive!” Granted, some people suffer unbearably at the hands of family. However, when we do not forgive we continue to suffer at their hands. Our anger becomes a leash that keeps us from holds us in a family prison yard of anger and prevents us from finding greener pastures. Bitterness grows and engulfs our heart like kudzu engulfing and eventually killing a tree. Let go of the bitterness and entrust God to work out the justice. Begin to pray for the other person and develop empathy for how they have been hurt by their actions. Forgive.
  • Third, define yourself. After you have accepted each family member for their uniqueness and forgiven them, letting go of the anger that binds you to them, you can define yourself. Discover your interests and priorities. Investigate what you want in a healthy life and relationship. Learn the practical daily habits that will allow you to live the life you desire. Take the steps to begin to build a healthy life! One step toward healthy living is reading good books on family life—here are a few books we found helpful. Another crucial step includes finding good counsel and supports, people you trust and who model the kind of family you desire.


You can’t unfriend family from your life, but you can unravel family. As you do, you will find that you can love your family in spite of shortcomings. In fact, you may find your family is actually pretty nice in many ways. And, you will continue to grow an even stronger and more intimate family of your own!

Protect Your Child With a Blessing

Kids can be mean! You know it and I know it. I see it on the playgrounds, in the school, and even on the internet. Our kids face bullying, cyberbullying, teasing, name-calling, and physical intimidation more often than we want to admit. Over 3.2 million students are victims of bullying each year and as many as 160,000 teens skip school because of bullying. Some reports suggest that 90% of 4th through 8th graders report being victims of bullying! (Click here and here for more statistics about bullying.) In other words, kids can be mean and our kids face social rejection…often! Social Vector image of five beefeaters. England guards.rejection actually impacts the brain regions associated with physical pain…and releases the same pain-killing chemicals. In other words, social rejection, bullying, and teasing results in the perception of actual physical pain! Kids can be mean.

While parents cannot protect their children from all these potential troubles, we can give them the gift of our blessing. Giving our children a blessing is a great privilege, an opportunity to speak joy, strength, and value into their lives. By giving our children a blessing we boost their resilience. Even one well-worded blessing will help counteract the emotional pain our children experience in the world…imagine what a yearly blessing can do! A blessing communicates acceptance. It validates our children’s worth and affirms their value. When we give our children a blessing we acknowledge their strengths and envision an exciting future for them based on those strengths. A blessing also informs our children that we are in their corner and committed to their future. Think about the healing such a blessing offers. Consider the strength that such a message can instill in the life of your children.

Giving your children the gift of your blessing takes some preparation. First, think about 2-3 traits you admire in your children. Do not settle for a simple physical ability. Consider what you truly admire. For instance, do you value your children’s ability in sports or do you really value the persistent effort and humble sportsmanship they exhibit? Do you look on their interaction with younger kids with admiration or do you really admire their sensitivity to others, their love of children, and their gentle spirit? Do you like the music they create with their instrument or do you admire their self-disciplined practice and humble desire to share their talent with others? You get the idea. Take time to think about what you truly admire and value in your children.

Second, identify a specific example for each trait. Perhaps you saw their sensitivity toward others when they helped their friend after a difficult experience. Or maybe you noticed their sportsmanship in the way they interacted with a member of an opposing team who was taunting him…or when he was disappointed with where the coach placed him. Think of one concrete example for each trait you have identified.

Third, think about how these traits will help provide a special future for your children.

Fourth, write it all out. Keep it short—no more than one side of one page. Write down the two or three traits you admire followed by a supporting example for each. Share your excitement for their future in light of these traits and strengths. And, make it clear that you will remain present and supportive in their life as they move toward their future.

Golden crownThere is one more step. After you have written your blessing, schedule a time to meet with your child to give her the blessing. Make it a special time. You might give your child his or her blessing over a special dinner or during a special outing. Make it a time that will reflect the gravity of the blessing.

Giving the gift of your blessing takes time and effort. However, the result is powerful! Hurts are healed. Character is validated and reinforced. Strengths are affirmed. Identify is valued and supported. Your child will walk away after receiving your blessing with their head held a little bit higher, their step a little livelier, and their relationship with you a little more secure. What a blessing!

Put Your Children First…Really?

Children are so important. I know it is an overused statement, but children are our future…and our present. Our children are change agents…in fact they changed our lives simply by entering into our world. They shaped our sleep patterns, eating habits, and priorities. We changed our schedule, our speech, our interests, and our activities in response to our children. We made sacrifices for our children. We wore that old ragged coat for another year in order to give our children a new and warmer coat. We choked down vegetables to Exhausted Mommodel healthy eating in hopes our children would follow suit. We make most sacrifices quietly. We do not lecture our children on the sacrifices we made…and it is better that way. Yes, children are important but (and this is a big but)…. if we put our relationship with our children above all other relationships or make our children aware of every sacrifice we make for them, we do our children a great disservice.


Putting our children above all other relationships places an expectation on our children that they are unable to fulfill. Children cannot become the relationship that brings us solace, intimacy, or status. We need other relationships to provide those needs…important relationships like our marriage.


By making our relationship with our children the most important relationship, we are implicitly asking them to fulfill our need for intimacy and friendship. This responsibility, however subtle it is, places a burden on them that they are not emotionally prepared to handle. They do not need us to be their friend; nor should we rely on them for our friendship. Instead, they need us to guide, teach, discipline, and protect them. Seek intimacy in your marriage. Invest in your marriage to satisfy your need for deeper intimacy. Nurture adult friendships to satisfy your need for quality friendships.


If our children take precedent over all other relationships, our children begin to feel as though our reputation and status rests on their shoulders. This places a heavy weight on them, an undue pressure to achieve and perform. When we make our children the focus of our life and our esteem, we place the burden of potentially “ruining our status” on our children. Not surprisingly, this creates anxiety or fear in them. Rather than place such a burden on your children, develop your relationship with yourself. Nurture your own skills and talents in order to satisfy your need for achievement. Become involved in community activities and services to become known within your community as an individual beyond your children’s parent.


Finding our joy and satisfaction in life only within our relationship to our children places a huge burden on our children. Children are a joy, but they cannot complete our joy; they cannot bring us the satisfaction in life we desire.  They will eventually develop interests of their own, quite possibly different than our interests. They will even move out of our home and develop a life of their own…sooner than we like to think. We have to develop our own interests and relationships to bring us satisfaction in life. Nurture your marriage, your adult friendships, your interests…your own life in order to find joy and satisfaction.


Children definitely add richness to our lives. They hold an important place in our life and in our own development. However, they cannot be the “end all” for our life. They cannot fulfill our every desire, elevate our status, or bring us satisfaction, joy, and intimacy. We are responsible for meeting those needs. And, when we do those things independently, we teach our children to do the same…and we watch their lives blossom. What greater joy than that?

The Story That Will Change Your Family Life!

newly married couple chasing each other in fieldThe TV sitcom “How I Met Your Mother” communicates a profound family principle in its title. Seriously…the story of how we met our spouse is one of those questions kids really want to know. Actually, it is more than a mere “want to know;” it is a boon, an asset, a huge benefit to children’s emotional health and family life. Research tells us that children who know more about the stories of their family and their family history have a higher self-esteem, a stronger sense of personal control, and a belief that their families function well. They also revealed greater resiliency, bouncing back more easily after stressful events. Adolescents who know more about their family history have a greater sense of self-worth, more self-confidence, and a stronger sense of identity!

Family researchers tell us that children and adolescents who have a greater knowledge of their family story have a strong “intergenerational self.” They know they belong to something bigger than themselves. They have come together with their family for family meals, family gatherings, and family activities and heard the stories of their family. They have learned about the good times, the hard times, the setbacks, the recoveries, and the successes. Through it all , they learned that they come from “something bigger than myself.” That “something bigger” is a family…a family that sticks together through thick and thin…a family that survives…a family that accepts struggles but bounces back…a family…and not just any family but their family!

So, go ahead and tell your children the story of how you met their mother or father. Tell them about your crazy aunt’s all-encompassing hugs, your grandparents hobbies, your own embarrassing moments, the obstacles your family has overcome, the day they were born, and…the list goes on! While you’re at it, you might tell the “stories” asked about in the research described above. Here are the 20 questions they asked children to see how much of the “family story” they knew.

  • Do you know how your parents met?
  • Do you know where your mother grew up?Father and Bride
  • Do you know where your father grew up?
  • Do you know where some of your grandparents grew up?
  • Do you know where some of your grandparents met?
  • Do you know where your parents were married?
  • Do you know what went on when you were being born?
  • Do you know the source of your name?
  • Do you know some things about what happened when your brothers or sisters were being born?
  • Do you know which person in your family you look most like?
  • Do you know the person in your family you act the most like?
  • Do you now some of the illnesses and injuries that your parents experienced when they were younger?
  • Do you know some of the lessons that your parents learned from good or bad experiences?
  • Do you know some things that happened to your mom or dad when they were in school?
  • Do you know the national background of your family (such as English, German, Russian, etc.)?
  • Do you know some of the jobs that your parents had when they were young?
  • Do you know some awards that your parents received when they were young?
  • Do you know the names of the schools that your mom went to?
  • Do you know the names of the school that your dad went to?
  • Do you know about a relative whose face “froze” in a grumpy position because he or she did not smile enough?

One last thing…my wife loves to watch home videos of family. She has the right idea–home movies are a great way to share the story. So, gather the family, make some popcorn, pull up a chair, and watch that baby take her first steps again!

The Amazing Power of a Label in Family

Labels help us explain things like our occupation, food, or moods. After all, it is much easier to say, “I’m a therapist (or teacher or chemical engineer or accountant)” than it is to explain all the nuances of what you really do.  At the same time, labels can limit us.  Kierkegaard once said, “Once you label me, you negate me.”  Think about this in terms of your family. Perhaps you have two children. For whatever reason, one becomes the “responsible child” and the other “impulsive-child;” or, one is labeled the “problem-child” while the other is your “happy child.” Once we apply any of these labels to our children, we have successfully put them in a box. We come to expect behavior that will match their assigned label. We filter their actions and their words through our expectations. We even filter our response to them through that filter. Since we expect the “responsible child” to do what is expected, we may forget to thank them for taking the responsible action.  On the other hand, we give our “impulsive child” a “left-handed compliment” (“Oh, you finally remembered to do it”) for completing an expected chore.  You could say that our label turns into an expectation that becomes a judgment. That judgment sentences our child to develop a style of character consistent with our expectation. The label has become an integral part of their self-image and that self-image will follow them into adulthood. This same process occurs in response to any label we might use with our family member, whether it be the label of “joker,” “problem-child,” “happy child,” “smart child,” “athlete,” or “musician.” In the end, the label will limit our family member’s overall behavior. After all, it is difficult for a “problem-child” to become known as the “helping-child.” How can we avoid limiting our family members through labels?

·    Do not use global labels. Instead, label specific behaviors. For instance, rather than thinking about your “problem-child” think about specific areas in which your child “gives you problems.” Perhaps your child poses difficulties around specific activities like math homework or eating certain foods. They probably are a pleasure in other areas…which brings us to the next point.

·    Think of exceptions to the label. If you have a “problem-child,” think of all the times they do not pose a difficulty. In what areas do they exhibit strengths and show themselves a “helper” or a “peacemaker.” I realize that it may take effort to think of exceptions after you have told your “messy-child” for the umpteenth time to “clean your room.” But, when you remember examples of the times they were the “helper” or the “problem solver,” you will have a more realistic and holistic view of your child.

·    Keep any labels you use flexible. Realize that your children will change and grow. Any label that seems to fit your child today is temporary…you may find it untrue tomorrow.

·    Provide opportunities for your children to grow. Let them tell the jokes or be the center of attention sometimes and, at other times, the quiet-behind-the-scenes observers. Teach them to be the helper as well as the recipient of help. Encourage them to enjoy athletics to the level they enjoy as well as music, art, and academics. Giving your child the opportunity to fill many roles will help them realize (even expand upon) the complexity of their personality.

As you expand your view of each family member, you open up future possibilities for them. You let them out of the label box to explore other ways of acting in the family and the world. You open up the possibility for them to develop deeper and more complex character…. And, isn’t that the goal of parenting?

Parenting the Curious Explorer

Children…curiosity…exploration…constant questioning. These words seem almost synonymous, don’t they? In fact, children love to explore. They have an incessant curiosity that leads them to actively investigate everything around them. They explore things with their eyes, ears, hands, and even mouth. Like miniature scientists they study the world around them to discover “how” and “why” things happen the way they do.
In the midst of all this curiosity and exploration, do you know what interests children most? You do! They want to know everything about you, their parent–what interests you, what holds your attention, what arouses your emotions. That’s why your infant wants to play with the cell phone you spend so much time looking at or the pots and pans you spend the hour before dinner using. A child’s curiosity also leads him to ask you unending questioning–“What are you doing?” “What’s that?” “How’s that work?” “What’s that do?” “Why?” Sometimes this curious desire to know leads them to engage in somewhat irritating behaviors like flipping the light switch on and off to learn about cause and effect, or, throwing their spoon on the ground to see how much they can get you to do. As they get older, their curiosity encourages them to chase after ants with a magnifying glass to look at their magnified image and learn about nature. Even a teen’s curiosity leads to behavior we sometimes questions, like “doing donuts” in a snowy parking lot or setting a firecracker off in a model car. They want to know about everything…especially those things that interest you. This incessant desire to learn about the world may even lead to behavior you don’t particularly like. I remember learning how to make a “washtub bass guitar.” I loved music and the excitement of making my own instrument overwhelmed me. Curiosity and excitement led me to drill a hole in the bottom of my parents’ only washtub basin, cut off the whisk-end of the broom, and connect them with a string. The resulting music sounded good to me…my parents disagreed. I ended up playing the blues in my room for a time.
All kidding aside, curiosity helps children learn. More importantly, a child finds the most pleasure in exploring when they can share that exploration with a parent. As a parent responds with supportive comments and shared excitement, their child gains pleasure, finds that learning is fun, and grows more confident in their ability to meet and conquer challenges. I love this table developed by Dr. Bruce Duncan Perry, MD, PhD, that shows curiosity ultimately leads to greater confidence and more exploration. Limit their curiosity and you ultimately limit their mastery, confidence, and even sense of security.
results in
results in
results in
results in
results in
results in
New Skills
New Skills
results in
results in
Self Esteem
Self Esteem
results in
Sense of Security
results in
More Exploration
Children are curious, but they are also immature and inexperienced. As family shepherds, we have to watch them and protect them while encouraging appropriate exploration. That demands that we accept their curiosity and their immaturity as natural. We need not yell and scream at them for immaturity. No, immaturity calls us to teach them. Their immaturity invites us to be present with them in their curiosity, invest our time in their exploration, and share in the excitement of their discovery. By remaining present with them in their curiosity, we can address any concerns that might arise. When they become disruptive, our presence will teach them how to explore in a more appropriate manner. Investing our time in their exploration allows us to help channel that exploration in appropriate venues. We can teach them that the library is not the place to explore sound, but the music room is…late at night is not the best time to practice rock riffs on the electric guitar, but early evening is…the house is not the best place to explore the properties of flying water, but the yard is. By sharing in their excitement we teach them that exploration is valuable, learning is fun, and discovery is good. A parent who shares in the excitement of their child’s discovery will find ways to promote exploration and curiosity rather than saying “don’t touch,” “don’t climb,” “don’t take that apart,” “don’t get dirty.” That may mean setting some boundaries around the curiosity. For instance, letting your child know that playing in the mud may be fun, but they have to change clothes before stomping through the living room…playing with the condensation on the window is interesting, but they will need to help clean the fingerprints off the window when all is said and done. And, while they help you clean up, you have the opportunity to talk about the exciting discoveries made during play.
Enjoy your children’s curiosity. Nurture and participate in their exploration. Celebrate their discoveries. They will grow in wisdom and confidence. Most importantly, you will both enjoy a deeper and more intimate connection as you explore your child’s curiosity together.

What a Newborn Taught Me About Family

I find it absolutely amazing! When only days old, a newborn can differentiate the smell of their mother from other women. At birth, they recognize their parent’s voice and will turn toward their parent’s voice rather than the voice of another adult. On the other hand, a newborn’s eyesight is poor. They can only see well at a distance of 8-10 inches. Still, they gaze…and when they gaze, we gaze back. We love to move in close to our baby’s face and gaze into their eyes. And, while mother and child gaze into one another’s eyes, they are building a bond. Amazing, right? Even more amazing, 8-10 inches (the distance a newborn can see well) is the distance between a nursing child and her mother’s face. While nursing, a child rests the perfect distance from her mother’s face to gaze into her eyes…helping to nurture that relational bond. What an amazing design!
As babies get a little older, they begin to “coo.” When a baby coos, everyone in the room, especially women, stop their conversation and move toward the baby…relationships are encouraged. I find all this amazing. A baby’s physical senses, her reflexes, and her actions draw her into relationship with other people and, even more, encourages that relationship to grow. Even the simple, natural act of nursing a baby encourages and enhances a relationship that is supported by the baby’s unique sense of taste, smell, and vision as well as her inherent reflexes. What an awesome design! Why do I share this? Because I believe that this design points out the primacy of relationships between a child and parent.
Parents spend the first year of their baby’s life holding their baby, feeding their baby, and showering their baby with love…in other words, enhancing a relationship with their baby. Of course, relationships do not stop after that first year. We continue to nurture relationships with our children throughout our life. As we do, the parent-child relationship becomes foundational to all other parent-child interactions, whether focused on fun or discipline. The parent-child relationship even empowers the parent and the child. Consider the power of the parent-child relationship.
     ·         The parent-child relationship lays the foundation that allows a parent to effectively instill values into their child’s life and it frees the child to internalize those values.

·         Limit-setting and discipline becomes most effective within a strong, loving relationship.

·         Children who have a strong, loving relationship with their parent are more invested in keeping the rules their parents have established.

·         Children with a history of strong, loving relationships internalize positive rules and values from their family.

·         Children and teens who have experienced strong, loving family relationships have a better self-image. They come to believe in their own sense of worth and adequacy. They will more likely develop a humble self-confidence.

·         Teens who experience a strong, loving relationship with parents tend to engage in less oppositional behavior (notice only “less oppositional behavior” not “no oppositional behavior”).

·         Young adults who have had a strong, loving relationship with their parent will find it easier to leave home at the appropriate time to “start their own life.” They feel more secure in their ability to successfully navigate the adult world.

·         Children who experience strong, loving relationships with their parents are more likely to have healthy friendships and healthy romantic interests as adults.
Perhaps that is one of the messages God has intended for us to learn from newborns and infants: Strong, loving relationships within the family are foundational to all other aspects of family. Our very design is geared toward relationship and our very lives are shaped by relationship. We begin those relationships even before a child is born. We nurture those relationships from the time our child is conceived. And, we continue growing those relationships throughout our lives!
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