Really? American Idol is as deep as their life experience goes? As deep as they ever hoped it would go? Now that's sad. It begs the question, how can I make sure my kids have a deeper, more fully grounded sense of their worth? Though there's no magic bullet answer, here's a few tips.
- Teach children to live for others. Children who have a sense of purpose outside themselves aren't so disappointed when things don't go their way. They recognize that there are always others worse off than they are and that they can reach out to help. They discover life isn't all about them and their accomplishments. It's about easing others' burdens.
- Affirm children for their positive character traits, not their performance. Johnny got a good report card? Praise him for his perseverance in studying hard. Susie organized a car wash benefit that raised thousands of dollars? Praise her for her leadership skills and compassion. One child helps another with her homework? Thank them for being so kind.
- Give kids opportunities to serve. This is a way to get their eyes off themselves and onto others and their needs. Encourage them to help a neighbor just for the satisfaction of making someone else happy. When you see someone doing an act of kindness, even if it's just holding open a door, or speaking a kind word, point it out to your child. A simple "That was nice of them," is all it takes. It opens your child's eyes to ways he can help, too. Give your child chores to show them that serving and living with purpose starts at home.
- Teach your child faith. Every child has a need to believe in someone greater than themselves. When they're very young, a parent may be enough. But way too soon, they begin to understand that parents are flawed people just like them. They need to know they're loved and never alone even if their parent lets them down or can't be there for them. For me, that someone is God. He grounds me in ways a mere human cannot. He's an anchor that keeps me from getting blown around in life like a leaf in a storm. Faith isn't a weakness. It's a quiet strength that sustains you through life's disappointments.
- Accept your child for who he is. Your child may be very different from you. You may not understand him. That's OK. Love his quirky self anyway. Try to get to know him for who he is, not who you wish he was. Enter his world. Do things he enjoys. Find out what makes him tick. He was created for a purpose just as you were. Allow him the freedom to be who he was created to be without judgment or criticism. It's one of the greatest gifts you can give your child.
If the five points above sound idealistic, you're right. You probably can't do all of them all the time. But if you can hit on some of them some of the time, at least your child will have experienced that in his life. She'll have heard those words or seen those actions coming from you and will be all the stronger for it. No parent is perfect. No one gets it right all the time. But even when we do a few things right, kids know they're valued. And they have a more grounded sense of self worth.
What other suggestions can you give to build up your child's self worth? Can you remember something someone did for you that impacted your life in a positive way?