Self-esteem begins at home, not with compliments but with respect.
Respecting one’s feelings and necessities.
We sometimes think that by constantly praising our child, grandchild, niece or nephew, we are making them happy and increasing their self-esteem.
Since this might not always be the case, today I will leave you with a re-flection; and you can freely decide what you take and what you do not.
– Today I was at the playground with my daughter and my mother, happy to be able to celebrate a day with the family. As usual I was thinking about how our actions affect children.
As it often happens, my daughter took some other girl’s toy, and since this little girl didn’t want her to take it, she protested. Immediately her mum told her that she needed to share, and told her to give away the toy, so the little girl left the toy and annoyed went somewhere else to play. My daughter stopped for a moment, observing the situation, left the object and went to play somewhere else as well.
What happened here?
As I see the matter, it is obvious we want children to be generous. However, I am aware of the fact that we live in a capitalist world and thus, before asking our kids to give everything away, I should start doing it myself; and I don’t. I give some things, but not all. Asking our kids to give everything away, therefore, seems absurd as well as incoherent. I believe modelling is the way to educate our children: they copy us. Asking them to do something we ourselves don’t do, is inappropriate and it may cause more harm than good.
Moreover, any conflict that might appear, is a great opportunity to learn, for adults as well as for children. By taking that experience away from them, stepping in, we are not doing them any favour.
That moment, when the two girls met with their necessities, was a moment for them to experience, try, make mistakes, and only as the last resort, in case of too much tension (violence or aggression included), adults should have mediated. Whenever children express emotions, interact, move, in ways they are communicating; it is essential to allow them to experience by themselves.
Otherwise we are showing them a manufactured reality where when they have a problem, the “adult angel” will come and save them; and it won’t always be the case. It is important for them to learn to draw some lines, ask what they need, and defend themselves.
Adults are there to make sure there is no danger! Not to keep them from having any contact, or to only allow harmonic and happy contacts!
What I have observed is that with that “harmless” suggestion of “having to lend the toys” I am invalidating the child’s sense of property, which in the world we are living in, is a legitimate one. What I am conveying is that their reaction, their feelings are wrong and that the right thing is what I am teaching them: to be “generous”.
You are misbehaving and I am behaving correctly; yours is bad, mine is right.
The primary instinct of a child is that of surviving and that is why they need adults to whom “obey” without hesitation. Moreover, a lot of children will learn to satisfy our needs, forgetting their own. They will obey to our reality and forget their own.
When they are so little, they are so focused on their real essence, with a natural attitude and with THE TRUTH, that it is a shame to tell them that they are wrong; that what they feel is a mistake, because that is when they start “to disconnect”. That is when they start losing self-esteem and self-confidence. They lose respect for their own necessities, because they have learned since a very young age that they are wrong.
What I am feeling is wrong, what you are feeling is right.
On the contrary, if we respect them since the beginning, and value their emotions and necessities, we are believing in them, appreciating who they really are. Not if they dance well, if they are able to draw… secondary things, no, we are appreciating and respecting their emotions, and that’s what really matters!
I am not saying that they should do what they want, how and where they want it, but as for us adults, in these situations, we can either understand and respect their emotions and simply guide them in a way they can express themselves in a healthy way, or we can invalidate their feelings and necessities, changing them for what we think it’s right.
I am speaking about our attitude, not theirs.
Ps: a possible answer amongst the thousand that there could have been, was: “I understand and I respect that you don’t want to lend your toys, so next time we won’t bring them or we will only bring the ones you want to share”.
About Sex Education, when children touch or caress their own genitals, some people tell them not to do it who say “no, don’t touch” (= your necessities of pleasure are not good); there are some others who say “when we touch or caress our vulva or penis we do it by ourselves, in intimacy”. The same about being naked. There are also some who don’t say anything at all.
I invite you to think about how we’ve been educated, and how we want to guide our children.
Written by Carla Trepat Casanovas
Translated by Diletta Elisa Taris and edited by Laura Patricio