Children need to have their beliefs, thoughts and feelings validated. More often than not you may notice your son or daughter feeling disheartened about a choice they made or a grade they got. I know you may say….”I wish that was my child…he doesn’t seem to care whether he makes A’s or F’s” but the truth of the matter is that 99% of all kids want to excel and if they send you the message that they don’t… it is because they come from a place of not feeling “good enough.” They have developed that hard exterior to hide their vulnerable feelings. I encourage parents to play the self-esteem game with each other and their children to increase the awareness of how often we are negative with our thoughts.
The game goes like this:
• During a family meeting, a ride in the car (when you have them captive) or a family dinner, you state your intention that the family is going to help each other have kinder, gentler thoughts.
• When a family member hears someone say, “I am stupid,” or “I can’t do that,” or “Nobody likes me” the family member is to give the time out sign and say nothing more.
• The parent or child is expected to restate the sentence in a kinder, gentler, way. I encourage Mom or Dad to make sure to have some examples that they can use to role model how to turn around a negative statement.
This might look like the following:
Mom asks Tommy to pick up his clothes and then she says, “What does it matter, you never listen to me anyway!” Dad would time her out and Mom might restate the issue by saying, “Tommy I would like you to pick up your clothes. I have made a very important request.”
Jessica asks for a new Xbox and Dad replies, “Jess, I am not made of money. The only time you are nice to me is when you are asking for something.” A timeout is given and Dad restates his position. “Jessica, I know a new Xbox is important to you and I am really good at brainstorming so let’s work together and figure out how YOU can make that happen.”
Perhaps Mom hears Tiffany telling her friend, “No one will play with me at recess…No one likes me!” The timeout is given and Tiffany has to restate that and says, “I may feel lonely on the playground but I am good at making friends.”
This skill teaches your children that they will be more successful if they are more positive about how they see themselves.
Take advantage of negative self talk to instill opportunities for children to see their strengths and not rest on what they believe are their weaknesses. Developing the skill of positive self-talk is critical to good self-esteem. But it doesn’t just happen. Parents have to teach children how to practice the skill and work at it diligently.
How would confidence be affected if your family participated in daily activities like the self-esteem game to remind each other of one’s strengths and the things that are working well in everyone’s life as opposed to what might not be going as planned?
Learning to use kinder, gentler thoughts is a great family exercise and will create a sense of self-esteem that feeds mastery which will reap many positive rewards. Besides helping your children, it will also get you to be kinder to yourself too!
Carol Juergensen Sheets, LCSW PCC is a psychotherapist and personal life coach. SHe does motivational speaking and empowerment trainings locally and nationally. To find out more about her services, contact her at www.carolthecoach.com or call her at 317-218-3479. You can watch Carol the Coach segments on WTHR's Channel 13 Wednesdays at 12:50PM.