The Current is proud to partner with columnist Lizzie Assa, founder of The Workspace for Children, a parenting strategist, play expert and mother of three who lives in Marblehead.
Dear Lizzie: Although I don’t think this was my parents’ intention, I walked away from my childhood more self-critical than I’d like. How do I flip this and encourage MY kids to see more of the good about themselves?
As parents, we combine the resources we have with our individual experiences. Our parents did their best with the means they had. I applaud you for actively seeking new tools and reflecting on your own experiences.
The counterbalance to being self-critical is practicing self-kindness. Instead of trying to remove the self-doubts that children naturally face, I encourage you to steer them towards embracing ‘self-kindness’ regularly. Studies indicate that when children receive genuine and consistent affirmation from their caregivers, they tend to develop a stronger self-image. To integrate this into your daily conversations with your kids, make it a routine to view their actions through this perspective. Highlight and praise their endeavors whenever possible.
This might sound like:
-I noticed you making silly faces at the baby when they started to cry. That helped cheer them up. Thanks for that.
-Your teacher mentioned that you gave your extra pencil to the child who didn’t have one. I bet they really appreciated that you helped out.
-You got dressed all by yourself this morning. You are getting better and better at caring for yourself.
-You are a kid who….
Children’s self-perception is often shaped by the adults around them. They tend to see themselves through the lens we provide. A powerful way to nurture their positive self-view is by highlighting their strengths using the phrase, “You are a kid who ______.” This not only acknowledges their unique qualities but also reinforces a positive self-image. They will come to see themselves as someone who is inherently good and impactful.
This might sound like:
-You are a kid who knows a lot about boats! You watch them, read books about them, and talk about them all the time. It’s so interesting.
-You are a kid whocares about cleaning up our earth. I saw you picking up trash that wasn’t yours along the beach, and I remember seeing you do the same thing at the park last week!
-You are a kid who understands a lot about building. I noticed the way you restructured that tower when you thought it would fall.
Use these techniques with babies through teens! It might feel silly to tell your baby what you notice about them, but try it. They’ll love your authentic connection and you’ll be getting into a great practice for when they are a little older.