Often we wonder how can we teach children self-love?
I believe that in order to teach self-love, we need to demonstrate what it is. We should walk our talk. Why? Because we teach children with every action we take. Children watch and feel everything and they know the truth about how we feel about ourselves, regardless of what we say. Children see behind the masks we put up to pretend we are happy and have it all together. Seeing such a mask while knowing the opposite is true only creates confusion.
Tell Children the Truth!
Allow them to witness you. Be honest with yourself and know that you have work to do for yourself so that you are happy and complete. Children don’t need to know the story of your unhappiness or confusion or whatever is bothering you; they just need to know that it is normal to feel sad or angry and that it is our own responsibility to tolerate such feelings and then maybe shift into something that feels better.
We have no idea how we are damaging our children’s sense of self-worth when we say that we are happy and our actions say something different. Or when we never say we are angry, yet our actions show anger. Children begin to create their own story: “Mommy is angry again. I’m going to be a good girl so she can get happy again.” If we don’t tell our children the truth about our feelings, we don’t give them permission to understand that sadness and anger are just part of emotional growth. They misplace their feelings and blame others, act out or hurt themselves.
Think about what a great lesson this is for your children—the lesson of truth and responsibility: “I am feeling sad and it’s my responsibility to feel happy.”
I Know This is Not Simple
I’m not asking you to share your intimate secrets with your seven-year-old. I’m just asking you to let your children know how you feel in the moment and that you need for them to understand. Let them know that your sadness is not their fault. They are not responsible for making you feel better. It’s your responsibility to make things better for you and they can support you by understanding or giving you some time to yourself. The great lesson is complete when you make your situation better and you are happy again.
This simple interaction supports children in standing in their truth. Imagine your child, after witnessing you in your truth, saying, “I’m sad and I’m going to draw because it makes me feel good.” Not only do you give them powerful self-worth tools when you act from your truth, but not acting this way has dire consequences.
The Only Way
Our children will have a better world to live in is if the world we give them is one where they have the ability to create their own happiness. They need the tools to create their world. Children need to understand how to manage their feelings and create their desires. Children need to learn how to be responsible for their happiness. The most basic tools are passed from you to your children when you tell them the truth about how you feel and demonstrate that they have someone there to listen to and understand them. Once they experience your honesty and compassionate attention, they—and, for that matter, anyone—will be willing to take responsibility for their happiness.
Love yourself! Be truthful about your feelings and give your children the tools for a lifetime of self-worth!
Feature image courtesy of Flickr, QuinnDombrowski.