Self-esteem….it’s a word I hate to hear. It is tossed around way too often. It is a combination of several factors in our lives from people to events to our parents. While there are many components, this book is teaching me that its way more complicated than I ever thought, which makes sense. Usually something that is easy to break down is far harder to fix.
Still, we don’t want our children to struggle in the real world. And to do that we have to give them the keys to succeed, which can even mean we have to do nothing. So let’s take a look at what all goes into self-esteem.
- Security & competence
Part of self-esteem is the feeling that we are loved, valued, and important to the world around us, particularly our families. This forms a sense of security which anchors our children during times of trouble. Our children should always feel like they can come to us without it affecting how we feel for them. It’s easy for us to feel and far harder for a parent to convey.
I know personally what it feels like to be close to your parents and in the one moment you need them to be that anchor they fail. Nearly all of us have had those moments, experiences may vary, and some are worse than others, but just about all of us have been there.
Second, our children need to feel some sort of mastery over their lives. Another hard task when we want to protect them from every hurt. That’s one of the reasons I love Montessori. There is a focus on being an observer before intervening in a child’s exploration of the world. We have to let them try and see where they struggle before we can really help them.
It can be hard to put aside this urge and let our children explore the world. However, we must resist the urge to be overprotective. If we do, we take away chances for our children to gain competency. When we become too overprotective we run the risk of leaving them incapable of dealing with everyday emotional issues causing anxiety, stress, and distress.
While we would love for our kids to always win, this also means that we have to let them fail, so that they can understand that it is just another learning experience. It isn’t forever and it doesn’t define them or their place in our hearts.
So how do we develop these two important traits? First we have to show unconditional love no matter what we show frustration at. It doesn’t matter if its grades or an action. No matter how frustrated or angry we become at our children failing to meet our expectations, at the end of the day, they still have to feel that unconditional love. If we can’t manage this, they may end up feeling that our love is contingent on their success and that’s a big burden for any child. For example it’s better to say that you have to do better if you want to reach your goals than it is to say that we’re disappointed that you didn’t do well on your test today.
Secondly, children need to know that they can take risks and make mistakes. They need to know that they can explore the world within boundaries set by you. Without boundaries the world can be a scary place and without a chance to make mistakes, take risks, or adventure, the world can seem very small and limited.
And how do we develop competence? Well the first thing we all need to understand is that our children have to believe that they can succeed and achieve if they are going to be able to achieve. Any pagan knows that belief is powerful. We believe in magick, spells, and in the rituals that we do. We believe in spirits and powers that we cannot see, but sometimes we forget to believe in our own, or our children’s dreams/ability to achieve amazing feats.
Henry Ford said it best “If you do or don’t think you can do something….you’re right.”
First, we have to make sure that our children learn that there are consequences for their actions. This is the easy part. With Freya we’ve been letting her practice drinking with a shot glass. I’m not worried about her breaking it. If she tosses it and it breaks, it just offers an opportunity for her to learn that if she throws it, it breaks.
It also ties into the rule of three in its own way. Part of understanding the consequences of their actions is realizing that you get back what you put into your efforts. It’s the idea that when you are a good person and do good things, good things come back to you in your life. The same is true of bad things. And as simple a concept as it is, it can be hard depending on what the problem is.
If we instead protect our children from consequences and their actions, we get one of three things, a spoiled child who has always gotten their way, a neglected child who gets what he wants no matter what they do, or a frustrated child who doesn’t understand why they never get what they want. These children don’t try as hard because they don’t think that their actions matter.
In the end our children need to understand the importance of their actions in the midst of their natural talents and hard work. It takes a wide variety of experiences to build a firm foundation and understanding of this. More importantly you have to let your children know that they can do it. If you put positivity into their upbringing they are more likely to exhibit those same tendencies.
Once our children learn global competence, they can then translate this to specific activities on their own. Yes, I said it, on their own. You can support them and guide them, but ultimately, they have to start doing their work and activities on their own. One is important to the other. A specific belief doesn’t help the child in the broader picture and a broad belief doesn’t matter if they can’t apply it to their passions
Just as our children have to feel confident and competent they have to be able to reflect on who they are. Many of us don’t learn this until we are much older. It’s hard to accept the dark along with the light, but it’s important to each of us as we grown in life and in faith. I know I still struggle to see my own faults some days. Ignoring our faults only causes us to falter even more. We have to remember that the big picture is more important than immediate success and that improving ourselves, in the long run, will make us more successful as any of us pursue our own endeavors.
If you struggle with your own self-reflection, now is a good time to work on it. Your children are going to pick up on you comfort or discomfort when it comes to inward reflection. This means being able to admit our own mistakes to our children and significant others when they arise. Not only is it the mature thing to do, but it is a very pagan thing to do. The Goddess wants us and our children to be our best selves and to not hurt those around us. Lying about our own imperfections doesn’t help the family and often ends in someone’s feelings hurt. Bad karma.
We cannot use our imperfections as excuses, but we can use them to display that no one is perfect. That is simply a part of the human condition. We make mistakes. These mistakes can include inaccurate perceptions of our inward reflections as well. That is why we have to honestly act as a reality check for our children sometimes. We have to be honest, not brutal, nor overestimate their talent, which also means being realistic in our perception of their ability. It’s a fine line and one that I feel I will often be asking the Goddess for assistance with.
So a few hints and tips for all of us parents….
- Let your attitude determine your achievement. Not the other way around.
- Never be afraid to be a kid….have fun (This goes for adults too).
- Don’t let self-esteem get mixed up in achievements. Achievements aren’t your life in a nutshell.
- Don’t run away from yourself, embrace the good, the bad, and the quirky.
- Don’t ignore obstacles, overcome them.
- Confidence is born of patience and experience
- Learn to forgive yourself for your mistakes (easier said than done).
- Get into the process, not the result.
- Doubt is the number one cause of poor achievement. (If you don’t believe me listen to the Ford quote above).
- Follow your dreams and enjoy the trip.
If you’d like to read this from a more adult perspective….as in how you, as a parent, can work on your own competency and security….see my other blog post in Lessons from the Goddess on the same topic.