Holidays can be an awesome time of joy and blessing, but the also have a way of reminding us of things that were easier to ignore during the rest of the year. I make 3 suggestions on making your holidays a little less stressful, so you can embrace what the Holidays are truly about: JOY! Read more here!
t’s so easy to advocate or see value in others, especially our children. But what about ourselves? Do we not value ourselves in the same way? Is it arrogant to do so?
What about the impression we are leaving on our kids about self worth? Did you know that the way we treat ourselves will indirectly have a HUGE impact on the way our kids start treating themselves? My mother taught me to be a servant. To focus on others feelings, to give to the needy, and to love our “neighbor” as ourselves.” But what started happening is that I started loving my neighbor OVER myself. My mom is a huge servant of others, but as I got older I realized that she has a hard time pouring into her self. Did I subconsciously learn that to self care is to be selfish? I’m not sure…
Can I be selfish? Ask my husband?! Yes of course I can. But there is a difference between being selfish and treating yourself with value. I started letting people take advantage of me, I let people disrespect me, I let people define me! The only way I knew to stand up for myself was by getting angry and using my anger in an inappropriate way to fuel my words and actions. But this expression of thoughts and behavior just left me embarrassed and without my goal being met.
So why is it so easy for me to be able to provide wisdom, strength and advocacy for others, but feel in adept when put in the same situation myself? Maybe it was modeling, maybe it’s genetics, or maybe my environment produced it? Regardless, I do know that I am modeling this for my own children, and I see it in other parents I counsel.
Parents come to me and beg to know why their beloved children, whom they have loved, praised and nurtured, hate themselves? Parents want to know where they went wrong, what they can do to fix it. One of the first things I do is ask about how the parent is taking care of themselves? This takes the parents aback, “wait, I’m here for my child, not for myself!” I explain that our actions always have an audience. Children have watched us since they were infants, and mimic us as their standard of behavior.
So what model are we giving? When a dress doesn’t fit after the holidays, and we announce that we are fat and need to go on a diet. When a car cuts us off on the highway and we discuss the intelligence of the driver in question. When someone tells a crass joke or makes an obscene gesture and we laugh with them. When the computer doesn’t load fast enough and we start mumbling like the guy from “Office Space.” When you notice someone getting picked on, and you walk away because it’s not your business. All of these and more are conveying a message to our children about how we value ourselves, and others.
Self care and self worth are something that must be learned. For me, I’m still learning. I combat the idea that in order to be the best mom and wife I must put myself last; trying instead to believe that being the best mom and wife I need to take care of myself first, so that I have something to give to them.
What are some areas that you could start advocating for yourself or practicing self-care?
My second child and second daughter has a lot of the same personality traits as I do. She’s loud, she’s sensitive, she’s a born leader, she’s all or nothing, and she loves to laugh! I’m both excited and fearful for her. Because frequently when she tells me how she is having a relational problem, overwhelmed or fearful I can distinctly remember how it felt when I was a kid. Not only do I remember the feeling, I can usually associate it with a life experience that I have had.
Being around kids transports us back to our own childhood, good and bad. We want so badly to prevent the trials and heartaches. So we offer advice, we implement structure, and are swift with discipline; all with the hope that our kids will be stronger, wiser, and happier than we were growing up. But do we as parents cross the line from teaching to dictating?
With my daughter I know that with our personality we can come across as bossy. So I help to direct her natural leadership by encouraging certain phrases to use instead. But in that process I am certain that I have discouraged her and her personality. It was no longer about teaching her, but instead stifling her natural bend given at birth because I did not want her to experience the pain that I did. Though my intentions were noble, my implementation was flawed.
I’ve been challenged to reconsider the moments I deem as instructional. I instead now take a moment and determine if my intervention is even necessary. I realized that there are some battles and experiences she needs to have on her own. If after this thought process I determine this is a time when I can educate, I will intervene privately. Otherwise I will watch, listen, and be available if she wants to talk about it.
What are some areas that you find in your own kids that reflect an attribute that you share? How have you responded to them, have you been a teacher or dictator? What actions will you change to assist them instead of controlling them?
We as parents can relate, we just want them to NOT experience the pain we have. We want them to avoid the pitfalls and temptation. We want them to be scar free when they become an adult. But instead of focusing so much on trying to prevent, we should listen, have empathy for their concerns, and have courage to allow them to make their own choices!
Why do you love me?
Micah, my 3 year old at that time, has been asking this question recently. I will say I love you, and he will look at me with head tilted and say, why do you love me? The first time he did this I laughed and said, “because your my baby!” But when he continued to ask I decided I would be more specific. So I started by saying things like, I love you because you are funny, because you are sweet to your sisters, you help mommy take care of baby carter, etc.
This question from little man reminded me that we all need to not only hear that we are loved, but told why we are loved. Yes, we intrinsically love our children because they are a part of us. But we also love aspects of the person they are. We need to start praising those aspects, mentioning them to others besides our child, and to encourage them in areas that they may not be as strong. We need to start praising their efforts instead of just the completion of something. We need to praise their honesty even when it’s not initially forthcoming. We should start talking about our children and spouses in positive ways to others instead of just focusing on the struggles. And we should hug, kiss, fist bump every day to maintain our physical bond that we developed at their birth.
This exercise challenges us to be intentional with our words, and to act out what we are saying. Let us make the words “I love you” have the impact it is suppose to make when said. Today, write out 4 things that you LOVE about your kids, your spouse, your friends, and whoever else means something to you. So when you have a moment to share how much you care you can be specific, and plant seeds of encouragement.
So again I prompt you to explore your fears about raising your kids in a world that does not value them the way you do. What fears do you harbor that isolates you and manipulates your parenting in both good and unhealthy ways?
I want to discuss the ways that we fear for our children physically! This discussion can go a couple of different places. We could narrow in on keeping their bodies safe from harm, from cancer, sickness, and abuse from others. These are usually the fears that come to our mind first when thinking about our children’s vulnerability. In fact, I was prompted to start this series after reading an article about vaccines. My youngest child is 9 months and due for his MMR vaccine, which is what many people are saying is the catalyst to autism spectrum disorders. Though I have had my 3 older children all receive this vaccine, it overwhelms me to think I could be purposely damaging my child’s brain, and debilitating him for the rest of his life! Whoa, heavy stuff! But that is NOT what I want to talk about.
I rather focus on the fear that I have as a parent for my child’s personal physical perception. How they view their body, how that translates into their worth, and ways they attempt to compensate for areas they find lacking.
It appears to me that comparison happens at such a young age, from what others have for lunch, to what toys they are playing with. With age and brain development, the comparison goes into areas of physical design. The color of their skin, hair, eyes. The shape of their arms, legs, face. The way they walk, carry themselves, level of coordination. And initially the child just recognizes that they are different, that everyone is different! But then comes evaluation of the difference, and the ranking of where they themselves stand.
This is a struggle for both boys and girls. Watch my #Trending: Boy Body Image Issues. (http://www.trendsandteens.com/?p=219) To see how boys also struggle with comparison and how parents are unintentionally contributing to this.
My fear for my kids are that they feel inadequate. That in the process of comparison they find that they are “NOT”_______ fill in the blank, and this changes their belief about their value. And as if their thought life of inadequacy doesn’t make me fearful enough, I fear they will take steps to “fit in,” be “the same.” From changing their hair color, to manipulating their bodies to become the shape they desire.
I believe there are choices they will make that will ultimately change their bodies that are not as bad as other, (says the mom with tattoos, ear piercings, wears makeup, jewelry, and has had many different hair colors!) It’s not so much a ranking of what’s bad and what isn’t. It all comes down to the state of the person’s intention for the change, and that is where my fear comes to a head!
I desire for my kids to be content with their bodies and appearance. Contentment isn’t always about happiness, but instead about acceptance of reality. Having them acknowledge there are parts of their bodies that they do not like, allow them to be disappointed and if there are ways they can make changes that are healthy then encourage them to do so.
For example, I have a canine tooth that looks like a baby tooth compared to my other adult teeth. When I got into high school it was horrifying to smile, laugh and sometimes even talk. I learned to strategically place my hand so that it covered my mouth just enough to avoid exposing my tooth. While in college I got a cap that allowed my tooth to look like the rest. It changed everything for me! My body language, my sociability, and my ability to cackle with the best of them! I felt with this tooth I was inadequate, and I desired greatly to change it. So when I was able to I did and have never regretted altering my body. With maturity and time, I have come to understand the importance of my perception of self and how that should shape my value, over the way that I look. That’s not to say that if the cap fell off tomorrow i wouldn’t get it repaired! I would be in the dentist the next morning!!!
However, I am saying that the state of my contentment no longer lies completely in my appearance. How can I hope for my child to have contentment at their age, when it has taken me decades to achieve it for myself? Well, I can’t, not completely at least, which is why my fear has traction.
So the questions is, stay in this fear or take steps of action??!!
Here are some action steps to reduce your fear and to equip your child:
Discuss with your kids what is beautiful/handsome.
Talk about how even the most beautiful men and women in the world may have a selfish and cold heart, making their beauty diminish. Help them make a list of attributes that make a person attractive, and match up the ones that your child already has, and ways to practice the other ones.
Some good Bible verses for this are 1 Peter 3:3,4 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.
Or my favorite translate of this verse comes from the Message version. Colossians 3:12-14 (NIV) So, Chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear LOVE. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.
Discuss with your kids how everyone has a unique design and purpose. Each person is made differently. Encouraging them to see how their design is purposeful and are created by the God of the universe. Here are a couple of verses to use for this point:
Galatians 6:4, The Message Version, Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.
1 Corinthians 12:12-14 (NIV) Just as the body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body-whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free- and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
Doubt, insecurity, and disappointment is normal, and is located at the beginning at every entrance into contentment. Process with them about what they are insecure about, what they are disappointed in. Allow them to have their feelings, and perceptions. Don’t tell them they are wrong, because they will think you are not truly listening. Instead, acknowledge that their feelings are valid, but that their perception is distorted. But remember before saying anything at all, listen, repeat back to them what you hear, and listen again. Ask if there is anything you can do to help, or if they would be interested in hearing what you have to say. Then respect their decision either way. Then Hug them, and tell them that you love them! At some point either through writing a note, or verbally, when they are ready to hear you, tell them your story of insecurity, tell them about your understanding of where true beauty comes from, and tell them all the attributes you see that make them unique and special!
Be aware of the type of entertainment and social relationships your child is engaging in. The entertainment world sets many standards for appearance, many times in an unhealthy way. Your child may be watching tv shows, movies, and listening to music that is preaching a message that is deemed accepted by society, but is contrary to your own values. Determine where you stand, while being realistic, on such issues as clothing, hair styles, make up, relationships, sex, language, etc. And have a conversation with your child about your views. Not with the goal to get them to NEVER do those things, but instead to be educated about why you as the parent do not want them engaging in such behavior.
What if you and your partner disagree with the other about such issues. This is the case with me and my husband! He believes that for a teen girl to dye her hair a crazy color, like pink, she is saying she is loose with her morals! I say if that is the area she is choosing to express herself then I think the parents got off lucky! So how to resolve something like this? We continue to communicate about it. We attempt to compromise between just us, and then come to a conclusion that we can bring to our child. But if we can still not find a compromise then I will relinquish my control on the topic and go with what my husband says.
SIDE NOTE: Now before you go into ‘but I don’t believe that the man is in charge of the woman, etc.’ To give you the Cliff Notes version on my beliefs on this, I believe that God created man/husband to be the leader of his entire family. That he should be respectful and open to his wife’s view. That even when the wife disagrees with his decision that he hears her out, then proceeds with what he believes is right in his discernment. And that ultimately God will judge the man/husband for his leadership, and I will be standing there in Heaven waiting for my chance to say “I told you so!” But here on earth I will be praying for patience and a controlled tongue when I disagree!
And finally, just LOVE on your kiddos! It doesn’t matter if they are adult children, or they are newborns. Love your kids. Spend time with them. Ask them about their fears and joys. Pray with them and for them. And introduce them to Jesus!
So, what will you do? Stay in the fear or move into action? Make your choice!
If you have kids in the school system, you are aware of our culture putting value in the quality of their performance which becomes a distorted basis of their identity. Whether it is in their testing ability, their math competency, or their reading comprehension; It is all the plumb-line for their value in this season of life.
We recognize as parents this idea of worth is far from the truth, however we forget that we too are struggling with our own worth and identity outside of our performance in life. Whether it is with our job, the quality of our home or car, or our relationships with others. We are constantly comparing ourselves and evaluating our performance and equating it with our worth. One of the biggest differences between us and our kids, is we have the capacity to see the truth of our value and to reflect on our experiences in order to gain a more balanced perspective.
My husband and I just completed our parent/teacher conferences. We were not surprised by our different daughters evaluations. One is doing well in school. Things come easily to her, and her personality is one of perseverance and resilience as seen in her struggle with a speech impairment. However, my other daughter has to work hard and many times is still lacking. She is starting to see that she is different than her peers in her comprehension and is identifying herself as “stupid.” This of course breaks my heart, not only because she is struggling but because I too struggled in school growing up and know the pitfalls that accompany this path.
My first impulse is to fix this issue. Get her all the tutors possible, work with every teacher, and make a reward system at home that increases her reading work at home. Now these things are not bad in themselves, in fact these are steps that are within my control to assist my child to do better in this struggle area. However, if this was the only area I focused on, I would be missing a HUGE teaching moment with my child! This is a chance to explore the differences in our design. This is a chance to be honest about our weaknesses. This is a chance to identify her strength areas. But most importantly this is a chance to have a Faith conversation and talk about how we have all been given life and design by the God of the universe.
Whenever I have a client who is exploring their identity, many times disappointed in their design, I bring out chapter 12 in the book of Romans.
Romans 12:1,2 (NIV)
12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
This verse reminds us that we are not our own. That our worth does not and should not come from the standard of this world. And that we can have a relationship with our awesome God. I’m of course over simplifying these verses where I could write a whole book on the instruction God is giving us here, but I believe you understand the meaning.
3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith;
This is where I really hit home the point: we have ALL been given a unique personality that combines strengths and weaknesses in perfect unison which can only be by God’s design. None is greater and None is lower, all are important and necessary for completion of the Body. I like to also take verse 3: “Do not think of yourself more highly (Or Lowly) than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment…” (italics added) Too often because of the comparison to others, the evaluation of self via performance oriented circumstances leads to thinking of ourselves in either extreme and neither is truth. Instead with “sober judgement” a healthy holistic perspective can help correct this common distortion of self. With the conclusion being that we have been designed with reason and purpose, that we will NEVER have perfection of self in this world, and embracing our status as children of God we can find contentment with both our strengths and our weaknesses.
Catch those teachable moments with your kids. Remind them that everything about their personality, their body, and their mind has been specifically picked out to be a part of them. That they should not conform to the standards of this world, as it will always leave them feeling empty and valueless. And even though this season of education will pass, unless they learn to defeat the negative self view they will always struggle with performance and worth.
Here are a couple of questions to start the conversation today:
~ What do you think your strengths are? How have you seen them acted out?
~What do you believe your weak areas are? How have you seen them lived out?
~Why do you think God gave you these strengths and weaknesses? How do you think you could use them in combination?
~ In your school what traits are valued? Why?
~If you could have one strength that you do not have, what would it be and why?
~ What do you think it would take for you to not mind your weak areas so much?
Keep in mind that they need to be HEARD and not talked to. If they need direction then ask if you can help come up with ideas, otherwise let them continue to think and verbally process with you.
Being open now encourages them to come back to discuss this same topic when they are having a hard time.