What do your children believe about themselves? Regardless of what they are told, self-image is created from within. It is a product of all the comments ever made by parents, friends, and outside “influencers”, but in some children, regardless of what the outside world tells them, their own brain tells them they are not really that smart, not really that funny, not really very capable.
Self image is the most powerful perspective anyone can have. Without a positive one, people are unable achieve their “future story,” the dream they have for themselves.
Did you know some children are unable to imagine themselves as an adult? Dr. Ruby Payne, a writer and educational consultant, says that children who live in a culture of deprivation and poverty sometimes see their adult future as one in which they will either be in prison, homeless, or dead. If all they know of the adult world is a parent who was arrested, an uncle who was on the street due to drug addiction, or a sibling dead due to gun violence, they see that scenario as their only future. When asked what they want to be when they grow up, they may not know what to say, except “Alive”.
I believe that even in the poorest neighborhoods and in the most gang infested, violent cities in America, there are many children who believe they can write their own future story and, as Oprah says, “live their best life.” That bulletproof self-image depends on their ability to visualize a life they have never seen. They can do it if they have a positive role model to follow. It might be a parent, an older sibling, or even a teacher who believes in them. The number one external influence on a child’s self-image is a relationship with someone they believe cares about them.
Mental health and emotional maturity can both alter a child’s self-image. Sometimes it is a chemical imbalance that makes a child not believe they are good enough. The right balance of the hormones serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins can greatly effect a child’s self-image and feelings of happiness. For adolescents, the impact of social media can make a child with a healthy self-image doubt their own abilities. So what can a mom do to help their gifted child feel good about themselves?
I tend to give advice in threes. First, love your child unconditionally. Whether they are good or bad, make mistakes or always have perfect grades, kids have to know your love for them is unwavering. There are times you should discipline or correct a child, but don’t let those times ever make he or she doubt your love for them. A good mom is one that says “What you did was a bad choice, and there is a consequence for that choice, but I know you can do better next time.” Believe in them.
Second, don’t let the TV or IPad be the babysitter or a major influence on their self-image. Electronics may distract children and keep them quiet, but it negatively impacts their language development compared to live two way conversation with other humans, especially nurturing adults. For self-image purposes, TV and video games may negatively imprint a child with sexualized images of women or violent stereotypes of men. You want your child to aspire to be a strong, independent thinker, but not a superhero that violently erupts like the HULK. Positive self-image is built by letting children explore their environment and find success at real world tasks.
Being independent and able to care for themselves and their surroundings builds a capable and competent self-image. If they are big enough, do they know how to vacuum the floor, take out the trash, fold their clothes and put them away? If you do everything for them, when are they going to feel “big”?
Third: Ask yourself this question: Are you raising a capable child that can do things on his or her own? If your child acts like an entitled brat and expects you to do everything for them, it is possible that instead of believing that he or she is entitled, that they actually feel unsure of what to do. If he or she has never done something on their own, they don’t know how to do it right.
Initially, instead of saying “Get your own drink of water”, you have to say “Let me show you how to fill a glass with water without spilling it.” Have cups at a height they can reach. Show your child how to turn on the faucet or pour a pitcher that is a size that he or she can lift.
Help your child be successful and then he or she will do it on their own without bugging you to do it for them. The best part is that that task becomes a part of a competent, capable self-image. Your gift child will become independent and successful when he or she BELIEVES it about themselves. Success builds a positive self-image more than words from outside influencers. Give them those experiences. so that their self-image is strong and capable.