My children are nothing like me, and they couldn't be more opposite of each other. They are truly unique, with distinct personalities, temperaments and tastes. And as I much as I appreciate those differences, I still occasionally find myself trying to fix their 'flaws' - to mold them into 'normal' children. "Be a big boy and stop crying." "That doesn't really match – why don't you wear your pink shirt instead." "You're too sensitive – just ignore them." Sound familiar? Even with the best intentions, we might be giving our kids the wrong message.
Recently, I purchased a book titled, Innately Good: Dispelling the Myth that You're Not, by Jan Denise. Denise identifies the origins of the tainted idea that we (and those in our care) are innately flawed and provides a solid framework to help us undo the damage created by this myth – including passing on this erroneous assumption to our children.
Over the years, as I've learned to align my choices and behaviors with who I am inside, I've naturally become happier and less fearful and negative. Innately Good provides the roadmap to this end. I only wish this book had been available when I was younger! It is highly recommended reading for anyone seeking to discover and appreciate his true, authentic self and also to that of others. As such, it makes for a wonderful complement to a yogi's journey to self-love, happiness and connectedness to all. For parents and teachers, the book serves as a poignant how-to for raising confident, well-adjusted children, who celebrate their individuality – just the gifts I want to give to my own chlidren and students.
The following article, released from part of the book, focuses on giving our children the message that they are innately good right from the start. Read on, and let me know your thoughts…
5 Ways to Raise a "Good Enough" Child
by Jan Denise
How many times have you told your ebullient child he's too loud or too active? How often have you told your contemplative, cautious child not to be a scaredy-cat and so shy?
In subtle ways, you are giving your child, when he's expressing his or her unique temperament, the message that he's not good enough. He will get the same messages at school, at church or temple, and from the media. By the time your child is an adult, he will have learned how not to follow the beat of his own drummer and how not to be himself. He will have learned exactly how to act in order to get the approval of others.
If you think that's not much a problem for a child, wait till she grows up and marries someone she thinks she should marry, works in a job she hates because it's expected of her, gets in debt buying a house or car that makes her seem more successful than she really is, or is on a perpetual diet and hates her body because women are supposed to be rail thin.
You can stop this negative conditioning! As a parent, you already instinctively know that your child is good enough. Your child was born good enough. Here are five ways to reinforce that positive message.
· Be there for him. Let your child have his true feelings–sadness or fear, for example. Show him with your support, reassurance, and presence that it's okay to have emotions, and that you'll stay with him through all those feelings, without judging.
· Teach her not to personalize rejection. If someone tells her she's ugly or too brainy, for example, remind her that someone else's words aren't the truth. The truth is that she's fine–just the way she is.
· Teach him not to worry what other people think. If he's afraid to take chorus at school for fear of being teased, or cuts class with his friends to be part of the "cool" crowd, help him understand that following others' opinions won't help him be happy.
· Encourage her individuality. If your child wants to wear a pink tutu to church and it embarrasses you, consider the message you might be giving her about being an individual and expressing herself. Unless it's an act that could harm your child, try to allow her to be and do what she needs in order to fully explore who she is.
· Show him he is loved–unconditionally. Remind your child dozens of times a day, in gestures, words, and acts, that you love him just the way he is. A child who learns that he really is good enough will grow into a confident, healthy, fulfilled adult.
– Jan Denise is a syndicated newspaper columnist, an empowerment guru, and author of the new book, Innately Good: Dispelling the Myth that You're Not (Health Communications, 2009).
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Lisa Flynn is founder and CEO of ChildLight Yoga and Yoga 4 Classrooms, and author of the Yoga 4 Classrooms Activity Card Deck and Yoga for Children: 200+ Yoga Poses, Breathing Exercises and Meditations for Healthier, Happier, More Resilient Children.