Teaching Our Kids Not To Walk In Anyone’s Shadow
How do we help kids to love themselves, believe in their own abilities, and feel confident in the choices they make? How do we teach them to stand tall and not to walk in the shadow of anyone else?
I use music often when I give workshops and presentations because they have huge power to evoke an emotional response. It isn’t uncommon for participants to have tears streaming down their face as they listen to songs such as “Don’t Laugh At Me” or “Children Are Our Future”. The first song talks about the experience of kids who struggle to believe in their own worth and who are often beaten down by the opinions and unkind remarks of others. The second song challenges us as parents, teachers, coaches, grandparents, and anyone else who spends time with children to help children develop a sense of pride in who they are. Whitney Houston’s song encourages us to help them see the beauty they possess inside and to help them see that “Learning to love themselves is the greatest love of all.” It is sad to think that Whitney Houston died after living a life of addiction and loneliness despite the powerful words of her song. She was a victim of the story she sung so valiantly to help others avoid.
How do we help kids to be proud of who they are, despite their mistakes, weaknesses, and challenges? It is easier to stand stall and confident when you are smart, athletic, gorgeous and popular. Or at least it seems that way to those on the outside. I know, personally, many people who gave the image of having it all together but who were secretly insecure, lonely and dying inside. Outward appearances don’t always give us a clue about a child’s sense of self. We have to take the time to deeply know the child. We need to listen, listen, and listen again to what is said and what is not said. We need to slow the pace our lives down so we have time to give them our undivided attention. It is only when they feel safe and loved that they will share with us their concerns, worries, and joys.
If our kids have challenges in learning; if their behaviour distances their friends and leaves them feeling socially isolated and alone; if their health is so challenged they can’t participate fully in life, we have an obligation to help them. We can’t wish away all their troubles nor would we want to. We need to support them in whatever ways we can to find answers to their issues and then to help them embrace that they are enough, just as they are. They don’t have to be perfect to be loved. They don’t have to get straight A’s, be the captain of the football team or the star of the school play to be amazing. Each child comes with a set of gifts and it is our job as adults to help children find their unique gifts, embrace them as wonderful, and find ways to use them. If that means changing their diet, finding a tutor, home schooling, medications, or any one of the many things that can be tried, it is our job to do these things in order to help our children live their potential. It is, however, about their potential and not a dream that is compared to anyone else. It is only by being loved and accepted for who they are by the important people in their life that they will stand tall and not sink down and live in someone else’s shadow.