I had an interesting experience today at school. My kids had just come back to the room from a humanity special. The kids were transitioning into the classroom and chatting by their cubbies as they put their library books away. It was a typical transition period until I heard a brief conversation…
One of my young girls turned to another young girl and said, “Are you still mad at me?” Generally, I wouldn’t pay attention to this because we all get annoyed with friends once in awhile and we talk about it and work it out. However, it was the look in her eyes when she asked that told a deeper story.
I know the history of these two girls. One has a tendency to get upset when her friends don’t do what she’d like them to do. The other is a ‘pleaser‘ and just wants to make everyone happy. The pleaser had the puppy dog eyes when she timidly asked the question and you could tell that deep inside of her she was frightened that the answer would be yes.
The girls noticed that I was paying attention to their conversation and quickly scurried off. As they brushed by me, I caught the eye of my ‘pleaser’ and said, “Hey there, do you remember what we talked about at the last Girls Rule meeting?” She earnestly replied, “Yes. You taught us that we needed to believe in ourselves and remember that we need to approve of ourselves, not others.” I smiled and said, “Yes, and what else?” She began to smile and she replied, “I don’t ever have to give my power away. I need to like myself.” My eyes and her eyes gave a high five and she bounced back to her seat.
All too often our kids are searching for approval from not only their teachers, coaches and parents but also their peers. They look to others to validate their accomplishments, their thoughts, their feelings and their outer being as well. We teach them to strive for acceptance from a very young age without even realizing it. Unfortunately, we have set them up for failure without intending it.
How did we do this?
Well, think about it for a minute… From the moment you held that baby in your arms you smiled when they did things you liked. When they lifted their heads for the first time, when they lifted themselves for the first time, when they reached for a toy or food or you! You encouraged them with your smile (and clapping and cooing) and they learned very early on that they liked the way it felt when they made you smile. They also learned that you smiled when they did something that ‘pleased’ you, so what are they doing today with their friends?
You guessed it, looking for that smile in everything they do and say. (looking for approval)
Now, wait a minute Mrs. Savini, you mean to tell me I wasn’t suppose to encourage my child? No, that’s not what I am saying at all. In fact, I LOVE that you encouraged your child, you smiled at your child, you gave them approval, but now it’s time to teach them to approve of themselves so that no-one ever takes their power away.
It’s so critically important for us to teach our children to love and approve of themselves at a young age because if we don’t, then they will always search for approval from others. And, we all know that this becomes a long, lonely and sometimes heartbreaking road.
So how do we do this?
We give them a mirror.
1) Teach them how to do mirror work. It’s easy peezy, lemon squeezy! All you have to do, is look in the mirror and say something POSITIVE to yourself. ‘I like you’, ‘You’re a good writer’, ‘You’re a good friend’, You’re Important!’ My kids do this every Wednesday morning in school and I can see the positive impact it has on them weekly.
2) When they ask your opinion of them or their work or their behavior, hold up the mirror instead of immediately giving them your opinion. Get down on their level (physically), look at them directly in their eyes and ask, “What do you think?” Give them the opportunity to reflect on their own work, behavior and being before you offer your thoughts.
3) When they do something that pleases you, tell them but remember to encourage them to look at themselves as well. You may say, “How do you feel about this?” or “I’m so proud of you! You should be proud of yourself. Are you proud of yourself?”
By constantly reminding our children to look in the mirror (physically, mentally and emotionally) we are giving them their power back and teaching them to love themselves. A child who seeks approval from within is a child who will always find the light in the darkness and who will never, no never give their power away to another individual.
Teach them to approve of themselves and you’ll give them the gift of a lifetime!
Lots of Love & Tons of Light,