I’m willing to bet that you are quite the expert on your own flaws. Yes? In fact, I would even venture so far as to say that it’s highly likely you are your own worst critic. Am I right? It’s safe to say that most of us spend far more time thinking about what we are doing wrong and how to fix than congratulating ourselves for what we are doing right.
It’s true for almost all of us. Here’s the thing though: it’s also true for our children. Often as parents, we unintentionally reinforce that. It is our job to raise our children to become responsible, functional adults. So, with the best of intentions, we frequently point out what they’re doing wrong or what could be better. It’s our job. And yet, when this is the way that we approach our job of raising our little ones, we tend to create a self-perpetuating cycle of shame. Our children then learn to focus on their own flaws and forget to celebrate their strengths. They learn to minimize their accomplishments because something could always, always be “better.”
As parents, when we chose to focus intentionally and relentlessly on what is going well, magic happens. Kids already know their flaws. They already know what they are doing wrong. (Almost all of the time. Promise.) And they don’t always see what they are doing right with the same intensity. They notice what we, as their parents, pay attention to about them and it matters more than we even know.
So, here’s my challenge to you:
Step 1: Make a list of your child’s best qualities. What make him unique? What do you completely and totally enjoy about her?
Step 2: Find every possible opportunity to tell your child about those things. Did she just check on a friend who fell down? You can say, “Hey, I noticed that you went and checked on your friend to make sure she was ok. That was really caring of you. You are such a thoughtful friend.” Notice how your child reacts to these words as she takes them in. Does her face light up? Does she smile shyly?
Now, here’s where the magic really happens. What you notice and pay attention to tends to grow. When you show your child his strengths, he will begin to see them to and to take pride in them. He will be inspired to use them more. Focusing on what is going well builds resilience. It teaches children that there are so many wonderful things about them. Do mistakes happen? Absolutely. And we have the power to teach our children how to respond to them by learning from them and moving forward instead of dwelling on them. To truly, effectively teach this, we also have to model it in our own lives.
So, here’s part two of my challenge to you:
Step 1: Make a list of your own best qualities and strengths. What makes you the incredible, awesome person that you are?
Step 2: Find every opportunity to tell yourself about those things. Tricky, yes. I know that this is so challenging because you’re already trained to be so hard on yourself. Worth it? Also, yes.
When you commit to focusing on the positives – for both yourself and your child – you will begin to notice shifts, subtle at first, but they will get bigger over time. We all have so many strengths and flaws – it’s what makes us human. What will you choose to focus your energy on?