Thursday’s chapter has the byline (I learned yesterday!), “But What If I Damage Their Psyche? (Uh, What’s a Psyche?)“. This right here is why I love Dr. Leman! This whole chapter is really one of my passions, so I’ll try to stay on task and not quote the whole book to you!
Dr. Leman begins with expectations–what parents expect of their kids. Some parents don’t even think about what they expect FROM their kids. They only have expectations FOR their kids. They want their child to be happy and without any discomfort or pain. So they (to use Dr. Leman’s phrase) “snowplow the roads of life” and do every single solitary thing for their kids. The problem with this, according to Dr. Leman is it is sending the message, “I think you’re so stupid that you can’t do it yourself, so I’ll do it for you.” He counters that we should expect the best OUT of them. She should never do anything for our children that they can do themselves. (Ack! That means fill up their own sippy cup, make their bed, brush their teeth, do their homework, get dressed….)
Obviously these things are age-appropriate but we shouldn’t be afraid to set the bar high. Kids can do more than we think. When Lydia had her first ballet recital and did every single move PERFECTLY, I thought, “Good grief. If she can do that, what other things can she do that I haven’t let her?” Dr. Leman says “every child lives up to the expectation you have for him.” Don’t you want to set a high one?
All of this leads into self-esteem…or really a better term is self-worth. When I was in High School I went to a camp with a man named Peder Eide. He was hugely instrumental in me growing up and waking up as a young adult. He explained to me that self-esteem either high or low was bad. Insecure people have low-self esteem but they are still selfish because it’s all about, “Why don’t they like ME?”. People with high-self esteem are narcissistic and selfish. Our real goal is Christ-esteem…knowing who we are in Christ.
This is the same idea that Dr. Leman has. Our children need to understand true self-worth. They need to know who they are in your family and who God had designed them to be. It’s not about making your child feel good. That’s easy. Dr. Leman says to just give them everything they want. He goes a step further and says an UNHAPPY child is a HEALTHY child. Helping children see their own value through responsibility and accountability and action is what brings true self-worth.
Dr. Leman breaks self-worth down into 3 (simple steps? not this time…) Pillars:
If your children feel that you don’t accept them for who they are, they will look for acceptance from other people. What a knife to the heart. I pray my arms and heart and words are always open to accept my children AND their actions no matter what they do.
We want our children to feel they belong to our family. Dr. Leman gives a perfect example of this: someone approaches a 15 year old girl and asks her if she wants a cigarette. She retorts, “No thanks. We Crayburns don’t smoke.” She had a real sense of belonging to her family. She knew how they acted and wanted to be a part of that. She was a Crayburn and proud of it!
This is the new one for me. When we give our children responsiblity it empowers them. When I give Lydia a new chore and she does it, she thinks, “Mommy thinks I can do this! If she thinks I can do it, then I must be able to!” She feels the value I place on her abilitites. And even if she fails she’ll learn how to do it better AND it can be a learning experience for both of us. We can work together and accomplish something as a team!
If our kids don’t feel accepted, like they belong and feel they aren’t competent in your family, they will find somewhere else where they do feel it! (<–I think I already said it, but wow! It’s so big!)
Now Dr. Leman turns to PRAISE versus ENCOURAGEMENT. I’m a natural encourager. I use my words to affirm my kids constantly. But Dr. Leman says to make sure you are using your words correctly so your children get the REAL message. He says praise isn’t good for kids because it makes kids equate acceptance to behavior. When they get good grades or hit a home run they hear praise from our lips. So, they think they have to perform to get our love.
Instead we need to learn to ENCOURAGE our kids. Encouragement emphasizes the ACT and not the PERSON. This is interesting to me. Dr. Leman says, “when you encourage the act, you encourage the child to be competent and to try something else because he succeeded in that area.” So instead of saying, “You are a genius! You look beautiful! You’re the very best in the whole world!” Say things like:
- Oh, Ethan, you got an A in math. I know you’ve been working extra hard in taht area, and that work really paid off. You’ll have to tell your dad about it. He’ll be happy, too.
- I love what you built with your legos. It’s very creative and fun, and you did it by yourself. What are you going to build next?
Do you see the difference? Dr. Leman says this kind of encouragement helps build a foundation for Acceptance, Belonging and Competence.
This is the first chapter that I’ve actually been encouraged in. This one is almost fun to me—I want to figure out ways to build belonging and acceptance into my kids. I can’t wait to find something else they are competent in. I want them to say feel the the most love, honor, encouragement, belonging, acceptance and closeness in our family!
What are your thoughts?