Issue 6 July 2005
Welcome to The Balancing Act, the Monthly Newsletter
for Women Seeking Greater Sanity and Balance in Their Everyday
In case you missed last months issue we want to
remind you that we have broadened the focus of our newsletter
to include career women who are struggling to balance the demands
of work and family, midlife women trying to navigate this challenging
transition, frustrated parents who want to create greater harmony
in their home, or women who are simply tired of living an overloaded
existence. Whatever your situation, Stephanie Marston will provide
Issue 7, July 2005
The Best Gift You Can Give Your Children
Not long ago a friend of mine had a baby. As I stared
into the window at the rows of infants lying in their bassinettes,
I was struck with how similar they looked. Yes, some had dark
hair, some curly hair, and some had no hair at all. Some were
larger or weighed a bit more than others, but mostly they were
all pretty much the same. What would they be like, I asked myself,
if they came back as adults for a reunion? What would we find?
Both research and commonsense tells us that we'd
find that some people took life by its tail and made the most
of it. Some would be successes in business or art. Others would
be exceptional parents, teachers, lawyers, nurses
, etc. Statistics also tell us that we'd find others whose futures
had taken quite a different turn. Some would have addictions to
drugs or alcohol. Others somehow would just be unable to make
their lives work.
I started to think about what caused these incredibly
varied outcomes: How could all these children who started out
so equal have ended up so differently? Oh, I suppose some of the
discrepancy could be passed off to genetics, but what about the
rest? Did a fairy fly through the room with magic dust and sprinkle
some but not others? No, not unless reality was created by Walt
In the last 25 years of my working with people in
my therapy practice and as a parent educator, I’ve discovered
that the single most important factor that determines whether
children grow up to be happy and successful is their self-esteem.
A child’s self-esteem affects every area of her existence—from
the friends she chooses, to how well she does in school, to what
kind of job she pursues, to even the person she chooses to marry.
But what exactly is this illusive, intangible thing called self-esteem?
Defined simply, self-esteem is the sense of being
lovable and capable. When these two qualities are in sync, a child
has high self-esteem. Children need first to know that they are
loved and accepted for who they are. Then, with this as a basis,
their natural impulse is to take that love and learn to contribute
it to the world in constructive ways. It’s not hard to see
that self-esteem is the best gift you can give your children.
As you work to give your child this marvelous gift,
the most important thing to understand is this: Self-esteem evolves
in kids primarily through the quality of our relationships with
them. For the first several years of their lives you are their
major influence. Later on, teachers and friends come into the
picture. But especially at the beginning, you’re it with
a capital I.
We are mirrors for our kids
Because children see parents as authority figures,
they think that the way you treat them is the way they deserve
to be treated:“What you say about me is what I am,”
is a literal truth to your child. Consequently, when children
are treated with respect, they conclude that they deserve respect
and, hence, develop self-respect. When children are treated with
acceptance, they develop self-acceptance; when they are cherished,
they conclude that they deserve to be loved and they develop self-esteem.
Conversely, if they are mistreated or abused, they conclude that
they deserve that, too.
Parents are, in effect, mirrors: What we reflect
back to our kids becomes the basis for their self-image, which
in turn influences all areas of their lives. To put it another
way, who our children are is not nearly as important as who they
think they are.