Several years ago a colleague at work was lamenting how badly her daughter was doing at school; she wasn’t achieving the standard she should in numeracy in particular. I commented that perhaps she should concentrate on what her daughter was good at. A few weeks later she came in glowing because her daughter had recited a poem really well.
I’m not the best parent from that respect myself – it’s all too easy to nag at your children about petty little things and to criticise them for not doing this that or the other, particularly if you’re feeling wound-up or stressed about other things in life. The sun above is a useful reminder from a course I’m currently on.
What’s interesting for me about the course is it’s also bringing up lots of things from my own childhood. I so often felt criticised: “but I was only trying to help”; “why can’t I do anything right?”. I was then conscious of it with various managers in the workplace as well – fortunately I’ve had a lot of excellent managers who have focused on my strengths and trusted me to get on with my job. The ones I have clashed with (and we all know them) would be breathing down my neck – usually the task-focused type who for whatever reason feel insecure and stressed themselves. Some people perform better with that sort of dictatorial, rules-driven approach, and like the certainty of knowing precisely what they should and shouldn’t be doing. Whilst I need to know clearly what is expected of me, I don’t expect someone to check every single little thing I’m doing – if I’m unsure I’ll ask and something inside me rebels against nit-picking. It happens in your personal life as well: if you feel someone is picking on every little thing you do, it destroys your confidence and ultimately your happiness.
Without good self-esteem, feeling as if you’re just being criticised can break you, or at least create stress and depression.
Which brings me back full circle to the sun at the top. If we bring up our children to feel good about themselves, through descriptive praise, highlighting what they are good at and why/how, we will, it is hoped, develop a good sense of self-esteem in them. And with a good sense of self and of self-esteem (as well, importantly, as good self-awareness – not just a blind belief that they’re perfect in all ways) then with any luck we can produce a generation of children who go on to do amazing things in this world. And, I know it’s something I’ve rabbited on about rather repetitively recently, but they will do those things from a position of confidence and love rather than fear and aggression.