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Jun 052012
 

 

When our children are first born we look at them in awe. We’ll sit and stare at them, falling deep into their eyes. For many of us it’s hard to put these moments into words. Often times we don’t know what we see but we know it’s the best feeling in the world. As our children grow up there are less opportunities for that type of lengthy gazing. Heck my kids won’t sit still long enough to eat some food let alone for me to ponder their souls. However, that same feeling we had when we were able to sit and stare is still there.

While in those moments we were seeing with our eyes we were actually aware on a much deeper level. That awareness allowed us to see their inherent qualities and all that is good and true about them. Some of the inherent qualities I talk about are lovable, valuable, worthy, precious, creative, beautiful, and many others. These qualities look familiar to us because even though sometimes we question their validity they are all true about us as well. Inherent qualities may be dismissed or denied but they are with us at birth and never leave.

As our children get older there are plenty of reminders about what is “wrong” with them or how they need to perform or do things beyond just being themselves to gain attention, affection, acceptance, and appreciation. This sets the stage for them as they get older to go find ways to feel loved, lovable, etc. Perhaps if we appreciated those inherent qualities in them a little more often they would know that they don’t need to search past themselves to find love. Just maybe when they received messages from others like they’re stupid, or ugly, or unworthy, etc. they would question them instead of learning to accept them.

In the very least, I can’t think of many better ways to honor your child and help them to establish a sense of self than giving them appreciations. Appreciations can be kept very simple and would probably work best when they are not in the middle of “doing something”. I advocate this approach only because you may not want to associate them having to do something (ie; painting, cleaning, performing) in order to be appreciated for who they are. This is a time for them to be reminded of what’s true about them regardless of what they do. Again, this deeper level of awareness is a reflection of their “being” not their “doing”. Just before they go to bed at night would be a great time to let them know that you appreciate how creative, loving, lovable, valuable, precious, curious, and smart they are. These are just a few examples of what you might appreciate about them. When they are old enough you might want to write a few out and have them read them to themselves. Hearing themselves remind them can resonate even deeper.

In a world where we can guarantee we’ll be hearing a lot of false things about ourselves isn’t it nice to know that a simple reminder of what is true can go a long way? What are some ways you’ve found to remind your children what’s true about them?

Mar 072012
 

I can remember the first thing I said outloud as the Dr. pulled Jake from my wife the day he was born.

BALLS!

I was so excited to have a son! I would have bet anything we were going to have a second girl. From that moment on it’s been such an amazing experience watching him throughout the last two and a half years of his precious life. Watching him grow and seeing the differences between his personality and his big sister (who’s only 16 months older) has been amazing.

But now?

Now, he’s found his penis. As in, “I’m going to touch this thing until it stands as tall as a toy soldier and tell you I have an itch”.

So now what?

Penis’ have a horrible rap in our society. Here’s what I mean:

Someone cuts you off in traffic and they’ve transformed into a Penis because they’re now a “Prick”. Maybe that guy took your parking space at the mall and he’s now transformed into a “Dick head”. Things like oral sex which are pleasurable have now turned into outright insults like calling someone a “C0#&sucker”!

Not only have we confused the penis with what we call our worst enemies but now it’s used to determine our manhood. I mean afterall when we’re not “Man Enough” we must have a small penis too! It’s a never ending horrible cycle of hate for the penis and it starts when we’re just boys.

Jake is starting to touch himself now, in a very innocent way mind you, and he has no idea the penis is this horrible thing. So I have a choice at this very impressionable point in his life. I can tell him to stop touching his penis because that’s gross, and we shouldn’t touch ourselves and everything else that goes along with reminding a 2 year old that there’s something wrong with him OR I can help nurture, love, and accept him for who he is. He is a boy with a penis and he’s finding out that touching it probably tickles or feels good in some capacity. His penis isn’t this horrible thing that we’ve convinced ourselves it is. It’s a part of the male body and is a body part not too dissimilar from many others. Do I want Jake growing up learning that it’s okay to sit in school at 13 years old “playing with himself”? Of course I don’t but that’s not my point here. Of course there is a time and place to “explore” your body. At this point, now that he’s out of diapers, he’s only touching himself when his pants are off or when he’s butt naked which isn’t the majority of the day. I also don’t encourage him to touch himself. In fact, I don’t make much of a deal about it. My wife and I will ask him if he has to go “pee pee” and that’s about it. When the time is right and if it came to the point where we needed to say something we would certainly encourage him to touch himself when he’s alone or at home. However, we’re far from that point in his young life.

For my 2 year old son the last thing I want to pass along is that there is some part of his body that’s not good or that there’s something “wrong with him”. It’s easy for parents to feel some shame when their children touch themselves, especially in a public setting. Unfortunately, we wind up passing that shame on to our own children. We do everything in our power to get them “to stop”! Normally, it’s in a hurried, loud fashion because “others are looking” and we want them to stop now! The problem is now we’ve given our own shame over to our impressionable children and they’re now left to carry on with that.

It’s about time we stop passing on all that shame around little boys and their penis’. Children have no boundaries and just want to be loved. Loving starts with us parents and the best thing we can do is affirm, accept, and appreciate our little boys even if they happen to discover there’s something between their legs.

Oct 112011
 

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Happiness, fulfillment, validation, and acceptance are things that most of us search for on a daily basis. We look all over for it. Sometimes we look to our friends to find them. Maybe we’ll be on Facebook or Twitter or some other form of Social Networking. We might even be out shopping among strangers or walking down the street looking for it. We certainly look for it when we’re making that “gotta have it now” purchase and we try our best to get it when we choose to have “one more bite”. All day, every day we find ways we seek happiness, fulfillment, validation, and acceptance. Most of the time we’re looking for it and not even realizing that’s what’s happening.

From an early age we’re taught that these things are found “out there”. In fact without even realizing it our own parents help to plant that seed. They don’t intend to do that and for all intents and purposes have no idea that’s what’s happening. After all, what could be wrong with saying,

“Honey, you did an amazing job!” or “Wow, that is beautiful!” or how about “I’m so proud of you!”?

Praise from our parents isn’t the only form of acceptance and validation we receive. We also receive it from friends growing up, we get it from teachers, coaches, and even from the television shows we watch. It doesn’t take long to realize that the majority of all the forms of fulfillment, validation, and acceptance, which in turn make us happy, come from the outside.

It’s not hard to see how, as a child, we learn very quickly that the only way of obtaining these things is by looking outside of ourselves. When we get older it’s so ingrained that we don’t even realize we’re doing it. Except this time it takes much more to meet that quota of happiness, fulfillment, validation, and acceptance and we’ll try a lot harder to get it.

I don’t think it’s wrong to find these things externally. However, I believe that many of us aren’t even aware that there’s any other options. We’re not aware that we can actually give all these things to ourselves. We’re not aware that we can choose to accept external validation on our own terms. Often times we’ll feel like there’s something missing inside or we’ll feel a sense of lonliness, maybe even scared. Sometimes we have stronger feelings like we don’t feel good enough, or loveable or even worthy. With thoughts and feelings like this it’s easy to see how we’re almost forced to go “outside” to find ourselves, to find happiness, fulfillment, validation, and acceptance.

Because we are born with our esteem intact (perhaps not self actualized at such an early age) we’re actually able with the proper love and attention to maintain self esteem throughout our childhood and adult life. However, keeping that self esteem intact requires great intention and focus from our caregivers. Outside of the home there are so many other factors that will play into trying to break that down. That is why as parents I think we have a great opportunity and responsibility to break the cycle.

Not too long ago when O would come home from Pre-School and share a project I’d tell her how proud I was of her. I’d give her huge hugs and tell her how beautiful whatever she created was. I’d shower her with love, affection, and validation. She would see how happy I would get because I’d be full of smiles. In turn she would often smile and feel good.

Lately I decided I’d turn the tables around a bit. This time when O came home to show me an art project she’s worked on I’d ask her how she felt doing it. The very first time I asked this I think she was a bit baffled but after asking her again she’d reply, “it’s good”. Now, I ask her and she gets a huge smile on her face and tells me how happy and great she feels doing it! I immediately shower her with praise and appreciation of my own. The point being is that I’m teaching her to look inside for happiness and fulfillment. I’m showing her that the very thing we are all looking for as adults has been inside of us since we were children. I’m showing her that she can realize these same feelings that just up until recently she was only getting from me.

Again, I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t praise our children or that they should not receive validation or approval from external sources. I’m only suggesting that we can help reinforce their self esteem by simply asking them to look inside. It’s a simple step that leads to some huge stepping stones later in life. Perhaps many of us lost our sense of self at an early age but that doesn’t mean we have to repeat the cycle. We can give the greatest gift we’ll ever give our children, the gift of self.

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