Liking the Child You Love

How to build a better relationship with your kids—even when they're driving you crazy.

Know Your Value

Teaching children self-esteem.

One of my good friends, Ed, is a quadriplegic. Now 38 years old, he was tackled at age 14 by three opposing players in a high school football game. This resulted in a tragic accident that left him paralyzed and not being able to physically move much more than his head. Yet his spirit, resilience, and optimism have greatly inspired me over the ten years I have known him. He has also touched the hearts of many others. 

When I first met my fiancée Oi Yin a few years ago, I shared Ed's story with her. She was so deeply touched. We soon visited my friend together. She marveled at his resilience and saw the sign on his wall with a message that has deeply impacted our lives. That message is only three powerful words: Know Your Value.

Oi Yin, as many of the readers of this blog know, is now terminally ill with pancreatic cancer. She continues to write her ethical will for her children in the message below. Her inspiring words for her children in this message are for them to know their value.  Equally impressive as her powerful words to her children is also Oi Yin's value of herself. At the time Oi Yin wrote this message, she was in the second week of her seven weeks of round the clock chemotherapy (wearing a continuous pump) and also receiving daily radiation. Instead of surrendering to the fatigue and nausea and giving up on life, she pushes herself to share her wisdom to enrich the lives of her children and all who read her powerful messages.

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Only You Are In Charge Of Your Value.

Scoring the winning goal on the soccer or lacrosse field, hitting the winning homerun, coming in first in the spelling bee, or having a wonderful dance recital will not alone give your child a lasting sense of value. Yes, it is fantastic for children to garner such accomplishments. At the same time, when the shots don't go in the goal, when the strikeouts occur, or when the science test grade is not so hot, then what? How do we inspire our children to value themselves, especially when they struggle in life?

Children need those all important self talk and reasoning skills to learn how to truly know their value over the long term. Without such skills, they can't take their own personal inventory of past efforts and accomplishments to coach themselves to feel good about themselves in the face of difficult times.  We all know that self-esteem is so important for all of us as human beings. It's crucial as parents that we facilitate our children to learn how to value themselves.  Realize that we don't just "give" our children self-esteem as a gift. Rather, as Oi Yin so powerfully illustrates below, we empower our children to continually give the gift of self-esteem to themselves.

Oi Yin's following message to her children is about the importance of them knowing their value. Most importantly, her words poignantly illustrate how to help our children know their own value over the long run. Oi Yin's time is limited for her to be able to tell her children these words in person yet her message is truly timeless.

Message to my children

Sienna and Derek,
As you mature each day, my desire is that you coach yourself to Know Your Value (KYV). KYV are positive mental drills you do for yourself. List the many ways you value yourself. Be completely honest and don't be bashful and hesitant with giving yourself accolades when you're doing your KYV drills.  These are drills of looking within your souls and allowing yourselves to accept all the great qualities about who you are and the dreams soon to be awaken by you. These are not exercises of arrogance, instead they're about loving yourselves, which is an important step in knowing your value. It takes mental courage to accept the goodness in you especially when we live in a world where we're surrounded by negativity if we let it.

Below is Mama's KYV drill when I think of you:
You are extraordinary, kind hearted, compassionate, thoughtful, responsible, imaginative, loyal, funny, beautiful, handsome, empathetic, wise, full of integrity, and courageous. You have amazing dreams that you will achieve, because you are hard working, determined, capable, and unbelievably committed.

You will run into all walks of life. Some people might be just like you and live by similar moral values while others may not. If they don't, they might try to sway you to compromise your values. In those moments, KYV will help you to stand up to them, allowing you to stay true to your beliefs and make sound choices even if it means facing rejection or being made fun of. On the flip side, KYV will also help you to have the confidence to bounce back after admitting to mistakes and apologizing when warranted.

KYV is your shield of armor against peer pressure and can serve as guidance for good judgment. Stay in mental and moral shape by practicing your KYV drills. Always Know Your Value!

 

Jeffrey Bernstein, Ph.D., has authored four books, including 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child.

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