I wanted to share with you a passage from an amazing, life changing book that I highly recommend, called The Gift by Edith Eger:
“Unfortunately, many families, in trying to motivate children to do well for themselves, create a culture of achievement in which the child’s “being” gets entwined with her “doing”; she’s taught she matters not for who she is, but for how she performs and behaves. Children are under such intense pressure … if a good report card or good manners earn love, that’s not love at all. It’s manipulation. When so much emphasis is placed on achievement, children don’t get to experience unconditional love – that they’re loved no matter what, that they’re free to be themselves, that it’s permissible to make mistakes, that we’re all in a process of learning and becoming, and that learning can be exciting and joyful.”
No one’s value or self-worth should be contingent upon their performance. We should never feel what we achieve or how we behave makes us more loved, loveable, or valuable. And certainly, when we are dealing with children and adolescents, their ability to feel or be loved should never be conditional in any way, shape, or form. Children must know that they will be loved whether or not they make mistakes, make poor choices on occasion, or do things that their parents or teachers may not approve of.
This does not mean, however, that you cannot or should not address any negative behavior. As per Shimon Russel, LCSW, “all children need and flourish from rules, structure, and discipline” and giving this to children is imperative for their feelings of security and safety. That said, nevertheless how we implement and administer these rules, structure, and discipline, must be done with love and with kindness and with compassion, so that their ultimate purpose is not misunderstood or resented.
Often times we pigeonhole children into a role – the responsible child, the academic child, the funny child, the argumentative one, etc. This seemingly innocuous “mask” that we place on our child can become almost prisonlike for them as the child may then struggle to develop his or her own identity and self-knowledge because they have been labelled as something else.
One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is to listen to them, to really hear them, and to choose to not only to react to what it is they are saying, but to respond to what is actually going on with them. This will solidify the bond of trust as well as your overall relationship with them, and will boost your child’s confidence in his or her self.