Lately I have been a little disturbed by what Michael has been saying. While he has been challenging at times not making the best behavior choices, I have been hearing the words after we reprimand him gently;
“I know I’m not a good boy. I’m a bad boy.”
I don’t know where he is getting this language. I know at school they focus on the behavior, not the child. At home it is the same thing. Still, I hear the echoes of low self-esteem in the background. It is the echo from my own childhood where I never thought I was good enough or worthy. I still don’t know where those feelings came from. It took me almost thirty years to truly learn to love myself as I am today, flaws and all, even with the whole world telling me I was good and kind and decent. As a parent and one of an exceptional child who has extremely high anxiety, my heart breaks for him. All Dad and I can do is continue to correct his language. “You made a bad choice. You are a good boy.” My parents did not use this language with me, not because they did not show me they loved me in other ways. They did not know the words to use. I learned them at an older age.
It is so important we teach our kids self-love. This is not from the “I’m amazing and need to win at everything and never fail or else I can complain about it” school of thought we sometimes see in our world today. Some people mistakenly think kids are not allowed to be told what to do. It is the end of the world if they get a bad grade etc. No, these all build character and resilience in children. What we need to teach is self-love and accepting yourself for who you are completely, warts and all. Especially with children who have autism and other challenges, they need to know and be taught how to value themselves in a harshly competitive world that may not know how to teach them. Here are some ways I am working with Michael to teach him self-love:
- Teach the language of self-love: First, we need to show them the language to use. “I made a bad choice. It is ok. I will learn from it.” NOT “I am bad.”
- Model positive self-talk ourselves: When our children hear us being gentle with ourselves, they will learn to do the same. If you make a mistake, cut yourself some slack. You can even make a joke if it is something small.
- Catch the good moments: How many of us only comment on the bad, parents, teachers, kids themselves? It is human nature. Catch them doing good things. Praise those things, not over the top. Just a “good job. I’m proud of you,” will do. Think how you feel to be appreciated.
- Let them choose tasks which they like: Every day at home or school, kids need to do tasks which they enjoy and are good at. This will balance out the challenging ones, and as much as possible, finding some way they can personalize these tasks can help too.
- Teach them how to give back and help others: Empathy is so important and is a hard skill to teach to children who have a hard time relating to other people due to how they are wired. Find ways to build in helping others, from giving to charity, volunteering time, including a lonely friend at school into games.
Exceptional Parents, what have you tried to help your Exceptional Child learn to love themselves and the world more? It’s not easy raising children. They make us ask the hard questions, and unless we are letting them raise us and our awareness at the same time, we will run into problems. Always go with the particular flow of your child. You know them best. And don’t be afraid to try new things to help them see how special they are. We all have something to contribute to the world. Until next time.
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Are you looking to make changes in your special needs parenting life? Do you need support on your journey? I am a writer and parent coach who is passionate about empowering parents to trust their own instinct when raising their exceptional children with autism, and remembering that parenthood is as much a journey for us as childhood is for our children. For more information on my parent coaching programs, and to book a FREE 30 Minute Consultation Session, see my website: http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com.