Chapters One and Two of this lovely book by Dr. Louise Hart is like a balm for the soul! The opening of chapter one talks about how the real work of parenting is often unsupported and undervalued. Parenting is the most important job as what we do when our children are small often goes on to affect not only the child him or herself, but future generations. The author points out we are influenced by our family, our culture, and the times we live in – but that the family can be the most important influence.
We have a choice as to what patterns we have learned and if we choose to repeat these patterns with our children. We can rise above our old patterns, if only we can see them for what they are! The author suggests taking a look at our own biographies – what made us feel loved or not loved, what was discipline like in the family in which you were raised, what helped you feel good or bad about yourself, how did the people in your family communicate? We can learn from our own biographies and heal our own woundedness. We can do this in place of wounding our children.
Children imitate us, so let’s give them the models of how we think, how we love, what we value, how we problem- solve, how we resolve conflict. We are teaching and modeling for our children all of the time! If we don’t have new and productive patterns to give, then we must raise our own self-esteem in order to have this to give to our children.
In Chapter Two, the author talks about how we make healthy children from the inside out by valuing who the child is, what the child is, and accepting the child as they develop and grow. We show them that we have self-worth and our own dignity. We have the absolute right to be treated with self-respect, the right to be happy, the right to accept ourselves. People with low self-esteem will try to prove themselves through what they do (possibly workaholics or bragging about accomplishments), what they have (materialism), what they know, how they perform in front of others, how they look, who they are friends with or married to. These are external conditions! People who seek approval or who are people pleasers are thinking of external value. True self-esteem is based upon who we are. We can cherish ourselves and who we are!
Children look up to us as adults and authority figures. We reflect back to them what we “value” and see in them. This becomes the basis for self-image for children, and influences their lives. Children identify with labels given to them. Our children are not broken; they don’t have deficits. They are who they are, their strengths and their challenges. Let us love them in joy. Self-esteem with children begins with bonding. This early primary attachment through touching, rocking, cuddling, cooing, making eye contact, soothing, breastfeeding becomes the bonding for the future. Love with complete acceptance is outside of daily behavior or “bad days”.
“Children have their own life force, their own opinions, dreams, and destinies. The challenge of parenting is to allow and encourage children to be themselves while guiding, supporting, and celebrating their process of growth. Successful parents not only love their children unconditionally, but also protect them, set limits, and assume as much responsibility as is necessary for the children’s age and developmental stage.” – page 13. Such a great statement! The limits and what we do for children should change with their age, and the letting go we do as children age into the upper teen years provides the basis for the older teenager’s self-confidence and self-worth.
There is a great self-esteem game to play at the end of Chapter Two – try it out! This is such a tremendous book, please don’t miss out. Grab a copy at your local library or through Amazon and follow along!