In thinking about self-confidence, self-worth and self-esteem in my kids, I am asking myself some questions. I definitely don’t have all the answers and make plenty of mistakes but I am finding that the questions are worth asking and considering, and most definitely worth praying about!
How am I measuring the value of my children and how do I express/communicate that to them?
What am I telling my children about their value and worth?
How much emphasis do I put on things such as performance, character development, spiritual growth, etc…?
Do I applaud grade point averages louder and more vocally than I do moments where my kids learn repentance, where they look to do good for other or show kindness and mercy?
We all know that we live in a performance-based society.
It is a tough scale to balance on.
In thinking about myself, to be honest, sometimes I praise my kiddo a bit much, for things that really should just be expected. Sometimes I harshly criticize things that are not even important! And sometimes I even overlook tremendous achievements in the life of my child because I think something else may be more important in the midst of a busy day…
One thing I really struggle with is being honest with my kids about their shortcomings and doing it in a way that helps them to process their mistakes in a healthy and biblically-sound manner.
My oldest son Lincoln has always been on the average scales for height and weight. He met all of his milestones. He gets all A’s and excels at sports. We have always seen him succeed. The start of this blog series began because of the shocking distress I found my son in when he was not succeeding at a sport he was working so hard in- wrestling. It still hurts for me to remember the words that came out of his mouth during one of his matches where he lost- “Mommy- I hate myself right now.”
It took me weeks to process why in the world my son would come to this conclusion: that losing a sports match= hating himself. My husband and I are supportive of him- wins or losses. He knows that we love him no matter what. We explain to him how hard sports can be and that the point is to work hard, do your best, be a good team player and to be a good sport. Why would he feel like he hates himself? What have we done wrong?
I learned a lot by observing how my husband handled this issue with my son. He explained to my son that our emotions cannot be the dictators of our self-worth. He said simply- “Son, your self-worth is not up for questioning, you are a child of God and that is the end of the story.” He validated my son’s feelings- he felt like a failure, he felt like a loser, but my husband emphasized, he was NOT a failure or a loser even if he lost the match or failed to make the points he wanted to make. My husband was very firm with my son and it woke me up as well.
I am emotional. I let my emotions dictate a lot. I know truth. I know God’s truth, but if I’m honest, sometimes my emotions take over and I don’t always live out truth. I know I am a daughter of the King, but if someone hurts my feelings, I will feel rejected and I can quickly begin listening to thoughts of self-condemnation and get down on myself.
You see, this battle for understanding self-worth is so multi-faceted. And it is as much a learning process for US as it is for our children! We have new things to learn, new truths to put on and new ways of thinking that we need to live out for them to see!
When my son fails and makes mistakes, I want him to know that he is loved no matter what. But I also want him to know that there is always room for improvement and that he can fail and still be strong enough to get up, work hard and make improvements. I want him to see his accomplishments as icing on the cake- not something he craves and needs. It feels natural for me to cheer and applaud and I always will but what I don’t want is for my son to be conditioned to crave applause and success.
When he is faced with failure I don’t want him crumbling under the weight of his feelings.
I’ve always noticed that when my son does well in sports, my husband is a very modest cheerer. He says- “Good job son.” And if my son does not do so well, he says something about it- “This is where you made your mistake. You also did not pay attention to what your coach was saying.” He gives him an honest appraisal and my son seems to honestly take comfort in that. My husband is not afraid to tell my son what he did wrong. And he shows my son the same amount of love and respect regardless.
So what am I learning right now. First of all, I am learning that I am not a perfect parent (of course) and that God loves me and I am in a process. I am reminding myself that I am not alone in parenting my sons and I am so thankful that the Holy Spirit is bringing to light some things I, personally, need to work on. And right now I am stepping back a bit and asking God to show me my role in the development of my son’s self-confidence?
This is what I know right now- my role is to show Lincoln and Benjamin who they are in Christ Jesus and to remind them of this at all moments in their lives when they start to question, to stand by them when they make mistakes, to show them how to process those big feelings and emotions and to explain to them that feelings do not tell us who we are in those hard moments in life. Lastly, when and as led by the Holy Spirit, my role is to give my kids honest, loving, respectful feedback as they go throughout their lives.
My son still struggles from time to time but I have seen now on many occasions, my son being able to admit when he makes mistakes. He does not cry as often about them. He figures out what he did and he moves on. I can’t even do that half the time:) But I’m learning from my husband and from my son…and I praise God for His mercy and grace in teaching this Mama through my family!
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Liz Jones is a 38 year old mother of two boys- ages four and eight. Married to Aaron for 14 years who was the first Christian man she ever dated a guy who always makes her laugh and pushes her to believe in herself. Liz works full-time outside the home as a Vocational Evaluator where she helps individuals with disabilities determine what kinds of employment they can pursue. She is a Women’s Ministry Leader (which always surprises her) in a small church plant in her neighborhood where she leads a small group of women, with lots of help!, to grow in their walks with the Lord. Liz loves most things mothers love-coffee, going to the bathroom alone to check Facebook on her phone, good conversations with friends, accessories that make jeans and a pair of boots look good and wearing pajamas as much as possible.
For more about living imperfectly but growing and thriving in God’s grace:
Angry Mama’s and Gracious Kiddos: http://www.christianworkingmama.blogspot.com/2016/02/angry-mamas-and-gracious-kiddos.html
Morning Mayhem Moments: