It seems to come so naturally to talk to your baby, toddler or preschooler about how they are made. In fact, the opportunities seem as endless as the pile of laundry that lies before you. I remember talking to my girls about their bodies as I changed their diapers or bathed them or as we danced around the kitchen island.
But as my girls have grown up, I’ve noticed that it gets exponentially harder to talk about how they are made. Usually this is because I’m no longer changing their diaper (thank God!) or helping them take a bath. But sometimes it’s harder because our kids start to realize that they don’t like how they are made. Maybe they don’t like the fact that they are smaller or less skilled in athletics. Or maybe they’ve been made fun of because of their appearance or personality. It’s hard to like how you are made when someone makes fun of you. Or it’s hard to talk about how they are made, because quite frankly you don’t like who your child is becoming these days (hello, 14 year olds). So many factors make it more difficult to see how your kids were made on purpose and for a purpose. And it’s hard to help our kids see that, too.
But noticing and commenting on how they are made is crucial to their confidence. They need to know that they were made on purpose. They need to know that they have value apart from anything external—that they have value simply because they were made.
But how do we do this? How can we build confidence in our kids about how they were made?
1. Pay attention.
Go out of your way to be a noticer. Pay attention to how your child was made and take note of it. It’s easy to get caught in noticing all the ways of correction or all the ways your child needs to improve. But it’s not so easy to notice all the good (especially if that child pushes all your buttons). Instead of being annoyed that she literally stops to smell the flowers, pay attention to the fact that she was created to notice the beauty in the ordinary. Or notice how she loves people, which is why she wants to talk to every person she passes. Practice being a student of your child—not for the purpose of seeing what needs to improve but for the purpose of seeing the unique ways your child was made on purpose.
2. Say it out loud.
After you have noticed how your child was made, share it. It could be as simply as “I love your smile.” “Thanks for being so helpful.” “You are so strong to endure running 3 miles in PE.” If this feels forced to you, think about what you wish someone would notice about you. And then, use that to help you speak affirming words over your child.
Dr. Deborah Tillman, America’s Super Nanny, recently said on the Surviving Sarah podcast that every night she would sit down with her son at bedtime and say to him, “I see greatness in you.” Then, she would speak something specific to him, and then ask him to say one great thing about himself. That is powerful! How much more confidence would your child (or even yourself) have if they heard every night that there is something great in how they were made?
3. Say it often.
I think it is safe to say that most of us don’t hear many positive words about who we are on a regular basis. Research has shown that for every 1 positive word we hear 5 negative words. We are quite literally starved of positive affirmation. So imagine how needed it is for our kids to hear positive affirmation about how they were made on purpose and for a purpose as they progress through development. So commit to saying something positive about how your child was made every day. Maybe it’s every morning before they leave for school. Or maybe you could leave a note in their lunchbox or on the dashboard of their car or on their bathroom mirror.
Notice the good. Say it out loud and often. Doing that will build confidence in your kids that they were made on purpose and for a purpose. And along the way, it will change your perspective towards your kids. You’ll find that you notice the good things more than the things that need improvement.