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Helping Your Children Discover Themselves

By Maggie Macaulay

In Tarzan II, the future King of the Jungle struggles to belong in a world in which he is very different. In his search for self, Tarzan faces tough challenges. We are all on this life-long journey of self-discovery, and we can help our child as she explores her place in the world.

Accepting Differences
We are all different. Even identical twins relish their differences. It is when “different” becomes “less than” or “better than” that it presents a problem. When acceptance is based on being the same as others, we interpret our differences as something to eliminate or hide. Our differences are wonderful tributes to our uniqueness. The more we embrace them, the more self-acceptance we gain. Here are a few ways we can help our children gain self acceptance:

  • Celebrate your child’s uniqueness. If most of the children you know are interested in baseball and your child wants to play the violin, encourage his interest in music. Explore different activities with your child to see where his interests lie. Let your child be your guide. If your daughter looks bored to tears at a soccer game but her face lights up when she sings in the drama production, there’s your ticket.
  • Avoid labeling your child or allowing others to label him, even if it is a “positive” label. Saying “You are the smartest student in your class” when he brings home a great report card or, “You certainly have all of the artistic talent in our family” when he draws a terrific picture may feel like encouragement. However, tagging your child as the “best” or “smartest” actually puts a lot of pressure on him. It separates him from his peers or family members and sets up competition to out do others. Motivation then comes from the outside rather than the inside. Instead, ask him what picture he is most proud of, what he likes the most about his drawing, or simply say, “Tell me about it.”
  • Teach your child that teasing, name calling, and exclusion from the group are not helpful ways to resolve conflict. Teach your child respectful ways to get what he wants and be clear that these other means are not acceptable.
  • Give your child the words to use if he is teased, called names, or excluded. “I am not for [teasing or name calling]” is an assertive response, as is “I don’t like it when you leave me out. How can we play together?”Feeling Capable
    When a child’s self-esteem is high, he can confidently handle challenges. Feeling capable is a part of self-esteem, and we feel capable by successfully meeting challenges. Here are a few ways to help build your children’s self-esteem:
  • Let them help with activities around the house. Children want to help. Let them whisk the eggs, sweep the floor, feed the pets, fold the clothes, or water the plants. Pick activities that are age appropriate so that your child can experience success. Acknowledge his helpfulness. You can probably get something done quicker or with less mess if you do it yourself, but the value the activity provides for your child far outweighs speed and neatness.
  • Do not do things for your child that she can do for herself. Pick one thing every week that you are doing for your child that she is able to do for herself and let her do it.
  • Let your child lead. Ask for his opinion or help solving a problem. Let your child choose a family activity or what to have for dinner. Put your child in charge of making sure that everyone has brushed his teeth, buckled his seat belt, or turned off the lights at night. By helping your children accept differences and providing them with opportunities to feel capable, you’ll encourage them in their journey of self-discovery.About the Author
    (c) 2005 – By Maggie Macaulay, MSEd., owner of Whole Hearted Parenting, a parent educator, coach, public speaker, and co-founder of Whole Hearted Adoption seminars. Tarzan 2, by Disney DVD, is now available! For more information, visit
    www.guerillamom.com/go/go.php/t2.

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