In reading even a couple posts from this blog, you could probably guess that my Mom made a huge impact in my life for the good. But, as with all people, she was not perfect. An aspect of our relationship which I struggled with was believing that she accepted me as I was. If I look at the amount of time she chose to spend with me, the topics of her heart which she confided in me, and the amount of laughter we shared, then I know I was not only approved, but admired. But her praise of my strengths was not as much as my tender heart required. She tended to bring up matters that I needed to fix rather than where I excelled. As a result, I often felt like I was fighting for her approval.
I remember one incident in particular during my mid-twenties where my Mom mentioned that my weight was getting out of control. I know where her heart was coming from. She wanted to see her daughter live a healthy life. She was a health-conscious woman herself and wanted to see those same values acted upon in my life. Plus, she’s my Mom. Moms don’t stop worrying about their kids at a certain age. That love and concern is never-ending. I already know this to be fact even though my eldest is only seven years-old. Despite logically understanding where she was coming from, her words broke my heart. All I heard was that I was fat and, therefore, unlovable and unapproved. It’s not a rationale thought process but, sadly, it’s my default thought-process. It was not the first time she brought up her concern about my weight, but it was the first time I responded with my true feelings. I explained to her that when she continually reminds me of my weight issues, it just makes me want to eat more. Again, not a logical nor healthy thought process.
Around this same time, I heard this talk given by Jeffrey R. Holland, an American educator and religious leader, that stuck with me. His words are as follows:
We must be so careful in speaking to a child. What we say or don’t say, how we say it and when is so very, very important in shaping a child’s view of himself or herself…Be constructive in your comments to a child—always. Never tell them, even in whimsy, that they are fat or dumb or lazy or homely. You would never do that maliciously, but they remember and may struggle for years trying to forget—and to forgive. And try not to compare your children, even if you think you are skillful at it. You may say most positively that “Susan is pretty and Sandra is bright,” but all Susan will remember is that she isn’t bright and Sandra that she isn’t pretty. Praise each child individually for what that child is, and help him or her escape our culture’s obsession with comparing, competing, and never feeling we are “enough.”
With my own childhood struggles and these words always remaining in the back of my head, I strive to find the best way to magnify my children’s strengths and lovingly encourage them in matters that they need assistance. But I’m at a loss.
Each of my girls feels like the other one does “everything” better. Vivian wants to draw and sing like Abby and Abby wants to run and get in less trouble like Vivian. I’ll admit, I haven’t quite figured out how to support and nourish my girl’s accomplishments and strengths without the other one feeling down for not receiving the same remarks. It’s difficult to accept, embrace, and improve upon our own strengths rather than long for, struggle, and try to catch-up to other’s strengths. I’m only now learning how to be OK with competing with myself versus others. Now I have to figure out how to instill that way of thinking in my children. I suppose, as Holland suggests, the key is in praising them individually.
But where I normally would be giving you my two cents and more, I would really appreciate hearing about experiences you’ve had that have helped you nurture your strengths and work on your weaknesses. Is there a healthy way to share with a loved one a concern you have about their actions or behavior? I’ve often wondered if there was a way that my Mom could have addressed my weight that would have inspired me to act instead of react.
I think one of the things that I have learned and shared with my children is that if one person is blessed with a talent it does not mean that you are not blessed with the ability to perform that same talent. My daughter Abby has a naturally beautiful singing voice, but that doesn’t mean that Vivian cannot be a singer. I’ll be straight with you, Viv’s voice is way out of tune, but she sings with so much heart that as long as she puts her mind in to practicing, then she’ll reach her goal. I suppose the same goes for my husband and I. He is a natural in the kitchen. He can randomly put stuff together and it tastes delish. He is the cook in our home. But just because he is a good cook doesn’t automatically mean I’m a bad cook. I think that’s where my daughters, and I, struggle in understanding our strengths. Our default settings tell us that if it’s not our strength then it’s our weakness. It’s that black and white thinking that made me want to eat more burgers when my Mom brought up my weight. If I couldn’t please her by being fit, then I would relish in gaining weight. I would show her! But what was I really showing her? Nothing but spite and stubbornness.
So, dear readers, enlighten me. Share with me your “A-Ha Moments” that helped you to believe in yourself and/or raise a generation that does the same.
2 thoughts on “What Motivates You to Nurture The Good in You?”
There are 11 kids in my family, and I can completely understand sibling rivalry. With that many kids, you are constantly trying to get attention from mom and dad. I love my parents. But their job was not easy. Whether they had eleven children or three, I think the tendency is try to encourage one by showing off the talents of another. “So-and-so is really good at homework, don’t you want to be like them?”. Unfortunately, this can have the undesired effect of making the children either compete or resent one another. While I love my mom and dad, I also know that they occasionally did not use good language or strong parenting skills to deal with us. We laugh now about having to dodge shoes as we went around the corner. 🙂 I am also sad to admit that at times I have fallen back into the same pattern my parents gave me. Sometimes I also use language and words that I know hurt my children. It is a cycle I have tried to break all of my life. One thing that has helped me recently is remembering that we do not all have to have the same talents. Just because my brother was an excellent artist does not mean that I also must be an excellent artist. Or an artisat al all. Our father in heaven gave us talents to expand upon and complement one another. If we all had the most perfect singing voice ever, how would we ever appreciate and cheer the person who sings off key with all their heart? My advice is to let them do whatever contents them, and love them no matter who they are or who they develop to be. I seriously doubt there is anybody in the world who does not have insecurities and fears. The best thing we can ever do as parents is to help each individual shave off a little bit of that fear, bit by bit. When I do something as lame as use harsh language to one of my children, I try as hard as I can to go back and express my appreciation and happiness and joy for who they are. Even admit my own dears and faults, which thing ym parents never did. I know they had them, but we never talked about them. You only know how weak your parents were when you are saring down your own children. I hope that they will remember me as someone who loves them, just as I remember my parents someone who loves me, no matter what the feelings or inadequacies that I possess. It is also easy to take our own insecurities and pattern them to our children. Remember, you are not your mother, and neither are you your daughter. I often console myself that a God in Heaven made each one of us individually, and that if He was the only one to ever accept me, I would be just fine. That is a great guide for children.
This is a good question, one that I don’t know the answer to, so I’d be curious to come back and read other people’s comments and solutions. But I can say, as a middle child, I was always trying to stand out and get noticed, which means doing the opposite of what everyone was doing. I didn’t want to be like everyone. I wanted to me my own special me. Everyone took spanish, I took French. If everyone went left, I tried to go right. It’s sweet that your daughters want to be like each other, but encourage them to be their unique selves. Everyone is a snowflake, and no two are the same. But that’s what makes them beautiful. (So you tell them that and then play one direction’s song in the background. BOOM. Done.) -SH