Free to Be…..You and Me…: Three Rules for Personal Comfort

2 Apr

Part Two of Four

As I mentioned in my previous post, Part One of this series, I think that figuring out who you are, and being confident enough to trust who you are, is one of the most important things we can accomplish in life. It’s NOT easy and I sure haven’t mastered it yet… But, it is something I work on daily and most definitely something that I try to instill in Ben every chance I get.

So, here is my first of Three Absolutes for finding and keeping one’s personal comfort:

For adults to understand and share with their children:

  1. Know Thyself

Toddlers have no trouble letting you know what they like and can’t stand, right? From food to games to friends, they are right out there with it! Because toddlers are so completely ‘me’-centered they can’t be bothered with what you or I think. Oh to have that confidence!!

But as kids go through elementary school, they become aware of those around them, want to have friends, be accepted and fit in. All of a sudden, they start looking around to see if what they like is something that is what their classmates like, too – from afterschool sports and activities to acceptable packed lunches to North Face jackets. And just as indelible, they start picking up, repeating and most often believing what they are hearing at home.

Whether you realize it or not – your kid’s teacher often knows what sports teams you root for, which families are social friends and even what your political preferences lean toward. It would be nice to think they have parents who encourage individuality and kindness to all, but unfortunately many children may hear, and start believing, negative things about specific people or groups. And, maybe most detrimentally, some parents may start pushing their children to exclusivity to make sure their children are not only confident, but overly confident and dismissive of those they deem less worthy. Yuck!

In middle and high school it gets even trickier– by this time, the kids know damn well what they like – school subjects, musical tastes, restaurants and extra-curricular activities, but lots of kids feel like they have to give up the things they once loved to fit in or be recognized. Many of these kids are too proud to admit it or too busy detaching from their parents to be guided to keep believing in themselves and what they know will make them happy.

I still remember the day Ben declared that after being an early, avid reader, “no one reads books anymore, Mom”. That was in about 6th grade and it broke my heart to see him ‘think’ he had to stop doing something he loved because of some misperception that reading – and smart kids – aren’t cool enough. Somewhere along the way, however, on a night where sleep escaped him, Ben picked up a book about a basketball coach and remembered what a comfort and ‘friend’ a good book could be.

 

Know Thyself – KID TALK:

(What to instill in kids) Figure out what and who you like, don’t like, can tolerate or not. Take all the time you need to make those decisions. Remember that no one knows you deep inside, except for you and you have the right and responsibility to do what makes you happiest.

And as parents, we should be casually commenting and admiring our kids when they come to the decision to go to floor hockey because it’s their favorite sport, even when the majority of their classmates are off to flag football. We should praise our kids when they hang out with friends who they have always enjoyed and not just those who we think are good enough or cool enough for them. And we should model it by our choice of activities, friends, acts of charity and appropriate comments!

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