The average parent probably doesn’t think too much about supporting the preferences of their children. Sometimes it is natural and parents are eager to engage and share in a child’s likes and dislikes. And other times, unfortunately, parents discourage a child’s strengths and weaknesses without giving thought to how it is affecting the child.
In today’s society it seems that parents try to mold their children into who they want them to be rather than allowing self-discovery and finding out who they are, thus supporting their decisions. By allowing children to look inside and understand what makes them “me”, recognize their personal qualities and individual strengths, we are empowering them to discover themselves and the world around them. When parents do this in a positive manner, we embolden our children with self-appreciation, boosting their learning potential.
Self-Discovery Starts at Birth
An infant’s parents are typically the first people to walk along a path of self-discovery with a child. They provide guidance, support and trust. Other family members and friends can help an infant discover themselves in new ways beyond what the parents have already done. A perfect example is when an infant is fussy and the caretaker, whether a parent, other family member or friend, tries new ways of soothing the baby. When this happens, the baby is discovering which way of soothing he or she likes best. It takes a village!
As children grow older, parents again are the people who help create and nourish an atmosphere of learning and discovery. Children are fervent beings and are naturally curious. It is in their human nature to want to have personal preferences—likes and dislikes. When parents positively help children discover those preferences, we are instilling a sense of personal competence that will encourage continued self-appreciation throughout life. As children get older, they will learn from others and will eventually carve their own path of self-discovery. I am sure you are now thinking back to your high school and college days. Go ahead and laugh, but those days were certainly important for you to discover who you really were…without your parents.
Allow Children to Discover Who They Are on Their Own
I recently read an article about how parenting has changed since my parents raised me. My parents, and my grandparents to be honest, were the generations that told their children to go outside and play and wouldn’t expect to hear from or see their children until the streetlights turned on. Today’s parents have been labeled as helicopter parents, eagle eyeing every move children make and not allowing them to be more than 10 feet away from us at a time.
I mention those parenting styles because the children that were told to go outside and play without constant supervision were the children who discovered who they were faster than the children who have parents steering them in a direction of what they should or should not like. That is not to say that today’s parents don’t allow for self-discovery but we have to let our children learn about themselves without us approving or disapproving constantly.
Treasure Chest Craft
A great way to do this is by doing a simple at-home craft. Find enough shoe boxes, or boxes of similar size, for each adult and child participating. Each person decorates their box so it looks like a treasure chest. When the decoration phase is complete, each person will place some of their favorite personal items inside the box. Contents could include a favorite stuffed animal, jewelry, pictures of places/people/pets, etc. or any other items that make each person feel good and feel like it explains who they are. Once the boxes are filled with things, share the contents of the treasure chest with each other and explain why you chose each item.
This activity not only allows for everyone to decorate their treasure chest in their own way, but helps children identify and appreciate the unique and special qualities that make them who they are. It allows them to see that we are all different and are allowed to like different things. Children can also learn about new things that others like and will be introduced to some things they have never heard of before. It can also be a time to discover things you don’t like too, and that is OK!
Why Self-Discovery is Important for Children
When children feel good about themselves, they are more likely to:
feel successful in group situations such as school
be able to concentrate and learn
have an easier time communicating their emotions
gain self-confidence and self-esteem
develop strong, healthy relationships
Your Self-Discovery Process is Important Too!
It is hard as a parent to remember that even though my children are my priority, so am I. It is important to stop and think about myself and my self-appreciation as an individual, not just a parent. When parents take the time to reflect on our own likes and dislikes, we are reminded that we too are different from others, even our own children, and that is good. It is also important to accept who we are, recognize and work on our strengths and weaknesses and discover new things about ourselves as we grow. It is never too late to learn something new that we like, or even don’t like, as our personal preferences may change as we age. By taking the time to do this for yourself, you will gain a better understanding of why it is important that children do this too. Remember that no one is exactly the same. We are all different and that is what makes our world unique.
What are some of the ways you nurture self-discovery in your family?
About the Author: Christine Cox is a mom to two children, Capri and Cam. When she is not writing for Proudtree, you can find her over at www.thechoosymommy.com or www.choosykids.com. As a family, the Cox’s love to be outdoors, play and watch sports (Go Steelers, Penguins and Pirates!) and swim. In her free time, (haha, I know, what is free time?) Christine loves to do yoga and relax!