“I don’t think anyone can grow unless he’s loved exactly as he is now, appreciated for what he is rather than what he will be.” — Mister Rogers
As your child develops, their only perception of themselves is the way you view them. You are the mirror they look into to see their flaws, strengths, and potential. They gain their idea of self by what you say and how you treat them. And this view of themselves will follow them well into adulthood.
If you want to raise a resilient, happy child, this is the one thing they need from you:
“I Love YOU”
Your child needs to know that your love for them does not depend on anything other than who they are inside. It doesn’t matter what they wear. It doesn’t matter how they talk. It doesn’t matter what they accomplish or what mistakes they make. You love them.
They need to know that you think that they have intrinsic value that does not change. You will always love them for their messes, triumphs, and everything between.
Sure, maybe you tell them that. And that is a great start. But children have a great B.S. radar. They’ll notice if your actions don’t match your words.
So how can you show your child that you love them just the way they are? Consider how you respond to these four questions:
What Is Your Reaction When They Walk In The Room?
When they walk into your room in the early morning do you smile? When they come down the stairs on their way to school, do you criticize their outfit?
The way you treat them when they first walk into a room says a lot about how you feel towards them. Your first interaction with your child shifts how they view themselves. It sets the tone for the rest of their day and they leave home feeling either good or bad about themselves.
What Do You Do When They Face Challenges?
When they fail a math test, do you criticize them for not trying hard enough? If they lose a basketball game, do you put your arm around them and say how proud you are of their efforts?
Your response to your child’s challenges shapes how they view themselves and their abilities. They will either think there is no hope for improvement or they’ll think there is opportunity for growth. If you criticize their failures, your child will believe your love depends on their achievements. This leads them to believe their worth also depends on their achievements.
In a podcast interview with Lewis Howes, Kobe Bryant explains how his dad’s love set him up for success. His first season of basketball as a kid, Bryant did not score a single point. When talking with his dad about this, his dad responded, “I don’t care if you scored 60 points or 0 points. I will love you no matter what.” Knowing that his dad’s love did not depend on his basketball abilities gave Bryant the confidence he needed to keep trying.
Similarly, how you react to your child’s challenges will either be the springboard that lifts them up or the weight that drags them down.
What Do You Do When They Make A Mistake?
If your child spills their juice all over the floor, do you immediately remind them how clumsy they are? If they get in an accident, are you grateful that they’re okay or are you mad about the car?
Here is a life guarantee: your children will make mistakes. Your response to their mistakes affects how they feel about themselves. Now, I’m not saying you can’t discipline your children. There are consequences to our choices in life. But how you make them feel about themselves when they make a mistake is important. You can still enforce your home rules while making your child feel loved and valued.
How Do You Respond To Their Feelings?
When your child cries after falling down, do you yell at them to stop crying? When your child is mad, do you help them understand why they feel frustrated?
Feelings are big, complicated things. But they are important signals that help us fulfill our needs and reach our goals. If you stifle your child’s feelings, they will learn that what they experience doesn’t matter to you. But children need their parents to help them navigate their feelings. So how you react to their raw emotions will either push them away or bring them close to you.
Conclusion: Show Them You Love Them
Obviously there’s no such thing as a perfect parent. You will make mistakes and lose your temper. But the important thing is to show your child that they are worth loving. Even when they fall short in life or have different goals than you. Show your child that they matter to you now and always will.
This security in your love will help them gain a positive view of themselves. It will give them the courage to try new things and the resilience to overcome life’s challenges.