Here are 3 questions that I learned to consider over the years of raising our kids. They served as a “security” check and helped me discern how a child felt about herself and how I could impact this.
Resources Episode 2: A Self-Esteem Security Check for Our Child
- Psalm 18:2 (ESV)
- Find me on Instagram @teresadglenn
- Grab a copy of my book, Becoming A Peaceful Mom ~ Through Every Season of Raising Your Child
Read Episode 2 Transcript: A Self-Esteem Security Check for Our Child
At different times in life we struggle with our self-esteem—we lack confidence or feel anxious about our worth or abilities. Likewise, there will be times in our child’s life when she faces similar challenge. The details of our former struggle and her current struggle may be different, but the themes are similar enough to alert us to be sensitive because, after all, we’ve been there or somewhere similar.
In this podcast, we’ll consider how we can proactively contribute to our child’s sense of worth. Here are 3 questions that I found helpful over the years, to serve as a “security” check.
The first question:
- Does your child know that he is loved?
When our children were young, one of the boys experienced a lot of correction over the course of several days. Around Day 5, I noticed that even while he played with his brother and sister, he hardly smiled. He seemed distant and avoided eye contact with me.
At first, I thought Maybe he feels bad about disobeying so much lately. But something gave me pause about my theory. One afternoon, I pulled him onto my lap and asked, “Are you okay?” He said yes. Then I felt prompted to lock my eyes on his and ask, “Do you know that I love you always, no matter what?” Looking into my eyes, my son quietly said, “No.”
My first thought was, What have I done? My heart physically ached seeing his pain—pain that I knew I had caused. Lately, my correction had been impatient, even harsh, and I knew better. I also knew that God loves me, even when I’m messing up as a mom. Sadly, my son wasn’t old enough to know this about God yet. But he was old enough to experience this kind of love from me, and I had blown it. I hugged him tight and said, “I love you so much, and I am sad that I made you feel like I didn’t.” As I held him, I silently prayed, “God help him know, really know.”
After a few minutes, I explained what my response to his disobedience means: When you disobey what Daddy and I are teaching you, I get frustrated about your decision or your behavior, but I still love you. It is wrong for me to talk meanly to you, and I will ask God to help me not do that, because I want you to know that I always love you. To this day, that experience of seeing the impact of my ugly behavior, sobers me.
The last thing you or I want to do is hurt or confuse our child, and God knows this. He is with us, to help us because we are learning, too. I am convinced God prompted me to notice our son’s behavior and to ask questions. God wanted me to know what I needed to know—so that my child could know what he needed to know. During that experience, he lovingly shaped me, my son, and our relationship.
Through the teen years, versions of that same conversation occurred between my kids and me—in part, when I recognized that I was messing up (again) in how I corrected and, in part, when it seemed like a theme of correction might go on for a while.
When a child walks through a season of rebellion and correction, our actions, words, or lack of either, make an impression. Let’s make a kingdom impression. In easy and hard seasons, we can assure them that our love is dependable and permanent.
The second question:
- Does your child know that she is liked?
When a young child blurts out hurtful words like, You’re not my friend anymore. (or) You can’t play with us, our child usually comes to us for comfort and security. Then we attempt a reconciliation or redirection.
As children get older, the impact of hurtful experiences cuts deeper and may linger. Maybe your child is laughed at, called names, mimicked, or rejected with words like, Get lost. Go sit somewhere else. We were here first. Sometimes, silence delivers the painful message: A friend stops responding to your child’s texts and calls . . . she sees her friend hanging out with someone else at recess or lunch . . . or, she learns that she wasn’t invited to an event. Your child concludes: My friend doesn’t like me anymore.
Our child’s outer world is shaken, but hopefully, home is an environment of encouragement, a source of strength. Home should be our child’s safe place, where she knows that she is enjoyed and liked by us. Spending time together is key. Be intentional to express what you enjoy about her: “I enjoy when you hang out with me while I’m___ . . . I really like the way that you___ . . . I like hearing your ideas about ___. . . You’re so easy to be around . . .”
Words of encouragement and support affect her attitude about unique and good qualities that God has given her. We can teach our child that God enjoyed making her and likes everything about the way he made her.
Home is the first place a child has the opportunity to experience what it feels like to be a member, what it feels like to belong, what it feels like to be welcome and enjoyed and liked.
A third question:
- Does your child know that he is good enough?
When our oldest child Terrell was in 4K preschool, he climbed in the car one day and asked, “Can I have a new backpack, like the one that some of the other boys have?” His question made me curious because he never cared about his backpack, before today. A few days later, I had opportunity to observe the children on the playground. I could tell that one group of boys knew each other well, and he obviously wanted to be part of that group. The backpack was his way to feel a sameness with these boys. I understood; I remember wanting clothes or hairstyles to be like other girls.
Honestly, what surprised me, was that such a young heart could feel like he wasn’t good enough—just as he is—to be friends with someone. It was a springboard moment for me. I started to consider and to ask God how I could help our children want to be the best version of who He created them to be—and not want and try to be someone else.
Often our child is genuinely interested in an item or participating in an activity, and it’s a delight to say yes. But sometimes, they plead to have what they think will gain or maintain their acceptance and worth among peers. Their inexperience rationalizes, If I have that or take part in that, maybe I’ll be “in” and not left out; maybe, they’ll like me.
It’s easy to give in. The best outcome occurs when we hit pause to pray and discern. Sometimes, a child’s plea is a cry for help to learn he is good enough, just as he is.
Ask insightful questions to learn and to inform your prayers. Here are a few:
- Who did you play with or sit with at lunch today? What do you like about him?
- Are you glad that you are: taking that class . . . on the team . . . participating in that event? Whatever their answer, follow with, Oh really, why? Who do you hang out with there?
- What’s your least favorite activity? …Why?
A check-in may confirm that all is well, or it may be a springboard moment like mine.
God’s design within your child will unfold over his life. Until he discovers hints of his personality, interests, and abilities, and is encouraged in these, he may look to his peers or siblings’ strengths to decide whether he is good enough.
Our kids need to know that they do not have to be good enough or to measure up, to be loved by God and by us. Remind your child that he fits perfectly in your family and how glad you are that God gave him to you.
God has the long view and the long-term plan, and at times it involves the painful circumstances in our child’s life. In the pleasant and the painful, God aims to anchor our child’s heart in His Truth—that God always loves her, always likes and enjoys her, and always sees her as good enough. Then, when the hard stuff comes–with other people or within herself–she can turn to God to get through it.
Authors of the Psalms endured rejection and insecurity. They share how hard it was and they testify of how they made it through: They knew God well and trusted his word; they believed his love; and they believed he designed them with delighted. In Psalm 18:2, the psalmist declares, “The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer, my shield, … the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”
Our children will bear the imprint of our love throughout their lives. The love we demonstrate to them will impact how they come to personally understand God’s love for them. As they choose to come into their own personal relationship with Jesus, God will establish their hearts in the security of being loved by Him.