"Six critical life messages that every child needs to hear every day,"* read the heading.
It went on:
- I believe in you
- I trust you
- I know you can handle this
- You are listened to
- You are cared for
- You are very important to me
Knowing I could never recall all six without practice, I decided to pick one to try saying deliberately for a time as a (decidedly non-scientific) experiment. The one that spoke to me the most was "I know you can handle this," especially thinking about Mari. My dear Mari is so capable, but she doesn't believe it yet about herself. She is often hesitant, frequently holding back even when it is an activity she would enjoy. She rarely pushes herself outside of her small comfort zone, physically or emotionally. After Trey arrived, her reluctance to try new experiences combined with a very normal preschooler reaction to having a new sibling and snowballed into an insistence that she couldn't do even the simplest things for herself (like putting on her shoes). Earlier this year it had grown to near-constant cries of, "I can't do it!" and "Help me!"
When moments came up in the day when I'd normally expect her to start resisting, like dropping her off at preschool or asking her to do a task, I'd look her in the eyes and say confidently, "I know you can handle this." I said it a lot. So many times in a day that it started to feel ridiculous.
But it wasn't ridiculous to Mari. Right from the start I noticed that she seemed to move through the "I can't do it" wails a little bit faster. And one sunny afternoon she dangled from the monkey bars in our backyard--a section of the play structure that usually drove her to tears and pleas for rescue--and called out, "Mama! Look at me! Look at me, Mama!" When I told her that I saw her, she shared with an enormous grin, "I can do so many things!"
It it hard to believe something about yourself if you never hear it said aloud.
I've posted these six messages on my office wall behind my desk, where I see them as I work. I'm hoping all six will become a regular part of language I use with the children, that these will become the messages they hear now from me and from their own inner voices in the future.
*A footnote said the list came from
Kids Are Worth It! : Giving Your Child The Gift Of Inner Discipline by Barbara Coloroso.