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4 ways to raise authentic kids with loads of self-love

Updated: Dec 28, 2020

Raising kids who grow to be adults with the audacity to love their true selves is no easy feat. Especially when even we, as parents, struggle to unconditionally accept ourselves as fiercely.


Authenticity is about living a life that is true to yourself, representing your true nature and beliefs. It is not copied or false. It is genuine. It is uniquely and bravely authentic to you.


Psychologists, sociologists, educators and experts all agree that there are four key characteristics of people who have an unshakeable sense of self-love and authenticity.


1. SELF-AWARENESS.

Let's start with the very basic first step of awareness. Being true to ourselves requires a strong sense of self-love. However, self-love without self-awareness is useless. We need to be accountable. We need to be able to analyze ourselves and others. Be analytical and curious.


How do I teach this to my kids?

Simply start narrating your thoughts... kind of like being a broadcaster for your kids' behavior and actions.


Kid-speak examples for you to use:

"You were very brave when you shared what you felt." 

"You are speaking very rudely. Is something bothering you?"

Basically anything that can help them see themselves from a third point of view (aka awareness ;)


2. INNER VALIDATION.

One of the greatest barriers of authenticity is letting external forces lead or motivate you. This can be grades, praise, social status, image, clothes, etc. Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology, stated "I would rather be whole than good." Here is what that means: our need to be true rather than seen by others as 'good' is essential to live an authentic life.


Stanford psychology professor, Carol Dweck shares that when we are focused on the external qualities about us, we limit who we are meant to be.


When we become externally motivated, we tend to:

  • Care a lot about whether people think we are smart or not smart

  • Avoid learning challenges where we might make mistakes

  • Try to hide mistakes rather than trying to correct them

  • Not deal well with frustration and setbacks, sometimes giving up or cheating

Did you notice a theme in the above points?


There is a deep attachment to the external self... the image of how we are perceived by others. Doesn't being a perfectionist also look like this? Perfectionism is strongly linked to our constant need for external validation. And we cannot talk about connecting to our inner selves if we don't address our need to be perfect.


Being a perfectionist is not a compliment. It is a disease. The need to be perfect is probably the biggest thing that will take you the furthest away from loving your authentic self. The first time I read this in The Gifts of Imperfection, my whole world flipped upside down. Until that moment, I had always felt pride in my perfectionism. Brene Brown, a researcher and author, shares a ton or research and wisdom in her book. You gotta read it as I can't possibly do it justice. But in a nutshell she shows why we need to replace perfectionism with self-improvement by breaking it down like this:


Perfectionism says "What will they think?" This is people pleasing.
Self-Improvement says "How can I improve?" This is self-focused.

Authentic humans need to stay connected to their inner selves... the stuff you can't see or measure... the stuff that doesn't seek to please others. A big part of this for parents is focusing on inner validation instead of external validation.


How do I teach this to my kids?

Brown shares that when you trade in your authenticity for safety (or perfectionism/external validation), you may experience rage, anxiety, blame and inexplicable grief. I don't know about you, but she just summed up my days.


Well then... let's start there. Notice when you feel anxiety, rage, blame or grief and then take a moment to pause.


Be curious and open minded to see how even you may be led or motivated by external forces. This is the only way you will be able to see it in your kiddos. Be analytical about all the external control and motivators around you and your kids.


Ask yourself:

  • "Am I motivated by a need to fit in with other parents? Or am I staying true to what I believe in about parenting?"

  • "Did my child just do that because he/she was seeking recognition or validation from me? Or because they wanted to do it from deep within?"


Mantras to help you unlearn perfectionism:

"It's ok to make mistakes. What did I learn?" 

"I don't need to be perfect. I just need to grow and do better."

"I love myself even when I do or say the wrong things."

"I am worthy now! Right this minute." (Not "If... or when...")

Kid-speak examples for you to use:

"I love how hard you are working."  (versus "Good Job!")

"You are hopping on one leg." (versus "Wow!" as you clap and cheer) 

" I love your heart."

"I love the way you think."

"I saw that you made a mistake but you tried again. I love your perseverance."

“You really studied for your English test, and your improvement shows it. You read the material over several times, outlined it, and tested yourself on it. That really worked! (versus stickers for A's ;)

"This was really hard for you and you didn't give up."


3. BOUNDARIES.

In his book The Audacity to be You, clinical director & therapist, Dr. Reedy defines boundaries as 'the distance at which I can love you and me simultaneously.'

The best and most positive impact and contribution you can have on those you love is knowing your Self and learning to express your truth and set the subsequent boundaries.

He shares how most of us struggle with the urge to be good, rooted in the origins of our need to make others feel good. And this can get in the way of our ability to set boundaries with people we love.


Boundaries keep us safe and our relationships healthy. Dr. Nicole Lepera defines boundaries as “a personal clear limit for how people behave toward us.”


A boundary is our need. Our truth. It is not about who is 'right' or 'wrong'. It is an essential and courageous act of self-love and self-care.


This is HUGE! We need to guide our kiddos in learning how to understand, communicate and set healthy boundaries in order to be able to stand up for their truth.


Counselor Morgan Riley shares that when implementing boundaries in your life, it is important to remember these three things:

  1. You have the right to say no

  2. You have the right to enforce boundaries - even when others don’t approve or agree

  3. You have the right to ask for what you need


How do I teach this to my kids?

Pay closer attention to what you or your child may need in a given situation. Instead of saying 'You cannot sleepover,' you may use more intentional language by saying 'I am not comfortable with you sleeping over.' Sharing what you are comfortable or uncomfortable with reveals a high sensibility of your needs. The more you own your boundaries, the more you get to model such brave expressions for your children.


The hope is that your child is able to find the same courage to express their inner truth. Who knows? One day they may surprise you on a playdate by telling their friend "I am not comfortable with you speaking to me so meanly." What a proud parent moment that would be.


Find opportunities that allow your kids to set limits by:

  • Guiding them in understanding themselves better.

  • Giving them language for communicating their needs.

  • Empowering them to have the courage to say no respectfully or ask for something they need when needed.


Kid-speak examples for you to use:

"You don't have to hug them if you don't want to. You can say 'I don't feel like a hug right now. How about a fist bump.'" 
 
"I noticed you really wanted to play with your dolls and you let your friend decide that you both play with the ball instead. You get to choose too. Next time, be brave and say 'I would like to play with my dolls. We can take turns with the dolls and ball or we can play separately.'"

 Mom: Do you want to read a book with me?
 Kid: Not right now. I really feel like playing with my toys.
 Mom: I am so glad you said what was true to you. 


4. UNCONDITIONAL ACCEPTANCE.

"To love a child (or ourselves) is to to see them, to hold them with compassion and curiosity." Dr. Brad Reedy goes further to say "it is easy to love someone who thinks and behaves like you. That requires very little capacity."


Isn't this true with ourselves as well? How many times have you judged yourself because you didn't do the 'right' thing? How many times have you allowed others to make you feel less than? How many times are you going to refrain giving yourself the same compassion you constantly give others?


"To be loved is to be seen." ~Dr. Reedy

We we feel seen, we feel loved. Similarly, when our children feel seen, they also feel loved.


And what is love? Love is unconditional acceptance. Unconditional acceptance allows us to be seen.

Unfortunately when something makes us feel uncomfortable, instead of holding space for that moment with such love and curiosity, we are quick to judge it, label it as wrong or right, and then start trying to fix it.


Curiosity is not as quick to react; it seeks first to understand.


You cannot be curious and judgmental at the same time. Here's why: Curiosity gives birth to understanding. Understanding creates compassion. And compassion allows us to be seen. And when we are seen, we feel unconditionally accepted.


How do I teach this to my kids?

You already know the first step don't you? Yup - it starts with you!


First, be curious and compassionate with yourself:

  • Be comfortable with discomfort. Embrace your imperfections and mistakes. Have the audacity to love all parts of you equally - especially the not-so-great stuff.

  • Get to know yourself better by being more curious. Ask questions that help you understand your feelings or actions without forming any sort of judgement or opinion.

  • Connect with compassion by listening and understanding FIRST. This leads to healing.

  • Take some time to reflect before responding.

  • Give yourself the gift of compassion. Make sure you feel seen by saying words that validate your feelings and show understanding.

And then, of course, do the same exact thing for your kiddos.


When kids see their parents loving and accepting themselves unconditionally, they learn to do the same for themselves. When kids feel SEEN by their parents, their walls come down because they are validated just as they are. This does not mean they don't improve or grow or learn. This just means they have a very intimate relationship with themselves that allows them to accept themselves unconditionally. And when that foundation is set and strong, they will naturally seek to do better and be better, with the courageous and empathetic guidance of parents like you.


Kid-speak examples for you to use:

"Tell me more about what you were feeling when you..."

"I understand you were afraid of my reaction and that is why you lied to me. That must have been hard for you."  

Avoid saying "you should have..." instead say, "Of course you felt..."

"I love you with all my heart, even when I am mad."

Ram Dass' spiritual teachings beautifully express how we can transcend our need to judge ourselves and others by comparing people to trees.


Some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You appreciate it. You see why it is the way it is. You sort of understant that it didnt' get enough light, so it turned that way. You appreciate the tree.
The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying "You are too this or I'm too this." That judging mind comes in. And so, I practice turning people into trees.

To drive this point even deeper, we have created 10-days of 10-minute activities on just this! Your kiddos get to create a daily habit that honors authenticity and self-love. Learn Self-Love through nature walks, pretend play, stories, crafts, and conversations with your kids in the 'Hatch Brighter' app (Apple | Google).


QUICK RECAP:

  1. Self-Awareness: be the awareness broadcaster for you and your kids' inner dialogue regularly.

  2. Inner Validation: let go of perfectionism and focus on connecting your kids with their inner selves rather than seeking validation from external forces.

  3. Boundaries: teach them the language for communicating their needs & the courage for setting their limits with others.

  4. Unconditional Acceptance: curiosity + compassion = being unapologetically seen & accepted.


Shine on!

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