From day one when our child is born we care for them. We change their nappies, we feed them, we support them to sleep, we love them.
As they grow older we teach them to wipe their bottoms, we teach them how to use a knife and fork, we support them to play respectfully with others.
And then there comes a time when it is important for our child to accept responsibility to care for themselves where possible, as this allows them to learn the important skill of self-care. When this happens is entirely up to the child and where they are in their development.
For me, this has come to pass with my 8 year old daughter.
We have been having a constant struggle to get her to tidy her room, desk and toy room and to keep it consistently tidy.
We have tried many angles to support her to stop the struggle. We have gently asked her and reminded her, we have done it with her, we have done it for her, we have yelled at her, we have disciplined her, we have explained to her that her room is part of the house and as she is a part of this family so she needs to contribute by keeping her space tidy. There have been so many things we have tried but none of them have been consistently effective. Until recently…
I was hanging my daughter’s clothes out on the line last week after washing them and as I went to hang them out I could see stains on most of them. In total there were 14 items! As this was not the first time this occurred I felt instantly frustrated. But this time instead of staying frustrated I stopped for a moment and pondered on what this may mean.
The answer came to me.
My daughter was treating her clothes the same way she was treating herself and her space – with disregard.
She was relying on me to be able to soak the stains out rather than look after her clothes in the first instance.
I knew it was time for my daughter to take responsibility for herself in a way she had not been. It was time that she stopped looking to me or anyone else to do what she is completely capable of doing herself.
So we talked. I showed her all the stained clothes – piece by piece, stain by stain. She cried and wanted to walk away but I kept calling her back to face the situation. Afterwards I asked her to sit down and feel what was driving this destructive behaviour. She resisted for a while but eventually she shared with me that she didn’t like herself.
I was speechless… Firstly by her amazing level of honesty and secondly because I saw so much to truly appreciate in her. How could she not like herself?
But this explained a lot. Her resistance in keeping a tidy space, the fact that she did not value the clothes she was wearing, the struggle for her to stay consistent in her self-care habits. It was all becoming very clear.
She did not value herself and all the amazing qualities I see in her all the time (even when she is being a pain in the you know what!).
So we did an exercise together. I asked her to tell me how amazing she is deep within her heart. The part within that remains untouched by the outside world. The part that holds the gorgeousness of who she really is.
What came next was truly glorious. She began to tell me. I quickly knew that we needed to write what she was saying down on paper, so we did.
Here is the list she shared with me:
- Cared for
- Strong in voice
- Strong love
- Feel love
- Spreading love
And then I added more…
We have affectionately dubbed this the Love Chart. And have since added more to this list…
And I am sure there will be even more to come.
What is key here with this exercise is that it allowed my daughter to feel her VALUE. And this has made an enormous difference in how she feels about herself.
She can now, not only feel how awesome she is, but has a tangible list of her qualities to refer to when she disconnects from this part within herself.
We have put the Love Chart on the fridge where she frequently reads it and we refer to it often when discussing various things, like problems she is having at school or how much she deserves to have a tidy space and unstained clothes. It is a constant reminder of her amazingness.
Since this incredible breakthrough there has been minimal struggle for her to keep her space tidy and to be responsible for her own self-care where possible. Of course there is no perfection being sought here but it is a start in her really being able to feel and claim her value in the world. Something that is going to support her for many years to come, especially through the challenges that life can have at times.
As mothers we know our children the best, we have looked deep into their eyes every day of their life so far, so we are more than capable of supporting them to understand their true value.
The value that lies deep within them and is not linked to what they do but is linked to who they truly are in essence.
It is also worthy to note that this is a great exercise for adults, as it allows us to really feel who we are underneath all that we do during the day (and night). It can bring us back to our essence, which can be so inspiring for all those around us as well as a truly fine example to our child.
Has anything similar worked for you? Please share in the comments below.