We humans tend to like what we are good at. Actually, we are more inclined to like things we excel at than we are to like things we simply enjoy. When I was young, I was good at public speaking–go figure. I spent a lot of time giving speeches about things I didn’t really care about because I was good at speechmaking. As a young adult, I found myself in careers like teaching, lecturing, training. I am generally considered a pretty good teacher and trainer. It is my strength.
About 5 years ago I had a minor epiphany. I am shy (this is true, but hard to believe if you know me). I don’t really enjoy public speaking. I am simply good at it. Because I was channelled rather early to hone my speaking ability, I really didn’t do much of anything else for enjoyment. I recall wanting to learn the piano, but I wasn’t good at it. I wanted to try basketball, but I wasn’t athletic. I wanted to train dogs, but I didn’t know how. I was good at speeches and everyone around me reflected this strength to me. I thought it was all I was good at, so it was all I did.
Our traumatized children have trouble accepting that they are good at anything. Some of them are quite good at many things, while others are quite poor at many things. Once in awhile our children will grab ahold of a strength and become extremely boastful about proficiency. That is a desperate attempt to feel good inside.
Why am I saying all of this? Because children need to have all their strengths and all their interests reflected back to them so much that they actually begin to see themselves as “good, talented, interesting, joyful, strong, fun-loving, and capable.” Emphasize enjoyment, fun, playing, trying new things, taking a chance.
Our kids are embarrassment averse. They are mortified by so many things, especially standing out in a negative (or even super positive) way. If they try something and stand out, they may not try that again and maybe they will stop trying to avoid that horrible feeling.
Build your child in small ways by reflecting the small things. This comes naturally to some parents, but may not be so for YOU. Here are some ideas:
You set the table creatively tonight. How will you top this tomorrow?
You seem to enjoy singing.
I saw you laughing your head off when you played in the pool today.
How did you like strumming Dad’s guitar?
Let’s share your cookies with the neighbors. You are a terrific cookie maker.
You take a lot of pride in decorating your room. That’s cool.
Nice outfit you put together. You have quite an eye for style.
I sent a picture of you playing baseball today to Grandpa. He will like seeing how you enjoy playing his favorite sport.