You’re sitting in a parent/teacher meeting and the teacher is telling you how much the other children enjoy your son, Josh.
She comments, “It’s not just that Josh is fun; he really seems to care about his classmates.
He’s often found helping others with a reading or math problem, or including a shy classmate in a game or activity.” Academically she reports he’s bright with a thrust for learning. She concludes by saying how much she personally enjoys having Josh in her class, and is grateful for his influence on the other students.
Wouldn’t that be wonderful if that’s how they all went? Unfortunately, too many times life delivers a different kind of message to parents and children.
Studies have shown that the average 2-year-old hears 435 negative comments per day and 39 positive comments. In schools, a typical student hears 10 – 12 negative comments for every one positive. The average student experiences 60 days per year of reprimands, nagging and criticism.
Negative Overload at What Cost?
These ongoing deposits of criticism impact a child’s self-confidence in various ways. Unfortunately, when the negative input heavily outweighs the positive, the temptation for a child to seek acceptance from the wrong places is ubiquitous.
Involvement in the wrong crowd can carry a heavy price tag and cause problems even the best of neighborhoods and homes experience, including drug and alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy, smoking, eating disorders, violence, suicide, and an overburdened juvenile court system. The world is full of good, caring families who are winning this battle. The world is also full of good, caring families who are losing this battle.
As a parent, I wanted a way to strengthen my son and better equip him to deal with all the negative influences he would face. But the question was, “How?”
Then one night the answer came to me. I was tucking my son into bed and he asked me to read him a bedtime story. As I looked around his room for a book to read, I got the idea of reading to him from the journal I started keeping of his life when he was very young. To this day, I find it an incredibly rewarding habit that takes very little time. I only write in this journal for 10 minutes every week.
That evening, as I read him an entry from the journal, my son became captivated by this story of his life. After reading the first entry, he excitedly asked me to read several others. The journal instantly became his favorite bedtime storybook.
Soon I discovered that these stories were doing more than just holding my son’s attention; many times they focused on a good quality my son had demonstrated in his young life. The following is an example of the kind of journal entry I am referring to:
Feb. 28 (6 years old)
About a month ago you developed an aversion to wanting to go on the
balance beam in gymnastics class. It started to become an issue each Thursday. Then Mommy told you if you would go on the balance beam four times in a row over the next four weeks, you would get a little prize for your courage and persistence. With some help and encouragement, each week you went on the balance beam, and week-by-week, you built up your balancing skill and courage.
This last Thursday was your fourth week, and Mommy said you got up on the beam all by yourself with no help or
encouragement and walked the complete length and back. Everyone was excited for you on your big accomplishment. One of my favorite quotes by Ralph Waldo Emerson is, “Do the thing you fear the most and the death of fear is certain.” And that’s exactly what you did. Congratulations!
Instilling Values Now For Lifelong Confidence
Many of life’s wonderful little experiences are quickly forgotten, while others grow into something magnificent. Tony Robbins has said, “Whatever you focus on, you move towards.”
Reading that entry to my son brought him a clearer focus on the value of courage and literally seemed to move him towards it. The subtle, yet significant, influence this had on my son was evident. After we read entries like that, the desired quality we read about appeared even more in his life.
As more and more qualities and talents a child possesses are collected and read about in this type of a journal, a child’s understanding and thanksgiving for the special person he is naturally grows. This growth brings the kind of quiet confidence and success many people never experience.
When a child has the right focus and is receiving balanced, positive nurturing, his thankfulness for who he is moves beyond self. He starts to focus on the good in others. He becomes thankful for the unique value he sees in every individual.
The following entry demonstrates how you can help nurture your child’s thankfulness through focusing on the value of other people:
Feb. 17 (9 years old)
Saturday we went to Target to buy some baseballs so we could practice. You took some of your birthday money and bought five baseballs. On the way back to our car, a lady approached us and said the clutch on her car had broken. She said she had been asking people for money because she needed to get $2.50 for a bus ride. You immediately said, “Daddy, give her my money.”
I was so impressed that you wanted to help her and were so unselfish. I said, “That’s OK, Adam. I have some money.” I gave her two dollars but I didn’t have any coins. You had coins from your change so you contributed your coins. Her “Thank you” to us was filled with relief and gratitude. When we got home, I told Mommy what happened. Mommy was so touched by your kindness and told you how very proud she was of you.
A 10-Minute Treasure
I believe when we reach out to help others, many times the giver benefits more than the receiver. When I saw Adam’s smile after we helped that woman, I knew he felt the gratitude that comes from helping someone in need. I am thankful I was able to capture that moment for Adam in his journal.
I can’t make the whole world become a more positive place for my child. Even so, what I’ve discovered that is with this simple 10-minute exercise, I can positively influence my young son’s life in some wonderful ways.
I believe one of the greatest gifts I can give my son is helping him discover and strengthen his unique set of abilities and talents. By nurturing these little seeds within him, his confidence and thanksgiving for who he is – and for who others are – grows stronger and stronger. What greater treasure could any parent give a child that provides so much and takes so little time?
G. David Nassief is a father, writer and author of The 10 Minute Parent Solution (Nassief).