Friday, June 22, 2012

Building up your child - Self Awareness

In my first post about building up your child I defined three building blocks:

Self Awareness
Self Confidence
Self Esteem

Today I´ll be going deeper into the first building block: Self Awareness

The philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said that a human being doesn´t really exist before he chooses himself. This may sound strange, but what I´ve found to Kierkegaard´s point really isn´t rocket science. Of course, I cannot claim to be Kierkegaard´s true vessel and my interpretation might not be accurate, but this is what I´ve benefited from reading Kierkegaard: Choosing yourself is all about taking control of your own person. Choosing yourself simply means to make your own choices and those choices determine who you are.

Picture yourself as an empty shell. From the day you were born, you were nothing more than a biological robot. You needed sustenance for your body to work and you needed to get rid of the waste. But from day one and as you grew older you began to learn. A baby´s first lesson is that crying gives you what you want. If a baby is hungry it cries and mum or dad comes to assistance. Feeding the baby or changing the baby´s diapers mum or dad fulfill the baby´s needs, but the baby probably doesn´t understand all of this. The only thing the baby understands is that crying makes the uncomfortable notion of hunger in the stomach or waste in the rear end go away. So whenever the baby is uncomfortable it cries.

But still the baby isn´t self aware. It doesn´t know who it is. The baby doesn´t begin it´s journey to self awareness before experiencing disappointment. That is: sometimes crying doesn´t make the uncomfortable go away. This is when the baby has to learn about its own feelings and emotions. It needs to become aware of itself, before it can interact with others.

Self Awareness is, rather simply put, knowing yourself. It´s about recognizing your emotions, knowing your strengths and weaknesses and understanding what it is that makes you 'YOU' and not someone else.

But to recognize your emotions, you need to have them confirmed by someone who recognizes them in you. This is where many a parent takes a wrong turn. Because most of us have a tendency to praise our children for what they accomplish instead of focusing on strengthening their personality and Self Awareness. Now, there is nothing wrong with praising your kids for what they accomplish. In fact, you should do so.

But if you praise your kids for their accomplishments and never focus on their self awareness the result will be kids who seem to be very confident of themselves, but inside they´re nervous and self loathing.

So, what to do?

Imagine your daughter is enjoying herself on a swing in the garden or in a park. She laughs and smiles and has a wonderful time. "Daddy!" she yells happily, "Daddy, look, I´m swinging!"

Usually most of us would say something like: "I can see that, darling, you´re so good at it. Look how tall you can go. I´m so proud of you!"

But if this is what we say, we praise the girl for her accomplishment: she is good at it. She has a talent for using the swing.

What would happen, if instead you said something like this:

"Oh, yeah, I can see that. You´re really enjoying yourself, aren´t you. It´s great fun. I love to see you smile and have fun!"

See, how the focus suddenly went away from what she can do and instead went to what she is, what she is feeling and most important: what she means to you!

By focusing on her as a person and as my daughter, whom I love and whom I therefore enjoy seeing happy, I can strengthen her Self Awareness - and believe me when I say that she is going to need it as she grows up!

How do you help your kids to get that Self Awareness growing?