Children’s Books That Build Self Esteem – Positive Psychologist Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein Announces No-Charge Download Of Two Ebook Samplers – http://ow.ly/NOAFN
The girl in my book, The Truth (I’m a girl, I’m smart and I know everything) could teach her parents so much, if only they would listen! She is not alone. Most, if not all children, are acutely aware of what is wrong in a family, regardless of parent’s efforts to hide their problems. Even if the parents are not overheard through the walls, kids figure out that their is a problem going on. How? Many ways. Just like us, they sense when something is not right. They see facial expressions; they hear tones of voices; they recognize silence as a weapon or possibly a hurt reaction; they hear a door slam; a plate put down too harshly at the dinner table; a parent coming home too late without a good reason. Our behaviors are usually pretty easy to read. Even if a child can’t put into words what or why something is wrong at home, she will still feel that there is something wrong. And the pain for a child can be immense. For example, read what the girl has to say in her diary:
“Last night my parents had a big fight. I could sort of hear them through the walls of my room. My eyes were shut tight but my ears were wide open, like elephant ears, trying to hear every word. I couldn’t, but they made me nervous and I couldn’t sleep. Today in school I was tired. They are the grownups; they shouldn’t have stupid fights that keep me awake. And anyway, nothing gets solved. No one feels better after being yelled at or put down. No one is going to co-operate any better just because you yell at them and tell them all the things they do wrong. Even I know that! I should’ve been able to fall asleep and have sweet dreams! I could teach my mom and dad so much, if only they would listen. Why would a grown-up put down someone he’s supposed to love? I don’t get it. They waste so much time fighting, and before you know it, everyone’s mood is sad or angry and the day is ruined. This is one thing I’m really promising myself to never do! My dad says, “Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.” Well, even though he forgets his own words, I’m going to remember them.”
We need to understand that children want happy endings and everything to be alright. These are normal psychological expectations growing up. They depend on us to create the good times and to keep the household peaceful and a safe place to be. It is a big task when a couple is getting along. It is even a bigger task when there is friction between the parents.
Here are a three suggestions for you, if you and your spouse are struggling as a couple and perhaps it is your child that has elephant ears!
1. Seek professional help. Couple counseling can not only bring happiness back into your lives, but the counselor can help guide you on what to tell your child about your difficulties, how to soothe her, etc.
2. Make an effort to not go down the emotional developmental ladder, when the two of you are upset with each other. That means that your efforts to talk out problems, even if the kids overhear, rather than shouting, going silent, storming out, is the more grown-up decision. It will help show them that you are trying and also give them examples of tools of communication that they will need as grown-ups.
3. Above all try to maintain time with your child that is pleasant and loving. That goes for each parent. If you can not navigate good times together, then at least separately have fun, loving times with your child. She deserves the good times and so do you!
*Watch Julia reading for the girl in the play version of The Truth, The Locket
One thing I find over and over again is that Parents don’t seem to “get” their teens and tweens, and vice versa. There seems to be miscommunication going on. A teen or tween misbehaves and doesn’t understand why the parent is upset, while the parent doesn’t understand why their teen/tween can’t follow direction after being told several times. Often it’s not because the child in question wants to misbehave, and it’s not because the Parent is a ” bad” parent.
It’s the approach. We as Parents and caregivers need to take the negativity out of it when we talk to our children, even when disciplining. For example, try the sandwich method: First give some positive feedback: “I was so proud of you when you got that 100 on your spelling test a few weeks ago. Second give the bad news: If you can’t seem to find time to do your homework and your marks keep reflecting that, we will have to limit your time on playing video games. Now the rest of the sandwich: We really believe you can make better use of your time and get back on track to get good marks on your homework. If you need our help, just ask. We are here for you!
Here’s another of my thoughts on this:
“It is so important to be a role model to your teen! It is not only what we say and how well we listen, but how we live our own lives. That means it does matter how gracious we are, how kind we are, whether we are generous of spirit and eager to not hold grudges or be petty. It does matter what we say, but often it matters just as much on how we say it. Can we cushion a criticism with some sweet honey? Can we wait until the right moment to say something personal when no one else is listening? It all matters!”
Yes, all of the above does take practice. Learning to control our rage, our disappointment, our anger and instead finding ways to speak to our kids at the right moment, with supportive yet realistic reactions to their behaviors is almost an art form. But then again, helping a kid grow up successfully is like being a great artist. Every remark, every activity we do with them, every hug we give them are all the next tiny strokes in turning out a marvelous human being! Isn’t the time and effort worth it?
As a psychologist and an educator I’ve spent many years helping children be better understood and to better understand themselves. One thing I emphasize is that children learn over many years not only how to express themselves but what they are allowed to express.
Recently, I learned all of this anew by finding in my attic my old diaries from the 4th, 5th and sixth grades. Page by page I detailed my life from what I ate for breakfast, to the weather, to playing with a friend, studying for a test, going to visit my relatives, moving to a new town, etc. But what I didn’t include in these diaries were my feelings, secrets worries or questions about life.
I wouldn’t have dared to put into print any of the above. Not because I was afraid someone would read my diary, I really wasn’t afraid and anyway it had a lock on it. I just couldn’t even imagine saying certain things out loud. Merely verbalizing my fear of dying, or my run-in with a neighbor who was inappropriate to me, was beyond the scope of permission I would give myself to speak aloud in any form. Writing the diary was good as it gave me practice in writing, but sharing my feelings would take more than writing practice.
Now as I read the pages of going iceskating and receiving a dollar from my cousin Eleanor, I realize so clearly what was missing. And it is okay that some things are not expressed aloud by kids. But what is not okay, is not giving kids help in expressing themselves.
How do we do this as parents? By talking to them and listening to them. We need to share enough of our memories of growing up, including the feelings and anxieties as to open the door for permission for them to share back. We need to listen for the obvious cues of the crying behind a closed door, but also to the silent cues, when a kid is just not sharing enough.
I’m glad my diaries are with me. The child in me is still able to remind me, and so I remind you. Never forget that children need our permission and help to learn what is okay to talk about and share.
The Truth (I’m a girl, I’m smart and I know everything) can be a great place to start. As the girl in the diary does share her feelings and fears as well as her hopes and dreams. I wrote the book that way so you can use it as a spring board to talk to your daughter or granddaughter. The girl gets us started on a wonderful road to sharing.
I think it is interesting to share with you some of The Girl’s entries into her diary that are not in the American version of The Truth (I’m a girl, I’m smart and I know everything). Two of her entries are about an anxiety dream she has several weeks before she starts the seventh grade in a new school, in a new town. Read on to find out what the dream was like, how her mother helped her handle the dream and what she learned about her parent.
* * *
Only three more weeks until we go back to school. I had a nightmare last night that I couldn’t find my new classrooms and I ended up back in the hallway that has the first, second and third grade classrooms. My heart was pounding in the dream and I was sweating. I kept running up and down the hallway but I couldn’t find any older kids, only babies, six, seven and eight. I knew I would be the last one to get to my new homeroom and I would look like a fool on the first day of school. No one comes in late on the first day!
Then I finally saw the hallway that goes to the seventh and eighth grade classrooms. But when I tried to reach it, it was like I could hardly move. I just couldn’t get there. I felt myself pulling on my body to move but nothing happened.
Then I woke up. I went in to my mother and father’s room and lay down on the floor with a blanket from my bed. They didn’t even know I was there. I just couldn’t be alone after that dream. I hate dreams like that and that’s the truth.
My mother said I had an anxiety dream and a lot of people do before they have to do something new. I’m glad she told me that. I hope I don’t have anymore anxiety dreams.
She told me a lot of other stuff today. I guess ‘cause I’m getting older. My mother really knows a lot. She should have been a doctor or a teacher. She never went to college but wants me to go.
She told me that she had a choice of being a secretary or working in my Uncle Dan’s clothing store when she finished high school. She chose to become a secretary because my Grandfather said he would pay for her to go to secretarial school.
I asked her if she wanted to go to college. She said that she never thought about it because none of the girls in her family had ever gone to college.
She told me that once her brother said to her, “Edith, you are dumb but beautiful. Don’t worry. That’s ok. It is better than being dumb and not pretty.”
My mother promised herself when I was born that I would get more education than she had. She told me that she has been putting ten dollars a week away since I was born for my college education.
I hope I can really make her proud of me. I know that I’m smart. I hope that I’m pretty. I’m still scared and that really is the truth.
This girl looks like she is having a lovely night’s sleep and that is wonderful. We want our kids to sleep deeply and walk refreshed. But don’t think they want to be in a fairy tale like Sleeping Beauty! No way. Today’s girl is full of energy and life and she isn’t going to sit around or nap and wait for prince charming to come along on a white horse.
We, now adult women, may have believed, and some of us still believe that we will be saved by the right man finding us. Thankfully, more and more girls in todays world assume they will make their own way as well as find a suitable mate. They don’t always wait for a fellow to call or text them. The chase is more mutual as it should be.
What does that mean in terms of raising a daughter? It means we really have to work hard to make sure our girls grow up strong with good self-esteem and lots of resiliency. And how do we do this?
By building on their strengths, talents and potential.
By not ignoring their feelings and ideas.
By spending direct time with them, without the distraction of technology.
By laughing and sharing parts of yourselves with them.
By going places and doing acitivities together and remembering good times.
And of course by encouraging their sense of self through the written word. There are many books that are great books for girls. Little House on the Prairie never goes out of style! Little Women helps to build character. There are 100’s of these classics. And in today’s world there are great books for girls. The Truth (I’m a girl, I’m smart and I know everything) is a wonderful place to start building self-esteem with your daughter or granddaughter. It is an easy read and you can have a great discussion after every page. If she is 8, read it together. If she is 9, 10 or older, after she reads the books sit and discuss the questions in the back and discuss page by page.
Have fun making sure your daughter or granddaughter is no Sleeping Beauty!
Secret Diary Entry not in The Truth (I’m a girl, I’m smart and I know everything).
I just finished reading A Summer Camp Miracle Story. Angela said she loved the book so I borrowed it from her. In the story Jackie goes away to camp and has all sorts of adventures, both bad and good. She wins an award for paddling a canoe the fastest and she makes lots of friends. But something bad happens. She almost drowns in the deep end of the lake. It’s a long story. She gets saved by the senior life guard and has fun at the hospital having her lungs checked out cause she swallowed so much water.
I don’t think I should have read the book. It made me so afraid. I’ve always been a little afraid of swimming in deep water and now I’m really scared. I don’t want to go to the beach this summer. What am I going to do? Kids are supposed to love to go to the beach. Who can I tell that I am pertrified? I don’t want to die that way.
I can’t tell Angela. She’ll think I’m a baby! I can’t tell me mother she will tell me I’m being ridiculous and that I’m a good swimmer.
I can’t tell my dad cause he was so proud of me when I passed the intermedite swimming test.
It’s times like this I don’t know what to do with myself. Can you help me Dear Diary?
We often forget that kids have lots of fears and concerns. Even something they have appeared to have mastered can worry them again. They get triggered by upsetting information just as we do. The girl was triggered by reading a story where a child almost drowned. Even though the girl in the story was fine, the girl was left with increased anxiety and concern. And to top it off, she didn’t know where to turn.
We have to make sure as parents, teachers, grandparents, etc. that we are there for kids to turn to. We need to be alert to mood changes and/or remarks. Hopefully, the girl will get up her courage and ask the right person, or one of her parents will notice that she looks upset. Our job in real life is not to leave a child to just roam freely with anxiety and concerns. Our job is to pick up on nuances and spend enough time with our kids that we help to quiet the fear.
Do you remember as a child knowing the truth about a lot of things? I remember clearly. It may have been something small, like the litter in a public restroom. I knew at six that people should have made sure the litter got into the pail. Sometimes I even picked up other people’s paper towels to make sure. If my mother had seen me, she might have been rightly concerned about germs!
I also remember knowing that a lot of the fights my mother and father had and even fights I heard my grandmother and grandfather having were silly and not worth it. I wanted to stop them, but I didn’t have the power. However, I did promise myself that I wouldn’t fight over stupid things when I grew up.
Did I keep my promise? Somewhat. I wish I could say 100% but life is tough and I didn’t realize as a kid that I would still have to deal with moods and emotions when I was a grown-up.
In my book, The Truth, the girl makes a lovely list of the things she promises to do when she grows up. It is simple and rings true. Here is her list: Things for Grownups to Remember: Don’t be mean to animals; Try not to swear for a month; Don’t fight with anyone you love; Don’t put people down or call them names; Believe your child if she tells you she is in love; Answer a kid’s questions; Listen to their ideas.
It’s a good list for even us grown-ups. We might not always succeed but trying is better than not. And the world will be a better place! So let’s put our best foot forward.
Our kids will thank us, so will animals, so will people we don’t fight with and think how nice everything will feel without much swearing going on!
In Secrets: You Tell Me Yours and I’ll Tell You Mine, the girl really worries about getting older and how hard it will be to be a teen. She is very aware. Aren’t all of our girls? She is writing a lot of songs, a few of them appear in the book. In one of the songs she says:
“What is in store for me as I get older?
How can I leave behind so much of me?”
Yes, we do leave behind parts of ourselves at each transition in life. And of course, we get new aspects to ourselves. It is very hard to transition. If you have had to move as an adult, or started a new job, or maybe lived through a marriage that fell apart, you know how terribly hard transitions can be. However, sometimes we forget how hard it is to grow up. It is but a distant memory as we go through our busy days. Yet we need to remember and to find ways to help our kids transition.
Can you remember being a kid moving toward puberty, and the teen years? I am asking readers for input. Here is what one reader shared:
“When I was growing up I felt like I couldn’t do anything right. My parents were not ever happy and I was always fighting with my brother and sister. The cool kids in school made fun of me because I was little heavy and most of my clothes were made by my mother or grandmother. We didn’t have a lot of money, in fact I cannot ever remember a time growing up where my parents weren’t worried about how they would pay the bills and put food on the table.
I was thankful that they made my clothes (and in some varity of my favorite color – red) and I wore them proudly but the feelings of shame and confusion because of the kids at school put me in an emotional whirlwind. Sometimes I didn’t know if I was coming or going!
I was worried about it getting worse as I approached middle school and having older kids around that would probably push me about and make fun of me as well. I was scared to death of getting older and things getting worse. I just couldn’t see that life is what I make of it and if I’m not happy with something then I’m the only one who can change it. At that age you are more worried about what your friends think, what rumors are being spread, your school work, and trying to have a little peace and harmony at home then to look at how you can better your own situation and emotional chaos.
Then there was my little sister who got away with everything, blamed me for the things she actually gets in trouble for and who I had to share everything with. We shared a room, had bunk beds, and I never had my own play things. In fact I was stuck with my sister in the same room until I was 17 and my older brother moved out but that is a story for another day and a whole different set of problems.
Growing up is hard, but I think if we stay positive and teach our kids that if they think positive and work towards shaping their life to how they desire it to be instead of following the herd that they can be happy, even during the emotional roller coaster of puberty!”
What a moving story. Our reader overcame many obstacles. And the truth is that most of us do come through puberty and grow up with strong resources, some degree of optimism, humor, caring for others, the capacity to love and many other great traits. But it isn’t easy, and we owe it to our girls to help them through the process with wisdom and support. That’s what I do in my work as a positive psychologist. You may be doing it as a parent, aunt, teacher, guidance counselor, grandparent.
Try reading passages together with your youngster from either The Truth or Secrets. You will find it fascinating, as feelings and thoughts and memories start to be exchanged. This is one of the most therapeutic ways to make sure you have really ‘heard’ and understand your youngster and the bonus is she gets a better chance to ‘hear’ and understand YOU! It is a win, win for both.
The Truth: I’m a Girl, I’m Smart, and I Know Everything
(now available as an ebook or a paperback)
For those grown-ups reading this blog: Do you realize that it is the ‘girl’ inside of you as an adult woman, who is your clue, not only to the real you, but to your energy bank of all the positive deposits that can still be withdrawn in your life now. These deposits have within them the sparks of emotional, physical and spiritual energy that you need to move forward to enjoy a meaningful fun life …
Also, do you want to know more about how to help your daughters to keep their positive energy alive as they grow up, so their self-esteem will stay strong and their zest for life will be terrific?
That’s what my life work is all about. Give me the an age of a girl or a woman and I can teach the same steps to help her either keep or get back the zest for life and the love of herself that she deserves!
Here are some simple steps to get you or your daughter started:
1. What you perceive to be your talents. Not what others tell you. For example, you may know you have a talent to get people in a better mood.
2. List your strengths. Again, not necessarily what others say. For instance, you know that you can think of new solutions to a problem even when others are ready to give up.
3. List your untapped potential. Go for this one. Dream on. Think about early hopes and longings and things you wanted to do. Don’t worry if it doesn’t seem to make sense now. A dream to be a ballet dancer can get reinvented as a person who enjoys square dancing or walking in the sand.
Now circle one item that seems to me the most to you from each list.
Play with how you could use all three items (one from each list) or just one or two to further your happiness over the next year.
Remember PLAY right now in your mind. This is not an exam or scary. Let the creative spark come alive and watch it dance.
You will be amazed. I’ll be back with more!