For some time now we have been working with our son on managing his personal responsibilities. Things like making his bed in the morning, bringing his dishes to the sink, picking up his toys, unpacking his back pack each day, and putting his clothes in the laundry hamper are things we expect him to do every day. Well, I admit that over the summer, for a number of reasons, we were a bit lax. I knew we needed to get back on track with these responsibilities, and the new school year seemed to me like the perfect excuse to put more focus on these tasks again.
So, prior to starting the school year, we had a discussion with our son about transitioning back into these responsibilities. We also discussed how he could balance his responsibilities, which would now include homework, with his privileges. While our discussion went well, in practice this transition from the more carefree days of summer to the more structured school year was a bit rocky. We got a lot of push back when it came down to my son actually following through on his responsibilities. In fact, it got to the point where we needed to make a decision to severely restrict his privileges for a number of days.
This restriction of privileges led my son to attack his own character. He started proclaiming things like “I make bad choices”. While I was happy that he was taking responsibility for the loss of his privileges, I was pained to hear him be so critical of himself. You become what you think about!
I knew I needed to do something fast to turnaround his thinking and help him think more positive thoughts about himself.
Well, when the dust settled, it was clear that he desperately wanted to earn back at least part of his privileges. I’ve never really allowed my son to earn back privileges before, but I suddenly had a light bulb moment. I realized I could let him earn back some of his privileges on a day by day basis, while at the same time, get him to utilize a technique that would have him thinking more positive thoughts about himself. An ulterior motive, indeed!
I told him that if he wanted to earn back a privilege for one day, he would need to sit down and write 20 times “I love myself”. He needed to do it with his best handwriting, and without a fuss. Well, that first day, not only did he write beautifully, but he seemed to actually enjoy writing this affirming statement.
The next day, if he wanted to earn back a privilege, he had to write “I am now making good choices.” He chose to do this, and again, his writing was beautiful and he seemed peaceful and happy as he wrote out this statement 20 times.
Writing affirmations is an extremely powerful way to improve one’s thoughts, and when you improve your thoughts about a situation, you can effortlessly improve the situation itself.
The only downside I have found with writing affirmations is that they require a bit of discipline to do. It’s easy to say you’ll have your child do this, but it is quite another thing to help them find the motivation to do so. For us, earning back a privilege was the motivation my son needed to utilize this powerful process.
So, what results have I seen from this process? Not only has he been following through with his responsibilities, but I am now seeing my son treat himself in a more loving and gentle way. When he messes up, he still accepts responsibility for his actions, but rather than beat himself up over it, he is being more compassionate toward himself. And this is really what self-esteem is all about; loving yourself in spite of your actions.
This week, consider if there is a way you can work the powerful process of affirmations into your children’s lives to address challenges with any transitions they may be facing. The feedback I have received from parents whose children write affirmations is that overwhelmingly, the child enjoys the process, not to mention the truly powerful results parents have seen from this practice.
P.S. How to write affirmations and incorporate them into your daily life is just one of the many tools I teach in my unique self-esteem program. You can learn more about this transformational program here.