How Might Parents Send the “You are Worthy” Message to a Discouraged Child?

diane sitting on steps with three kidsOne of the most significant responsibilities of parents and caregivers is to transmit the kinds of affirming messages that become locked into the inner, deep core belief systems of our children.

Messages like…“You deserve to feel happy.” Or, “You have the right to your opinion, even when other people disagree with you.” Or, “You are worthy of feeling safe.”

How many of us truly send these (and any other messages) that share we are worthy of thinking, feeling, doing and most importantly being?

How do we form core beliefs?

From the time children are born and perhaps even earlier, the brain is actually forming rudimentary core beliefs. Obviously, prenatally and in the early months and years of a child’s life, these beliefs are more sensory in nature than cognitive.

Nonetheless, from early on, children are learning about the world and how much they are valued in the world. When parents and caregivers quickly respond to a crying child and cuddle him or her, feed, diaper, walk, sing to or rock him or her, the child receives the message that he or she is worthy of being cared for when he or she is uncomfortable, hungry, in pain or feeling lonely.

When a toddler hears and experiences from parents and caregivers that it’s okay to explore—and in fact it’s expected—that child translates the behaviors and messages of his or her caregivers into the core beliefs he or she deserves/has the right to explore.

It isn’t bad or wrong, it’s expected, it’s valued, it’s important, and it’s to be celebrated.

What are some of the messages that all infants and babies deserve, just because they exist? How about toddlers and school-aged children? Adolescents?

Author Jean Illsley Clarke, in Growing Up Again, shares the specific messages children need and deserve to hear from their parents and caregivers. Each of these can contribute to helping babies, young children and teens embrace beliefs about what they deserve, beliefs that they are worthy of being loved, cherished and encouraged to grow and develop into healthy, secure adults.

Stage One – Being from Birth to about Six Months – Affirmations for Being

  • I’m glad you are alive.
  • You belong here.
  • What you need is important to me.
  • I’m glad you are you.
  • You can grow at your own pace.
  • You can feel all of your feelings.
  • I love you and I care for you willingly.

Stage Two – Doing from about Six Months to about 18 Months – Affirmations for Doing

  • You can explore and experiment and I will support and protect you.
  • You can use all of your senses when you explore.
  • You can do things as many times as you need to.
  • You can know what you know.
  • You can be interested in everything.
  • I like to watch you initiate, grow and learn.
  • I love when you are active and when you are quiet.

Stage Three – Thinking from about 18 Months to about 3 Years – Affirmations for Thinking

  • I’m glad you are starting to think for yourself.
  • It’s okay for you to be angry, and I won’t let you hurt yourself or others.
  • You can say no and push and test limits as much as you need to.
  • You can learn to think for yourself and I will think for myself.
  • You can think and feel at the same time.
  • You can know what you need and ask for help.
  • You can become separate from me and I will continue to love you.

Stage Four – Identity & Power from about 3 Years to about 6 Years – Affirmations for Identity and Power

  • You can explore who you are and find out who other people are.
  • You can be powerful and ask for help at the same time.
  • You can try out different roles and ways of being powerful.
  • You can learn the results of your behavior.
  • All of your feelings are okay with me.
  • You can learn what is pretend and what is real.

Stage Five – Structure from about 6 Years to about 12 Years – Affirmations for Structure

  • You can think before you say yes or no and learn from your mistakes.
  • You can trust your intuition to help you decide what to do.
  • You can find a way of doing things that work for you.
  • You can learn the rules that help you live with others.
  • You can learn when and how to disagree.
  • You can think for yourself and get help instead of staying in distress.
  • I love you even when we differ; I love growing with you.

Stage Six – Identity, Sexuality, and Separation from about 13 Years to about 19 Years – Affirmations for Identity, Separation and Sexuality

  • You can know who you are and learn and practice skills for independence.
  • You can learn the difference between sex and nurturing and be responsible for your needs, feelings, and behavior.
  • You can develop your own interests, relationships, and causes.
  • You can learn to use old skills in new ways.
  • You can grow in your maleness or femaleness and still be dependent at times.
  • I look forward to knowing you as an adult.
  • My love is always with you. I trust you to ask for my support.

a toddler building blocks and smilingEach time a parent or caregiver interacts with a child, they have the opportunity to transmit one or more of these messages, not only in what they say but also in how they behave, in their facial expressions, their willingness to have conversations and allow children to process their thoughts and feelings, and in all the other ways they interact with their children.

This list of messages can guide parents in considering specifically what they want to transmit to help their children become deeply aware of how much they deserve to experience love, to feel cherished, to be honored and to deeply believe they deserve all that life has to offer.

Invitation to Reflect

  1. When you were a child, what kinds of messages did you receive with regard to your worth or value? How did receiving those messages impact your life?
  2. What are some ways you are now sending messages to your own children to help build their core beliefs about how worthy they are?
  3. What are some new ways you can increase the quantity and quality of these messages?

Diane Wagenhals, Director of Lakeside Global Initiative