Right now you’re probably thinking, “Write a book? I hardly have enough time to read a book!” If you have a child, or teach a child, you write in their “Book of Me” every day with your words and responses. Here’s an example of how my mom unknowingly wrote a forever message in my book.
One of my earliest memories involving food happened on a hot summer afternoon. I was about four years old and had been out riding my bike around the neighborhood all afternoon. I was famished and could smell fried chicken wafting through the air. Yum! I ran into the house and dipped my dirty little index finger into the creamy chunk of butter sitting on the dinner table. I was just about to devour it when my mother yelled, “Debra Ann! Do NOT eat that! No wonder you’re fat!” Despite her words (or maybe because of them) I quickly popped the butter in my mouth, savoring its sweet/salty goodness even as I felt the shame of her scolding. After all, I already weighed more than my neighborhood friends and cousins, and had already internalized that message!
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me!” Yes, they can! Yes, they do! That name became my label, and the stick by which I measured all success. Would my life have played out differently if I hadn’t picked up that belief? I think so.
Of course, I understand now that my mom was just concerned about me, but the message I heard at that young age was “You’re a bad, fat, little girl.” So that’s what I wrote, all those years ago, in The Book of Me. It became part of what defined me.
Though we don’t always realize it, we’re all constantly helping to write our children’s stories. We feed them words, sentences, even whole chapters. Some of it they will process and discard as they mature. But some of it is as indelible as scribbling on a wall with a permanent marker. Our words will shape who they become.
As adults, we’re charged with making sure we’re raising kids who feel positive about themselves and their place in the world. Fortunately, the experts are all over the topic of building self-awareness and self-esteem in children. And I’ve found that, in a round-about way, their advice consistently boils down to one basic concept: words matter. Seems like a no-brainer, right? But when kids are behaving badly, doing exactly what we’ve told them not to do (eating butter comes to mind), or creating what I call “kid chaos”, it’s all too easy to spew out that What were you thinking? Don’t be stupid! reaction. Especially if that’s what we heard from our own parents. Even if we don’t utter those exact words, that’s what our kids are hearing, and that’s what they’re writing in their own books.
My Book of Me affected my kids, my parenting, my relationships, and really every aspect of my life, until I rewrote the negative passages and replaced them with positive truths. Over time, my motto has become, “Learn better. Do better.” And I am. That’s why I’m so passionate about Simply Successful Kids. It helps kids edit their story before they commit it to the page.