3 Easy Tools to Build Kids’ Self Esteem

img_8201Today I was listening to a podcast on brain function that led to a Huge aha moment for me as a parent.

I learned that children before age 7 are predominantly in a theta brain state. This is the hyper-suggestible state that is used in hypnosis, one of the few ways to override the subconscious brain’s programs and incorporate new instinctive ways of being in the world.

The implications of this are enormous. The reason we “turn into our parents” when we grow up is because our brains have downloaded their words to us and to themselves and made them our own.

It follows that we can consciously create our children’s internal dialogues. We can plant the seeds of a healthy self esteem and positive outlook that cycle through their subconscious minds.

The steps we can take to make this happen are:
1. Seeding our children with positive statements about who they are
2. Practicing and vocalizing our own positive statements about ourselves
3. Demonstrating our belief in those statements by acting as if they’re true.

Let’s break these down a bit.

1. Seeding our children with positive statements about who they are. Affirmations, or positive belief statements, have been shown to be effective when they’re repeated in a theta brain state. So you have a huge window in the years especially between age 2-5 when kids are entirely in theta, and up until age 7 when that’s their predominant state.

It’s crucial that the affirmations are unlimited statements that affirm who your child is rather than what your child did. Why? Affirming what they did sets them up in a cycle of needing to perform in order to feel good about themselves. There’s much to say about this form of limited praise (which is actually judgement), but I’ll just refer those who are curious about it to the best resource on the topic: Unconditional Parenting (affiliate link).

The best unconditional affirmations I’ve found that you can use with your kids are copied below, excerpted from here: http://www.positive-parents.org/2014/01/nourish-your-childs-mind-with-positive.html

You are valuable to us.
You are so loved.
You are going to do great things in this world.
I’m so happy to have you.
We are lucky to have you in our family.
I will always love you, no matter what.
You can do anything you set your mind to.
The world is a better place because you’re in it.
Your smile lights up my whole day.
I love to hear you laugh.
Your brother/sister is blessed to have you.
Your kindness and compassion amaze me.
You are a wonderful person.

2. Practicing and vocalizing our own positive statements about ourselves. How often do we make negative statements about ourselves (I’m so stupid) our bodies (I’m so fat) or even our partners (Why don’t you ever listen) in front of our children? These all get downloaded into our childrens’ brains, too. The most effective way we can shift our negative self-talk is by shifting our internal dialogue, which we can do when we’re in the hyper-suggestible theta state, just before we go to sleep. We can find affirmations that resonate with us and record them to play back just before sleep, or we can find programs that do this for us. One free resource that I plan on trying out is this affirmation meditation from Louise Hay, available as an iphone app.

3. Demonstrating our belief in those statements by acting as if they’re true. Affirmations have been shown to be effective only when they’re believable. For kids, this means that your behavior must back up your talk. When using affirmations on your kids, it is helpful to ask yourself “how would I behave if this were true” for any given affirmation. For example, if you’re saying “You can do anything you put your mind to” then you’re likely to let your child take risks and figure things out on his own rather than taking over when he’s in the middle of a difficult project. I’d recommend doing this step through journaling, so that you can really play out the scenario and it’ll be easier to walk your talk in the moment.

I’ll be reporting back on my experiences using these steps, and I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences below!

Miriam KatzMiriam J. Katz is co-author of The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year, where you can find a guide to safe co-sleeping and other fun tools. Miriam is an intuitive life coach whose passion is to help others overcome obstacles to living their life purpose. She lives in Boston with her husband and two children.

The Tale of Mrs. No

On Sunday, Mothers Day, I did something awesome- I walked down the street to the supermarket all alone.  Just me and my reusable shopping bag in the sunshine to pick up 1 single item.  Heavenly.

I normally shop pushing a double stroller or pulling a wagon, and I load the food on top of and under the boys and then squeeze into the only checkout line that fits us. Freebie post partum weight loss tip– 2 kids + double stroller + heavy groceries like a watermelon and a gallon of milk = great workout.
Some days it’s fun; some days Jack runs his kid-sized shopping cart into my ankles.

Next to the registers there are rows of DVDs at kid eye level; brightly colored boxes with Diego and Thomas on them.  Well played, A&P.

Mrs. No is behind me in line and has 2 enormous potted flowers in her hands.  In my imagination, the poor lady is probably steamed already because it’s 2pm on Mothers Day and her spouse was like “oh, btw can you get a present for my Mom, too?” Her shopping companion is 3 feet tall and clutching a Diego video.  “Mom?” he asks with a grin shaking it from side to side.  “No.”  Then for the next 3 minutes, with no further peep out of the boy, the woman says No about 20 times with escalating intensity and no eye contact.
She could have said a million things that may have affirmed their relationship AND got him to put the DVD back.  What a missed opportunity.

That’s the whole story.  I was finished paying so I left.  I can only assume that they checked out with 2 orchids and 0 Diego videos.

I live happily in a bubble of like minded families, so I don’t hear 20 “Nos,” ever. Maybe it’s common? When I was a newbie, seasoned Mamas from LLL and an online parenting group shared stories of Gentle Discipline.  I was so psyched and surprised that you could parent without spending your days saying No.  I devoured the excellent How To Talk So Kids Will Listen long before Jack’s first words.

Nos have their place and trust me, there are limits galore in this house.   But I‘ve always liked Martha Sears’s idea of saving “No” for special situations–a toddler hand approaching a hot stove, for example– so that it is both rare and taken seriously. I love the challenge of finding alternatives to “No” that are respectful and/or silly.  Sometimes in the instance of a child wanting something that they’re not going to get, a simple “yeah that stinks” can go a long way.

Next time “No” is on the tip of your tongue, consider this: Can you think of any instance in your life where hearing “No” doesn’t totally suck?  Pitching an idea at work? Inviting a friend out for drinks? Making a pass at your husband? We know as grown ups that the thoughtful thing to do is let people down easy, soften the blow.  Children deserve that, too.

Rebecca is Mom to 2 butt-kicking,  limit-testing little boys.  She only likes hearing “No” when the question is “Does this nursing tank make me look fat?”


Did you know The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year is now for sale? Are you interested in learning more about gentle, mom and baby-friendly practices that foster a joyful, connected relationship? Want to introduce a pregnant friend to natural parenting? Check out our website or head over to Amazon to grab your copy today!


Music and communication

This post was written as a submission to the monthly All About Parenting Blog Carnival hosted at About.com. This month’s theme is music and submissions are due March 3rd.

Dalia and I just enrolled in a Music Together class. Actually, it’s a class inspired by Music Together, but the songs are in Hebrew, and it’s called Share A Shirah.

As an American who is raising her daughter in her second language, it’s been wonderful to both connect with native speakers and with fellow crazy Americans who see the value in raising their kids in Hebrew.

Music has been called many things over the years, as generations innovate and create new norms. Noise, garbage, incomprehensible, radical. But, as we move past types of music and perceptions of music, we can look to the power that is inherent in music. The power to connect.

For me, most of all, I seek to connect my daughter to her family. Then to her community. Then, her people and culture. Finally, to the peoples of the world. Introducing multiple languages has been one way for me to build those connections on her behalf.

As we show up each week to sing, pound on drums and laugh, I’m beginning to see another dimension to music. It’s not only a means to an end – the goal being language acquisition.

Music is a language. And it’s one that surpasses vocabulary. For those of us raising pre-verbal babies, it’s second only to the language of touch, of energy.

Music is something we can enjoy together. It is how we can learn about each other and communicate. And years from now, these same songs will transport us back to these magical days of Dalia’s childhood.