Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. ~Charles W. Eliot

Monday, June 13, 2011

The powerful message in a mistake

In a heart to heart conversation with one of my daughters this weekend, she apologized in case she ever negatively impacts my self esteem. She seems to understand that I put a lot into my mothering, frequently feel unappreciated and tend to be hard on myself when I feel like I've made the wrong call. My kids are exceptionally good at pointing out when I've made a wrong call. Not having completely shed the dramatic tendencies of my own girlhood, I will admit that sometimes when my kids misbehave, I will cry, "Where did I go wrong? I am failure as a mother!" I deeply appreciate that someone has been listening and wondering if this means that she's making me feel bad about myself. She isn't. I took the opportunity to remind her that no one but you can affect your own self esteem. Each one of us has the inner power to rise above anything that's said or done to us. Believing in ourselves is a huge and non-transferable responsibility. It's what helps us set and stay our course. I have great kids and, as a result, find it pretty easy to believe that I am a reasonably good mom. That's what the evidence seems to suggest and I'll take it! That doesn't mean I consider parenting easy and certainly doesn't mean my own parenting is never flawed. It does means I believe in myself sufficiently to make tough decisions when it comes to my kids and to make the inevitable mistakes along the way. And that's the part of the message that I most want to convey to my children - mistakes are good because allowing yourself to make mistakes says a lot about who you are and requires that you believe in yourself to some extent; learning from your mistakes is even better.

My two favorite self-esteem-related books for young people are I'm Gonna Like Me: Letting Off a Little Self-Esteem by Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell, for the younger set, and Katherine Paterson's Bridge to Terabithia for middle graders. The takeaway from each: like yourself because you are you and you are more extraordinary than you might think. The bonus benefit - one is an upbeat and colorful picture book that's fun to quote and the other is one of the best stories ever told!

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