What do you imagine your children most want from you? The newest gadget on which to play games? The latest iPhone? New shoes or designer clothes? A trip to Disney World? Tuition for a top university?
Sure, these things are always nice. Every kid enjoys getting something new or going to an exciting theme park.
But what all children truly yearn for goes much deeper. It doesn’t involve fancy clothes, the latest electronics, pricey trips, or even a high-brow education.
Every child wants to know three things:
- Am I seen?
- Am I worthy?
- Do I matter?
When a person feels seen, feels worthy, and feels they matter, they grow up to live an empowered life.
It isn’t gadgets, clothes, vacations, or even the best of educations that enable a child to feel good about themselves. The key to how they see themselves and feel about themselves lies in how we see them, how we feel about them — and this is reflected in the connection we experience with them.
It’s through our gaze, our presence, our attention that our children grow up with a strong sense of self. We communicate their importance in all our everyday interactions with them.
When children aren’t valued for who they are rather than for what they achieve, they grow up anxious and may well become depressed.
Many of our young people are so deprived of our attention — of simply being seen for who they are — that they self-harm. Getting drunk, taking drugs, engaging in inappropriate sexual relations, even cutting themselves–all of these are cries for our attention, manifestations of a deep yearning to be seen and known.
A child develops a solid sense of self when who they intrinsically are is seen and affirmed. A sense of their worth springs from whether we truly connect with them as an individual who’s unique, not a clone of ourselves or someone in our fantasy.
“Do you see me?” This is the big question your child is asking every day. “Can you see me for who I am, separate from your dreams and expectations for me, separate from your agenda for me?”
A child doesn’t need to be a superstar to be valuable. To simply be ordinary is perfectly okay–to be just the way they are, and know they are treasured.
It isn’t enough to tell your child you love them. They need to feel lovable within themselves.
A sense of their worth flourishes when the way we look at them, the way we listen to them, and the way we speak to them reflects just how lovable they are. This is how we empower them–how we draw out in them the powerful sense of self that will carry them successfully through life.
Dr. Shefali is a world-renowned wisdom-teacher, acclaimed author, clinical psychologist, and international keynote speaker.