Picture it: everyone is standing around shooting you those dagger looks that make you want to crawl under the cashiers’ stand. You imagine them to be thinking, “Can’t he/ she control his/her child? I would swat my child if he/she did that!”
Or something like, “I can’t believe he/she hit that poor child… Why doesn’t he/she DO something?”
Well, if you are thinking all that, you have abandoned yourself into the dark, depressing land of “the need for external approval.”
You must develop your “external observer,” that part of you that can sit outside of you and watch like a scientist looking down through a microscope into a Petrie dish.
Say to yourself, “Hmmm. This little kid appears to be very expressive, and this woman (or man) that I call ‘me’ appears embarrassed and now angry. How interesting.” And. prefer to respond, not react to your thoughts.
The beginning of self-approval
If you choose to act instead of reacting, you will come from a more empowered state. Come back to yourself and see what would be a loving thing to do or say to yourself.
It might be, “Well, I would like a hug right now.” So, give yourself a hug!
In my parenting group, we practice giving ourselves hugs and kisses so we can have one whenever we need one. See how it feels and give yourself a hug or a kiss right now.
Go on, no one is looking, and even if someone is, so what, and all the better if it is the children who see you doing it. This is the start of self-approval and acknowledgment.
You must learn to stay present with yourself, even under the scrutiny of onlookers, whether they be strangers or family.
If you continue to judge yourself by other peoples’ standards, you will be like a leaf blown around in the wind, and your self-esteem will be shaky. Plus, you will punish your child for embarrassing you; in other words, you will punish your child for your low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence.
If you remove this chain from your neck, your child won’t be able to pull it.
Think how surprised your child would be if, instead of giving your power-up in a rage, you laid down on the ground next to them and quietly waited out the emotional expression, all the while sending the child a silent, “I love you, I see your fear, frustration and need for control.”
An act of self-approval
I did this once years ago before I was even a professional counselor. I was at a grocery store, and a child was having a terrific tantrum at the front while the mother was trying to make it through the line at the cash register.
All the other shoppers were looking on, and the mother appeared thoroughly embarrassed and frozen in place. I observed for a few moments and then decided to lie down next to the little boy, who looked to be about six years old.
I laid comfortably on my side with my head propped on my hand and watched him as intently as I like to watch a National Geographic show or my favorite soap opera. The little being was so engulfed in the throes of passion that he didn’t notice me for a full half-minute, and I was not but two feet from him.
The onlookers were becoming amused, and the mother began to breathe again. Suddenly, this small person became aware of me, and all at once, came to a full stop.
He locked his little eyes on mine, and I smiled at him. His tantrum was over, and the crowd dispersed in search of other mothers they might intimidate. Mom was grateful and thanked me heartily.
Some of your best parenting techniques will come to you in a flash of brilliance, the way Mozart’s great concertos would come to him- seemingly divine intervention.
Most importantly, though, remember, emotional maturity is being able to love yourself even in the face of mass disapproval. Just knowing this will solve 75% of your current power struggles.
So, if you wish to build self-esteem in children, you, at first, need to forego the need for external approval and learn the art of self-approval
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Jane E Fendelman, MC counselor, author, speaker, has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education 1982 and Master of Counseling Degree 1993. She is an individual, marriage/couples, and child-family expert and is a twice certified Hospice Worker, Grief Counselor, Critical Incidence Debriefing Specialist and an Omni-Denominational Minister.
Jane is the founder of the Fendelman Metanoia Counseling Method for transformation. Metanoia is a total reversal in thinking or a spiritual awakening.