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Take the Time Today to Increase the Self Esteem of Your Family Members
I Love You, Too!*
“Luf oo Mommee!” my toddler exclaimed as she planted a fish kiss on my cheek.
“I love you, too, honey.” I replied, giving her a little pat on the diaper as she scooted off to play. There is so much to do and so little time. When will she ever grow up? I complained.
“Oh, mommy I love you!” said my preschooler as she thanked me for the latest batch of chocolate chip cookies.
“I love you, too! Sweetheart!” I replied, hoping that one more cookie would not contribute to too many cavities. One day she will be baking these herself, I determined.
“Mom, can I play with my friends today?” my youngster pleaded on the phone.
“Oh, I suppose,” I replied.
“Gee, thanks, I love you, Mom.”
“And I love you, too!” I said with a note of hesitation in my voice. When will my child stay home for just one day? She isn’t here when I need her! I mused.
“Bye mom! I love you!” my teen shouted as she ran out the back door.
“I love you, too!” I echoed as I pushed the door shut that she had left standing open. How quickly she recuperated from last night’s heated discussion, I noticed.
“Hi, Mom! Oh, how I have missed you! I love you!” My college sophomore rushed to greet and hug me.
“I love you, too, it’s so good to have you home again!” I replied with tears brimming in my eyes. "You have been gone so long! Let’s sit and visit for a while," I ventured.
“Mom, I can’t believe this is happening! I love you so much!” my darling daughter said as she put on her veil and straightened her wedding dress.
“I love you, too!” I said, but my thoughts were echoing, Where has the time gone, it was just yesterday that you were small!
Why is a family so important?
Every family is different. Each has its own culture, personality, socioeconomic issues, and technological savvy. Yet even with all of these differences, families are defined by the fact that they live together as a group. Every day, they rub shoulders and in the process, affect one another in dramatic ways. These communications, whether verbal or non-verbal, have the potential of doing enormous good, or causing harm.
Validation check points are key times when family members are most vulnerable and internalize what is said and done by others into their core feelings of self worth. These include:
- First contact in the morning
- During meals
- When leaving home
- During decision making
- Arriving home after being gone
- Following a difficult experience
- Last contact at night
The first contact in the morning often sets the tone of the day. A simple "Good Morning" says, "It is good to see you. I hope your day goes well." This may mean the difference between seeing the previous night as a good one, or finding something to complain about.
Words of greeting and appreciation are vital. A smile is the simplest act of service one can give when in the presence of a family member. It brings a ray of sunshine, and is most often met with a return smile.
Meal times are critical to the development of family camaraderie. Regular group meals where family members work together on preparation and clean up teach vital skills as well as spawning feelings of friendship. Stressful meal times lead to indigestion and poor sleep. Meal times with pleasant conversation feed a person physically, as well as mentally and spiritually.
When leaving the home, a person takes with them the last words that were spoken and integrates them into the forthcoming activities. When arriving back, they are processing what has recently occurred from the short to long-term memory. A pleasant greeting or a "Tell me about your day" keeps these memories in proper perspective.
Times of difficulty and decision making are often filled with self-reflection. Positive contact with family members during these times solidifies feelings of worth. A word of encouragement may make the difference between accomplishment of a goal and giving up. Listening helps the person to process what they are dealing with, facilitating problem solving and the making of plans for a better future.
The last words a person hears at night may determine the tenor of sleep and the ability of the person to process the events of the day. Hugs and kisses given generously help one settle down and relax for the night, and keep sleep disturbances to a minimum.
Messages that build self-esteem in the family
According to Maslow's Hierarchy of human needs (see diagram above), the most important need we have is physiological, or food, water, and sleep. Next, is the need for safety. We want to know that we will be warm, safe, and protected. The third level of need is for love and belonging. These are followed by esteem and self-actualization. All of these needs are met within the family unit. Families that are able to get beyond physiology and safety are able to use validation check points effectively.
Research has shown that self-esteem comes from two different sources, how we feel about ourselves (who we are, "Be" messages), and what we think other people feel about us (what we do, "Do" messages). Using validation check points to send positive messages allows self-esteem to grow and flourish.
“Be” messages build bonds of trust. They give the assurance that the family member values the person and demonstrate unconditional love through affection, kindness, and active concern for the other’s welfare. Family members know each other intimately and are in a key position to give these messages regularly and generously.
Once a person knows that they are valued by another, “Do” messages are able to be accepted and internalized. They say, “I like what you are doing, and I want you to do it again in the near future.” When one rubs the other’s back and it feels good, a “Do” message would be, “Oh that feels good.” Another example would be a compliment after a meal, such as, “That lasagna was great.”
Expressions of gratitude or appreciation, praise for a job well done, acknowledgement of talent and ability, observations of tasks completed, and passing on information gained from credible resources are examples of “Do” messages. They build on the foundation of trust previously laid, and allow family members to inspire, strengthen, and uplift one another.
Examples of positive and negative "Be" and "Do" messages:
Positive "Be" Messages
Negative "Be" Messages
Positive "Do" Messages
Negative "Do" Messages
It is good to see you.
Cut it out!
I like the way you were kind to her.
What a stupid thing to do!
You look nice today.
Keep your mouth shut.
I appreciate you.
Don't be stupid.
Thanks for your help with the dishes.
I can't believe you just did that!
See you later!
I didn't ask for you.
Have a great day!
Keep your grubby hands off.
Tell me about your day.
I like it when you do that.
Go take a hike!
You'll never amount to anything.
I appreciate your input.
Keep it up and you'll be sorry!
Let me give you a hug.
You are so dumb.
Keep up the good work.
Don't cry over spilled milk!
I love you.
I don't like you.
You did it!
Now, look what you've done!
Using positive “Be” and “Do” messages during validation check points, we can build our family's feelings of self-esteem. The benefits are far-reaching, for them, and for us.
*Poem "I Love You, Too" written by Denise W. Anderson
© 2012 Denise W Anderson