As we head back into the school year, our children will be exposed to many different ideas and suggestions. This will occur for all age groups: elementary schools, high schools, universities. Some will come from educators who have agendas and some will come from peers who are already under the influence of others. Some will come from children whose parents’ values do not align with ours. As they go out into the world, it is important for us to instill in our precious children a sense of self-esteem. Without that feeling of power over self, our children are more likely to be manipulated by others.
It is difficult to instill this powerful feeling once the children have hit adolescence. In many cases, peers have become much more important than parents. So, it is very important that we instill strength in our children at a very young age. I am reminded of a movie that came out just a few years ago called “The Help.” In that movie, there was a triangular relationship that spoke volumes. A mother, a daughter and a nanny. The mother was much more concerned with her social standing than with her young child. She spoke harshly to her or ignored her and played little or no role in her child’s daily development. The nanny, however, was more like a Mommy, who was effectively raising this baby girl. She spoke in positive affirmations to the child every day …“You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” The best offense we have against peer pressure and brainwashing of our children is to teach them positive affirmations from a very young age. If they feel comfortable in their own skin, they are much less likely to be easily swayed by others.
Children learn the word “No” very early….it was my granddaughter’s first word. Little children learn from communicating with their parents that “No” is most definitely a complete sentence. And at some point, we forget that simple idea. We start to feel that everything needs an explanation or a rationalization. No. If a child is approached by a pedophile offering to take them to see a puppy, we teach the children to shout “NO!” and run to a trusted adult. We could just as easily teach our children that when someone offers them a substance that will “make them feel so good” they can say “No” and walk away. There does not need to be an explanation. If a teenaged daughter has been taught that she is valuable and her body is hers to control, and if she is being cajoled into engaging in sexual activity because “it’s not that big a deal and everyone does it” she has a right to say “No” if she is not ready and doesn’t owe anyone an explanation. If our young adults have been taught to engage in dialogue and to respect one another’s viewpoints and if a university professor editorializes from the podium, whether liberal or conservative, and encourages the students to become aggressive in striking out against the other side, our young adults have the right to say “No.” None of those “no” answers requires an explanation. No is definitely a complete sentence.
But to expect our children to have that level of personal strength if we don’t encourage it and cultivate it from a very young age, will be difficult to achieve. Our children need to know that sometimes we will say “No” to them with an explanation and sometimes we will say “No” and there will be no explanation. By the same token, we need to be willing to accept that sometimes our children will say “no” to us with an explanation and sometimes they will say “no” with no explanation. If we are open and honest with our children and give them feelings of self-esteem, along with love and caring, they will have the strength to say “No” as a complete sentence when that is appropriate.