The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.
“I am awesome,” she declares without jest. I turn and smile at her. Her words make me giggle. She is adamant and serious about her awesomeness. A few months ago Hubby told us a story and with it a joke, from his story she picked up on the phrase, “I am awesome.” Now she says it daily and often. It is like she is trying it on to see how well it fits. Is it true of her? Is she really awesome?
I find myself repeating this phrase to myself quietly too. “I am awesome.” I am also trying it on for size, seeing how it fits, stepping back from the mirror a bit to look at myself in the whole thing.
I am big advocate of identifying and living from within authentic Life Themes.
It is one of the many lessons I am learning on this motherhood journey thus far – the way in which Life Themes seem to grab on to us for good or for bad not letting us go. Some Life Themes most certainly are true of us. We do have tendencies to omit or lie, we are prone to blame or being left out, we rush to hide or rush to confront, we can be needy and demanding, we are not good enough for some or too much for others. And the good Life Themes: we are honest, we are true, we are lovers, we are funny, we are kind, we are outgoing, we are good at friendship, we are giving, and more.
Then there are those toxic themes that are NOT true of us. They grab a hold of us and we live from within them whether we realize it or not. We become those labels: liar, faker, too sensitive (in the way the world shames sensitivity), hiding, manipulative, approval-seeking and so many more. Not all of our Life Themes are bad. However, some stick to us and we can not shake them. They become something we repeatedly have to get over to be OK with ourselves and this world. We cannot seem to get them to leave us alone.
Discover Your Kids Unhealthy Life Themes
One of our daughters has a life theme that revolves around being left out – being forgotten – being unheard and overlooked. We noticed this early for her, watched it coming from outside of us and among us.
- Bearing witness to her Life Themes,
- Recognizing them with her,
- Refusing to discredit their existence in her life
- Naming those themes,
- Stepping back and analyzing why they exist and repeatedly continue to appear in her life…
All of the above points have helped grant us a better understanding OF HOW WE ARE UNINTENTIONALLY (or intentionally) ENFORCING THEIR EXISTENCE in our midst, AND THE STEPS WE NEED TO BE TAKING TO DISCREDIT THESE TOXIC, HARMFUL LIFE THEMES in her life and in the heart of our family.
This understanding of why they exist and what they mean helps to guide us as we repeatedly redirect specific attempts meant to harm her heart and destroy her spirit and bring distance between us. It is not easy. We do not always catch them for her in time. When we see them coming at her (at us), we call them out on the spot. We show her how to redirect her life towards the truth. We show her how to stand up and command the themes to leave. That theme has no place here.
That theme is NOT true of you. And if our actions have reinforced the toxicity instead of the truth – we ask for forgiveness and make amends. We seek to reconcile what is untrue, by replacing it with what is lovely, pure, authentic, wholehearted, and a genuine encouragement.
So often parents reinforce the themes, repeat the accusations, smear the pain further instead of stopping to recognize the themes – and refuse to participate in poisoning their child further.
A part of parenting well is seeing our kids’ Life Themes and then helping them learn how to live beyond them, despite them, helping them to make sure that these toxic Life Themes are not something they ultimately become and never learn to overcome.
I do not want my children to simply cope their way through life. I want them to thrive.
You do not have to become your themes. Simply because they are there does not mean that they are true. You always have a choice.
These toxic themes: you are a liar, not good enough, the jealousy that comes with a perception that things are not equal or fair, you are forgotten, you do not belong, and others, will come at our children their whole lives. We need to be aware, intentionally present and watchful, redirecting them towards authentic, wholehearted, healthy Life Themes. We need to point them towards themes that say:
- I see you.
- You are awesome.
- You ARE kind.
- You are important to me, to this family, to this world, to GOD.
- You are loved by a great big, very present God.
- You are more than your body or your looks.
- You are more than your report cards or your SAT scores.
- You are not your brother or your sister – and we don’t want you to be them. We want you to be you.
- You have value whether or not you go to church.
- You are important no matter how much faith or how much doubt exists in your life.
- You are bigger than all the labels that are thrown at you.
- Your Life Themes are not always true of you.
Raising Awesome Kids
My daughter’s anthem, “I am awesome,” gives me hope. Perhaps we CAN raise daughters and sons who recognize their inherent worth? Maybe they will not struggle the same ways their father and I did.
Perhaps they can avoid these destructive, dehumanizing anthems that set us up in destructive patterns It’s exhausting trying to live a life others approve. It can be debilitating trying to live in the toxic Life Themes and labels that others choose to reinforce.
Maybe we can raise children who have a backbone they are not afraid to use? Is it possible? Is there a manual for how to do this well – raising happy, healthy, wholehearted people?
Perhaps we are raising children who will not struggle to make peace with their bodies? Maybe they will be able to accept how they are shaped and not spend decades trying to force their natural physical inclinations into unrealistic cultural ideals.
Perhaps they will with great bravery find their voices and be unafraid to use them. There is no reason for our children to be tamed into boxes and lives of “correct/approved” thinking and living.
Maybe they will be brave enough to accept who they really are – in all their awesomeness.
It isn’t easy – raising wholehearted, healthy-minded kids.
But I know that it starts when we, as parents, begin to bravely recognize toxic, even poisonous Life Themes that threaten the health of our family. It starts by calling those themes out and replacing them with healthy, authentic, wholehearted alternatives. It starts in my own heart and life, then into the hearts and lives of our those in our family. It starts with me.
May our default family themes always be “true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.”
This article from Donald Miller is a good read: “Great Parents Do This Well”
Three Thoughts to Consider:
- What is one life theme you can identify in your own life? When did it start? Who first spoke it? How has it shaped your life for good or not so great?
- Taking time this week – sit down with a journal and write out the themes that you can see in the life of your child. What words are spoken over them? What are some things that have happened to reinforce these specific themes: the feelings that I am stupid, not good enough, a liar, a thief, lacking authenticity, approval seeking, etc.
- Once you identify the toxic themes that your child is facing what are some things you can say and things you can do to reinforce better, life-giving alternatives?