the unquantifiable self

The #1 Gift You Can Give a Child

As we sift through the detritus of wrapping paper and family-sized battery packs after the holidays, it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on the gifts we’re giving our children that will outlast the AAs.

When Oprah Winfrey hosted writer Toni Morrison on her show, Morrison spoke of the importance of how we react each time our children enter a room:

When a kid walks into the room, does your face light up? That’s what they’re looking for.

“When my children used to walk in the room when they were little,” Morrison continued, “I looked at them to see if they had buckled their trousers or if their hair was combed or if their socks were up…You think your affection and your deep love is on display because you’re caring for them. It’s not. When they see you, they see the critical face. What’s wrong now? But then if you let your…face speak what’s in your heart. Because when they walked in the room I was glad to see them. It’s as small as that.”

Winfrey has said that one of the biggest lessons she retained from her show in the 1990s is that,

The common denominator of the human experience is that everybody just wants to be appreciated or validated.

When we don’t develop a fundamental sense of self-worth as children, we continue seeking external validation as adults. Giving our kids the long-lasting gift of self-esteem is worth keeping at the forefront of our minds as we parent.

The statistics on how little time we spend actually engaging one-on-one with our children are striking: parents clock a mere 1-8 minutes of daily reading to or with their kids, for example. As time management author Laura Vanderkam puts it, “That’s barely enough time to pull apart the sticky pages of Goodnight Moon.”

So this year, let’s resolve to spend more focused time with our children (while not multitasking on email or social media while playing Candy Land or Uno…), and be mindful that we show them our faces lighting up each time they walk into the room.

As seen on ripeandready.com

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