In the news this week were several articles about dating abuse in “tweens” who are kids between the ages of 10 and 14. The abuse experienced was mostly emotional and mental abuse. Rarer, they reported, was physical abuse which was most prevalent in those 14 year olds who were having sex.
Having sex. At 14. Wow. And we wonder why they might be experiencing abuse. What is going on with this new generation that they are dating so young? And why are they so disrespectful to one another?
Well, the answer is rather simple. It all comes back to self-esteem. If I feel good about myself, then I will respect myself. I will not treat you badly because that would be disrespectful to me as well, and I will not let you treat me badly either because I feel good about my own value as a human being.
Obviously, we are not getting that message across well enough to our youth. How can we expect to, though, when we, as adults, struggle with it ourselves? If you have difficulty or conflict in relationships or at work where people walk over you, speak down to you, scream at or demean you, however you respond to and handle yourself in these situations, then that is what your children learn. They learn by watching you. They also learn how to feel about themselves as human beings by how you treat yourself AND how you treat them. Even if you attempt to teach them differently, they will learn what they live, not what you say. You have to role model it for them. Without good role models, children don’t learn good skills until they become adults like you and then they have to figure it out with bosses, colleagues and in their own personal and intimate relationships.
The BEST GIFT we can give our children is to have them leave our homes to enter the world with good, healthy self-esteem. If they feel good about and value themselves as human beings, they will feel comfortable with their potential as well as with their successes and they will be confident in the world with whatever they may face. Without good self-esteem, people struggle internally, even if they succeed in the world. There are many millionaires who are unhappy, who experience heavy burdens of self-doubt and lack, and who feel that no matter what they do, they will never be good enough.
What can you do? Love yourself. Learn to respect and acknowledge the wonderful-ness of you. And be open to your tweens and teens. Don’t tell them what to do. Don’t lecture. Just listen. Learn to be empathetic and compassionate, try to understand what they are going through and what they must be experiencing in this new world. Life is different today from when you were growing up. But if you have a lot of baggage that you’re carrying around with you such as self-doubt and negative self-talk, then you are too self-absorbed to be available and open to empathize with your kids. That may sound harsh but if you pay attention to your thoughts, even when you are having a heart-to-heart, if your thoughts are all about what you want or how you want to fix that person or situation, then those thoughts are all about you, not about them.
Just for today, look at your children with new eyes. They are growing up. They are different. Where are they today? What challenges are they facing? Shower them with positive affirmations, meaning tell them over and over again in as many ways as possible what you admire about them. Help them to identify how wonderful and amazing they are and teach them to treat themselves with respect and loving-kindness. If you have trouble with this yourself, then the first place to start is with you. Stop settling for less. You and your kids are worth it. You are amazing! Make the most of today.