Encouraging children to be themselves

I’m a strong believer in allowing my children to be themselves.  Hell, not just allowing them to be, but actively encouraging them.  If my son wants to play with the dolls house then that’s great.  My daughter wants to push cars around and crash them into things?  More power to her!

As my son moves towards starting full time school I’m acutely aware of all the new pressures he’s being exposed to.  In the last few months he’s started talking about boys toys and girls toys.  We’ll see an advert for a toy and he’ll say to me “That’s for girls, isn’t it Mummy?”.  I do wonder where this has come from and find it slightly unnerving that he’s able to determine that a toy is for a girl, presumably just from the way it’s marketed.  My normal response is to tell him that anyone can play with the toy if they want to.  I would hate for him to miss out on discovering talents or interests just because the related toy or activity is ‘for girls’.

The thing is, since he’s started half days at nursery school he does seem to be learning about what is socially acceptable and may well already be feeling a bit of pressure from his classmates to play with certain toys.  I don’t want him to get teased or left out because he wants to play with a different toy, but, even more so, I don’t want him to hide his true interests just to fit in.

I want him to have the self-confidence to own his interests and his choices.  I’m hoping that by encouraging him to be himself at home, this confidence will grow.  I want him to trust that he is safe at home to play with whatever interests him, to watch the tv programs that he finds enjoyable, to wear whatever clothes he feels comfortable is, to express his feelings openly and to just be his true self.

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I really hope that providing this sort of ‘safe’ environment at home he’ll learn that it’s ok to be himself and I think this will have several benefits for him as he goes through life:

  • He’ll find friends, and later partners, who like him for who he really is.  Yes he can act differently to fit in with the ‘in crowd’, but he’ll never feel fully comfortable with them.  If he’s just himself he’ll attract people who he genuinely fits in with, who’ll understand him and love him quirks and all!

 

  • His self-esteem will grow even more.  It’s like a self-esteem circle – the higher his self-esteem, the more likely he is to be himself and attract friends who like him for who he is and knowing his real self is liked and appreciated will raise his self-esteem even more!  On the other hand, if he pretends to be something he’s not to try and fit in, he’ll feel like the true him isn’t worthy of knowing and so his self-esteem could potentially plummet.

 

  • He’ll be generally happier.  If he lives his life authentically, being true to himself, he’ll feel a sense of peace and happiness that will just elude him if he spends his days trying to be something he’s not.

I really feel that you have to spend the time to get to know the child you’ve been given.  They really are born with their own unique set of interests and their own personality.  It’s not up to us as parents to try and mould them into what we want; it’s our responsibility to embrace who they are at their core.  We have to let go of our own desires for them and realise that they are their own people with their own desires for their lives.

On a side note, my son isn’t gender non-conformist, but this article still spoke to me on so many levels about allowing our children to be themselves – 12 things every gender nonconforming child wants you to know.  Well worth a read.

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