The reason why the whole world lacks unity, and lies broken, and in heaps, is because man is disunited within himself.
There is a private inner-world in which many adults still have a picture of themselves, given to them when they were children. Someone judged, defined, and labeled them positively or negatively. Self-esteem is the feeling they have about how they see themselves now. How they see themselves creates the colored glasses through which they see others, and the world around them.
Kindness and appreciation can be a celebration of the unique beauty and value of each individual, child, and youth, and of the unlimited potential and possibilities in every one of us.
When my children were born, a wondrous awareness came into my life. I became awake to the world of children. I became awake to humanity as a family … a world family. My children have been a connection of sweetness, love, and caring that has bonded me to this world family. Children will grow up and go on, leaving us much better than they found us. We can all take advantage of the opportunity to learn from children. When we take a moment to notice and appreciate a child’s simple reality, it can add such comic relief and joy to our lives.
One day while rushing to get our children dressed and into the car, I noticed our four-year old had put his shoes on the wrong feet. When I told him his shoes were on the wrong feet, he looked at me with a puzzled and disappointed look saying, ”But mommy, these are the only feet I have.”
My work with children is an expression of the gifts I have received from my children, and the many children with whom I have worked, played, and laughed. I have been touched by their spontaneous giving and honesty. I’ve had a peek at life through their eyes and hearts.
Mommy, you need to start dating. We need another baby. You could date the Cookie Monster! If you married the Cookie Monster, we could have a furry baby!
Unless an adult or a harsh circumstance has crushed their creative spontaneity and their kindness, children have an expanded vision of life. They have the words and the wisdom of loving. They understand forgiving and accepting one another, and will openly share their joy, their simple wisdom, and their imagination.
Many children lose their sensitivity, intuition, bliss, and joy early in childhood. It dies a little at a time with each “Don’t be silly!” or “Grow up!” or “Act your age!” Usually, they are acting their age. We adults expect them to act like adults. We adults sometimes expect them to calculate their expressions and to be precise, timely, and appropriate, while most of us are not.
Our Labels Can Become Their Prison Or Their Wings…Feedback
Children tend to believe us and our definition of who they are. Many times they will create the reality for which we have planted the seeds. They become what they see and hear.
Their imaginations can be boundless and fascinating.
“When my daughter Tiffany was five, I heard the ding of our toaster. I looked up to see Tiffany, like a burst of sunshine, dancing and leaping through the air. She was spinning in circles, jumping, laughing, and shouting joyously, “I’m coming waffles, I’m coming waffles!”
From the time we were born, we began to form attitudes and concepts about ourselves and about others. Like a computer, whatever has been programmed into us becomes our unique combination of attitude and aptitude. What we have experienced, seen, and have been told, especially as children, we have accepted as truth. We are the sum total of all that has come before us. Our truth is what someone has told us, or neglected to tell us.
The image that we have of ourselves is the foundation for the direction we will take in our lives. The picture, the point-of-view, and the feelings that we have about ourselves is sometimes called “self-esteem,” “self-concept,” or “self-image.” This self-image is how we judge ourselves; it is what we believe about ourselves.
Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.
Some children struggle desperately to get praise, appreciation and approval from their parents or people who are significant in their lives. They do not feel loved or lovable if they are not told “I love you” or some form of “You are good enough,” “You deserve love.”
Dorothy Corkille Briggs, author of Your Child’s Self Esteem, says the two main convictions of strong self-respect are feeling “lovable and worthy.” In Self Esteem For Tots To Teens, the author Eugene Anderson emphasizes the importance of reinforcing a child’s understanding that he is “lovable and capable.” A child with high self-esteem feels a sense of inner peace, belonging, and self-respect. He feels competent, responsible, and valuable, as well as lovable, worthy, and capable.
To have special abilities and accomplishments definitely helps in building self-steem. However, the fact that one has successfully reached goals or achieved recognition is not a guarantee that one feels lovable and worthy.
A man, who some say was the wealthiest man on earth, struggled with the feeling that he was never quite “good enough.” Regardless of his power, possessions, and accomplishments, he sought one missing aspect of his self-esteem … his father’s praise and approval.
From his perspective, his father’s show of love and respect would have made him a valuable, lovable, whole person. His father had a life habit of criticizing and raising eyebrows. His father was incapable of saying, “I love you,” or of honoring his son or openly recognizing his son’s value. Many grown-up children wait and hope their entire lives for the approval, praise, and “I love you,” from a self-absorbed parent. Many parents die without bestowing this gift on their children.
One should never underestimate the effect of positive feedback. Reinforcing another person’s sense of personal value has a profound influence on the development of his self-esteem.
No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
As one grows in their awareness of their lovability, they grow in capability.
When we believe in others, and have faith in their potential, they begin to believe in themselves, and to believe in their dreams and goals.
One with high self-esteem has a greater ability to keep commitments and be accountable for their behavior.
Children are impressionable, trusting, and believing. They reflect in their thinking and behavior the way others have treated them. If their environment gives the message they are “bad,” or “wrong,” insignificant, or unworthy of love, they tend to believe it. They will think it is their fault if someone does not love or respect them. Some get over it and some don’t. Children don’t consider that the person who cannot love them may be emotionally damaged and incapable of loving anyone, or of expressing appreciation.
On the other hand, an adult with high self-esteem, self-respect, and self-love, finds it easy to pass that on to their children or their friends. These people are remembered with joy and gratitude.
I grew up in the Bahamas. My dad worked at NASA with the missile plants. He traveled with his job. He wasn’t around much. However, when he was with me, he made sure that I knew that he loved me. He treated me with respect and honor. He taught me about friendship. I have had a good life with many blessings and great friends. Friendship for me is respecting others, which begins with respecting myself. Honesty with myself about who…I…am, makes it comfortable to have honest relationships. Everyone around me reflects how I feel, like a mirror. Friendship entails loyalty, commitment, and time. Trust develops over time. Friendship becomes a process of accountability and caring.
Fred has a way of enhancing the self-esteem of others while he’s having fun. When I was living a cloistered, monastic life, Fred surprised me. He briefly entered the silent cloister of women, to bring me a huge pink poinsettia on Christmas day. Oh my! The ladies all gathered around Fred like he was a gift from Santa. During our evening meeting, we were frowned upon as our supervisor scolded … “Ladies!!! There was a man…in…the…building!” A woman in the back jumped up and shouted, “Which way did he go!?”
Respect and Trust
The secret of education lies in respecting the pupil.
When children have been treated with respect, love, and honor, they feel deserving and they feel confident in their personal abilities. Respecting a child’s feelings is not necessarily agreeing with the feeling, but rather allowing the child the safety and consideration to express that feeling.
Many times children are not treated with the polite consideration that most adults would give to another adult. Simple things like “Please,” “Thank you,” and “I’m sorry,” mean so much to a child.
Dr. Dennis Waitley, author of 2005: A Child’s Odyssey, emphasizes the value of apologizing to a child. In his many years of working with children and families, one of the biggest complaints he has received from children is that adults expect children to apologize, but usually do not apologize to children. An adult who habitually does not apologize, say “I’m sorry,” or “Please,” or “Thank you,” to adults or to children, tends to be a bully and/or wants to hurt or offend others with bad manners.
“My daughter came home from the 3rd grade glowing with reports about her teacher. She said, “Mr. Colle told me I am very smart and that I am a good reader.” She tried even harder and read extra stories because of his support and praise. “Mr. Colle really likes my artwork,” she said. Her art became even more of a joy. One day she very thoughtfully said, “Mr. Colle apologized to us today. He told us he was sorry that he was being grouchy, that it wasn’t our fault, and that he was just having a bad day.” This meant so much to her. She felt that he cared about her and the other children. He was accountable for his behavior. He did not make his grouchy behavior someone else’s fault or try to make someone else feel guilty.”
Mr. Colle’s apology is an example of treating others with dignity and respect. Monkey see, monkey do. To develop high self-esteem, we need to have others respect our feelings, our likes, dislikes, ideas and opinions, and our ability to think and solve problems. We need to know we have choices and that all of our choices have consequences. Respecting the individuality of another does not mean we must agree with him, but that we recognize that he is intelligent, capable, has value as a human being, and has a right to his own opinion and his own choices.
My kids tell me that I have a hard time sitting still when I am listening to an opinion that is the opposite of mine. My daughter, now a social worker, does her quietly scolding tired, “Mahhhuumm, (sigh) you cannot save or fix everybody. You can’t fix anybody. They each have to fix themselves.” (Yes, and I teach this stuff…every time I teach it, I learn more.)
It’s a joy to allow a child to discover their own strengths and talents. It feels good to nurture the child’s personal dignity, self-respect, and integrity. They need to develop their own unique potential and not struggle to be who we try to make them become. I wanted my kids to play guitar. They have beautiful voices and natural rhythm. I had visions of us together, playing, singing, laughing and creating a family tradition. They had their own dreams and guitar was not one of them. I am glad they felt free to choose. An ‘artist’ should be an artist and a ‘scientist’ should be a scientist.
You cannot teach a man anything, you can only help him find it for himself.
I want my kids to be happy, strong, independent, and confident to meet the world when they are adults. We are a close family. My husband Dicke and I spend a lot of time at their diverse activities. We know they each, as individuals, have their own journey. Each of our three children are distinctly different. I don’t think any of us know what to expect when we become a parent. We have our hopes, our ideals, and certain goals, for our children and for ourselves as parents. One of our goals was that our kids would feel good about themselves, have high self-esteem, and the confidence to develop their individuality. It has been great. One thing for sure, it is never boring!
Kathy has an exceptional quality of loyalty and a refreshing sense of humor. Kathy, Andrea, Linda, and I raised our young children together as an extended family. We took turns with cooking, driving, childcare, and being there with one another for pregnancies, sick babies. There was so much laughter, love, and joy. It was a sweet, happy time.
Children learn easiest when they are happy. Mr. Snofski’s students had fun, and the highest grades.
I make an attempt to find in each individual child their specific talent and giftedness. I enjoy their individuality and build upon that when I teach them. When I was growing up, school was a traumatic place for me. There was one mold, one way to be and we were expected to fit that mold. I didn’t fit the mold and I was not accepted for who I was.
When I first started teaching, I wanted to be the perfect teacher. I became tense and real negative, because I was trying to have everything perfect. I wanted to teach with my desks in a perfect row, with silent obedient children. I was not enjoying the children and they were not enjoying learning.
One day my brother and I were standing together at a funeral. He said, ‘What is this life? What are we supposed to be doing here?’ Then he said, ‘I think it’s a bunch of little goals and every day you’re supposed to laugh.’
I realized that I didn’t laugh very much. I was trying so hard to be perfect…with order, precision, and seriousness…that I was missing it. I wasn’t laughing. I began looking at life differently. Instead of trying to perfect people and circumstances, I began to appreciate them. Why are we laughing in class? Who is funnier than nine year olds?! Appreciate them, accept them, and allow their funniness to come out! I refuse to deny the funniness of children, the funniness of life. Show children the beauty of life. Show them the beauty of themselves.
Tina Ballenger and Janet Schmeizer have been instrumental in my personal growth since my 19th year. I was timid and unsure of myself, yet full of dreams and hope. I felt like a kitten in a rain storm…soggy, shaky, and peeking out at the world…hoping the rain would stop and I would have the courage to go out and play.
Tina and Janet were accepting and loving unconditionally, no matter what I said, did, or didn’t do. They had a way of discovering something wonderful about me that I hadn’t noticed. They encouraged me to pursue music, writing, and to study in Europe. I began striving to live up to their belief in me. They were left-brained, organized, brilliant, fast-paced business women. I was right-brained, country, unorganized, easy-going, and creatively intelligent. Our friendship was deeper than superficial differences. They were “The Wind Beneath My Wings” as I dared to reach above the familiar, the safe, and the predictable.
While I lived in various countries, learning of other cultures, Tina and Janet asked me to write and share what I was learning. As I embraced the diversity of humanity, so did they, as I shared it with them. Their loving encouragement helped me to turn my dreams into goals and just do it. Tina’s daughter, Katie, was Miss Teen America in 1997. Katie has accomplished amazing national humanitarian projects creating “HUGS.” Tina and Janet were two of Idaho’s first women stockbrokers. Janet was a single mother with four children. She is the pillar of a loving, solid family.
Bob Thomas, a close friend of Walt Disney, described him as having a remarkable gift–a skill of drawing out the best in others. Walt Disney was certain that the “child” is never entirely eliminated from the adult, appealing to the child in each of us. He encouraged those around him to be true to themselves, reach for their best, and to create their own reality. A cornerstone on which he built his life was that when we have the courage to pursue our dreams, they come true. He developed high self-esteem, and helped others to do the same. He never gave up on Disneyland. After surviving many harsh challenges and several bankruptcies, Disneyland became a reality.
Life is a wonderful process of growth, change and exploration. It is the process of discovering and developing ourselves. Children can discover and like what they find in themselves. Perhaps we, the adults, will be fortunate and experience this with them. We may remember the hope and spark of childhood innocence, and regain a vision of all possibilities. We may be different yet astonishing!
If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
In their book, Teaching Children Joy, authors Linda and Richard Eyre repeatedly emphasize seeing the world from a child’s perspective, from the creative point of view of a child.
As a child, I was very fortunate to meet and to have my life guided by Polly Parker, a teacher capable of this creative viewpoint. I was 10 when she worked with the creative “right-brain” part of me and took her free time to teach me to read. This was years before there were special reading programs. Polly caught me when I fell through the cracks of the kids who can’t read, the ones some people give up on. Polly is a dear lifelong friend. This program is dedicated to Polly Parker. (Dedication page)
I know that every child is a special gift. Teachers have the privilege to be part of a child’s life and to direct them in a way that will make them happy and responsible. We can encourage them, guide them, but we cannot make them into whatever and whomever we want them to be. We need to remember to allow them the freedom to grow. Be excited with children! Get into their world completely and be present with them. It is wonderful! When they squeal ‘WOW!’ Say ‘WOW!’ with them. Share their joy! Help them recognize and reach their goals. As a teacher my intent was to be fair, firm, and friendly. No matter how much fun we had, I always maintained mutual respect and our rules. Children will love you for helping them learn about healthy boundaries and rules with mutual respect and fairness. Enjoy what they enjoy and discover a wonderful part of yourself!
Personal Value, Survival, and Hope
The best portion of a good man’s life, his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.
When my son Dominic was seven, and his sister Tiffany was five, we were on our way home from a children’s summer nature camp I had been teaching. The sun was setting over the California ocean, as we stopped near the beach for gas and snacks. Dom paused as we were entering a store and made quiet eye contact with a homeless boy about his age. The boy was sitting barefoot on the sidewalk, cold, huddled next to his father. Dom and Tif chose sandwiches and milk for the boy and his father, and handed the food to them as we left the store. When we got to the car, Dominic said, “Just a minute, Mom.” He grabbed his own personal homemade childhood quilt, took off his shoes, and ran over to the boy. These two boys shared a quiet communication of the heart. Dom handed him the shoes and quilt and walked back to the car. Dom softly said, “He needs them mom. It’s cold.” Tiffany offered her brother part of her blanket as they settled in to sleep on the ride home. I am humbled and grateful for the simple kindness of children. They are some of our best teachers.
When we think of the “Value of the Individual,” and children, we must also look where few dare to look, and where many pretend not to see. We must consider the “throw-away” children.
While experiencing various developing countries, I felt shocked by the children. After one month in India, my decision to return home earlier than planned, was based on two things…dysentery and nightmares. Nightmares were worse than dysentery. I got over the dysentery. I have never gotten over the occasional feelings of sadness and frustration, as I recall the countless, starving, suffering children. I can still see the beautiful, dark, hungry, pleading eyes, begging for help. Even worse than the groups of children pulling on my clothes, crowding, pushing, begging, and following me everywhere, were the quiet, motionless, haunting eyes of the starving children who had given up.
Upon returning to America, we chose to live in a beautiful, prosperous area where I would not see starving children. I did not want to look. I did not want to see, hear, or have my life touched by suffering children and their pain. Motherhood pulled me in. I began working and volunteering in schools, Boys and Girls Clubs, “Y’s,” and various children’s programs and “Red Ribbon Weeks” in California and Idaho. My work gradually and naturally developed into working with “at risk” children. I wanted to run away from these kids, but found myself running towards them. Their deeply touching, penetrating eyes were not only dark brown, as in the developing countries, but they were also blue, and green. The many children began to all look like the same heart and the same beautiful souls in different packaging. India and the developing countries are not the only places with emotionally and physically starving, deserted children, living in the streets and sleeping in alleys, boxes, and buildings empty of love, or in homes full of fear and family secrets.
When I was in high school, I wanted to do something positive to help the younger kids. I coached eleven and twelve year old boys in basketball. On our team was a boy, Jimmy, who was a really nice kid. He was a good athlete, but by far, the worst player on the team. The other kids relentlessly ridiculed him for his mistakes. One night, I had all the kids, except Jimmy, stay after practice. I told them that Jimmy needed our help, and from now on, I expected everyone to tell Jimmy how well he was doing. There would be no more criticizing one another on our team. By the end of the season, the kids won their division and Jimmy was the best player on the team.
Advertising Industry Illusion: Alcohol Drinker = More Valuable Individual
The message of alcohol advertising is, “Drink this and you will have as much fun, as much love, and as many friends as I do. Oh, and by the way, you’ll be very attractive, desirable, and secure. You’ll be happy, feel good and be a winner! Drink this and you will belong!”
Can parents, educators, churches, and law enforcement effectively compete with the many millions of dollars the alcohol industry is spending on advertising? Alcohol advertising is convincing our children and young people that they have more value as an individual if they drink alcohol. Why are we allowing it? Alcoholism in parents is creating at-risk kids, welfare families, homelessness, and domestic violence. Why is there alcohol advertising when it is so destructive to an entire society?
One Person…Every Single One of Us Can Make a Difference…If We Care
As Sandy McBrayer and I discussed children and possible solutions, she was very clear in her ideas, her ideals, and her goals. What inspired me the most was her warm, natural sense of solidity and purpose. I was thrilled upon hearing that Sandy had received the 1994 California Teacher of the Year Award, and went on to receive the National Teacher of the Year Award for 1994.
Sandy founded and developed The Homeless Outreach School for the San Diego Office of Education (Juvenile Court and Community Schools) in 1988. The children and teens have affectionately dubbed the school “Sandy School.” Her school is officially called the P.L.A.C.E. (Purpose Learning Attention Center for Education). The school serves homeless and unattended students who are 12-19 years old, in grades 7-12. Kids come to the school from a variety of circumstances; they are the “throw-away” kids. An academic Program is tailored to the individual.
“The first priority each day is to keep the kids alive by meeting whatever survival needs they have. Once that is done, we then try to educate them in an atmosphere of love, acceptance and open communication.
I love every child who walks in the door. I accept every student, no matter what he or she has done, or if they haven’t showed in five days. I care about them and protect their souls. Who else is going to? I don’t want any child to feel unloved or unwanted.”
Man’s mind stretched to a new idea, never goes back to its original dimensions.
Where there is no vision, the people perish.
The Starfish Story
As the young girl walked along the beach at dawn, she noticed an old woman ahead of her picking up starfish and flinging them into the sea. Finally catching up with the woman, the girl asked why the woman was doing this.
The answer was that the stranded starfish would die if left until the morning sun. “But the beach goes on for miles and there are millions of starfish,” countered the young girl. “How can your effort make any difference?”
The old woman looked at the starfish in her hand then threw it to the safety in the waves. “It made a difference to that one,” she said.
As we teach children about the value of individuals, we focus on our sameness. We have human bodies. We eat, feel, think, love, laugh, cry, and so on. We focus on our sameness, and then we give the perspective of honoring our differences. We honor our different cultures, family structures, races, and colors, among other things. One of our greatest lessons is to see the good in those who have made life choices that we do not agree with or understand.
When Ole Cram stopped by my home, he was beaming and so excited. He had been volunteering, teaching art, at the “Ada County (Idaho) Juvenile Detention Center. Ole is a gentle giant. He is a soft-spoken friend who spreads calm and joy wherever he is. I asked Ole what he enjoyed most about his work with the kids.
They are imaginative as art opens them up, relaxing them, and unfolding their creativity and expansive positive ideas. When someone has been deeply hurt with trauma and violence, they shut down emotionally. They make poor choices based on their lack of hope and self-esteem.
Art, music, and writing, gently break the walls they have built, allowing their feelings to flow honestly without fear. I see them as great kids, I see their potential! They have taught me a lot. I love learning from them as much as they learn from me. Wow! Some of them are the most talented people I have ever worked with.
Because the world around them–the tangible things–don’t make a lot of sense to them, they tend to really grasp onto creative concepts. They can voice their pain, their experiences, and their dreams and goals through creative activities.
Life without love is like a tree without blossoms or fruit.
My Journey Through Racism
My grandfather, Mitildas Papapavelos, was a Greek immigrant, and a rancher with a thriving moonshine business during prohibition. Ten children were born on their family ranch, near Elko, Nevada. They learned young, to guard the ranches’ water rights and moonshine with shotguns. Grandmother Eva was Danish, a gentle refined piano teacher and singer. She traveled in a horse-drawn buckboard, teaching and organizing concerts and recitals for her students in the ranching community. (Grandpa had a car but he didn’t believe in women drivers.) Grandpa built a schoolhouse on their ranch, “The Pappas School.” He hired a teacher and invited all to come. It was the local school for the surrounding ranches.
The mountains and deserts of Nevada and Idaho were my home, as my very young parents followed the wind. Dad was a miner, sheepherder, rancher, mustang trainer, a share-cropper, and dairy farmer. We were all fruit and potato pickers. We wandered, eventually landing in Castleford, Idaho, when I was about ten years old. I loved the people. Castleford was home base, as we moved from farm to farm in the various communities. My sister Shirley and I spent a lot of time on our horses, in addition to seasonally moving large herds of cattle through the beautiful canyon lands and deserts. I still love the scent of sagebrush and horses.
Within my large family there was no racial, nor cultural tolerance. As a child, I knew about “us” and “them.” “They” were “Bascos,” “Injuns,” “rice eaters” and “Waps,” etc. I didn’t know what these labels meant. There were a few exceptions, as the family expanded. Uncle Ben Lesbo the “Dago,” married aunt Constantina, uncle Bill the “Injun,” married Aunt Eva, uncle Umbrae the “Mexican” married aunt Aphrodite, and, uncle Mitchell, the “Basco,” married Aunt Magdalena. It was sort of okay because they looked like “us,” not “them.”
Leaving home in 1965, at the age of 18, and moving to Boise, Idaho, I had never seen an African American, an Asian, Middle Eastern, nor Oriental person (the rice-eaters). When I saw my first black person, I was shocked. He looked just like “us,” only his color was darker. Actually he was not even as dark as some of my friends who spent the summer getting as tanned as possible. I thought his hands were beautiful, the way they were dark on one side and light on the other. That same year I ate my first Chinese food. It wasn’t only rice, and the Chinese family that owned the restaurant looked like “us” too. I thought their eyes were prettier and brighter than some of “us,” but other than that they seemed the same.
The ‘60s were a time of confusion and discovery. My friends were dying in Vietnam with people who didn’t look like “us.” There was a lot of talk of war, and music about peace, love, and brotherhood. It was a time of such strong opinions and ideas. I noticed our differences as human beings were in how we think and see each other, not so much in our colors. There were two words that kept haunting me, demanding that I use my heart and look deeper into “them.” These two words were the first two words of “The Lord’s Prayer.” These two words were “Our Father.” It didn’t say “my Father, not yours.” It said “Our Father.” It didn’t mention colors or cultures. It didn’t say “them” or “us”…just simply…“Our Father.”
Excerpt from Bully Prevention Character Development Program © – Dianna L. Pappas-Marchese