I was recently asked a question: “A child at school told my daughter she had weird amount of hair on her arms. How can I help my daughter handle this?”
Most young children lack a filter. Well, so do many adults, for that matter! Much of what little kids say at school is simply an observation. They often don’t have an ill intent behind it. However, as they age, they take on our adult limiting values and beliefs. That, combined with the clumsy use of labels can lead us into challenging social experiences.
Back to the arm hair question. There are a number of ways that people deal with this:
- Say something critical right back at her, OR
- Use it as an opportunity to grow.
This girl’s experience dealing with an uncomfortable moment can be converted into an opportunity for her to learn to control the only thing she can: her reaction, and hence her emotions. Placing her focus on her inner experience will ultimately define not only how she deals with any such moments in her life, but it will help define her inner life…. her level of inner peace.
Here are four steps that will help you turn this into an opportunity for growth:
Minimize your own Negative Emotions
If you amp up the emotion, your child will inadvertently embed the issue more deeply and become even more self-conscious about the hair on her arms. Your child will base much of her interpretation on how you react. If you get up in arms (sorry!) and say, “how dare she say that about you”, you will dig a hole. Though this may seem like a protective response, it creates a disconnect from the world, at large. Really, this is just one person that communicated poorly.
Discuss Her Emotions
Ask her how it made her feel. She may give a universal response such as, “It made me feel like I was different” or, “It made me feel ugly.”
Potential Response: humans use the word ugly a lot, but it never truly has an effect or meaning until the labelled person allows themselves to interpret the situation the same way. This is at the core of why so many people will say “Oh, that actress is ugly” even though many would agree that the assessment is clearly off the mark.
Neutralize Her Negative Emotions
Basically, you want to reverse-out negative emotions that she has already experienced. One of the great benefits of this is that it provides the opportunity to expand your rapport with your child.
Reality: Put it into Perspective
Acknowledge the reality of it, and then talk about how each body is different. Your child may, in fact, have comparatively hairy arms. So that won’t go away (at least not in the near future). Point out that this is just one of many very unique things about her; everyone has their own unique attributes. Ask her to imagine how boring the world would be if we all looked the same! Or, how many people have had surgery to get the ‘perfect’ nose and then ended up wishing that they could have their original, unique look back.
Do Unto Others
Most of us tell our kids to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. When we tell our child to do something and then rely on their cognition to embed such a life value, it is less effective than an experiential life lessons. Turning a seemingly negative experience into an opportunity for growth can provide a better opportunity to embed this life value.
Ask your child to provide examples of when she has forgotten to use her filter. Or, if she can’t think of any, use your own life examples. I have not met one person in my life that has not made this error, so it should be straight forward. Once the child can be reminded that she has done this before and she didn’t mean any harm when she did it, she will not put her emotion into the observation. If nothing else, this exercise will show how you communicate. Do you often interpret an observation as an insult? What is your pattern? Sometimes we find that those that take most offence, tend to give it as well.
Living from the Inside-Out
The reality is that as your child gets older, you don’t want her to feel slighted at every little thing. This fuels a low self-image. As I was growing up I became very sensitive to the comments of others. I amplified the opinion of others until they became so loud that I could not hear my own voice.
From experience, I think you should teach your child to ignore the insults AND the compliments. If you let the good opinions define your self-image, by default you will inadvertently allow the negative opinions of others to define your self-image. This is one of the cornerstones of living externally – or living from the outside-in.
Teach Your Child to be Intrinsic
You know that old adage, “what others think about you is their problem”. Only, this is very tough to learn to accept and apply as an adult.
It is a great opportunity to teach your children to tap their own emotions for guidance, instead of allowing the impressions of others to guide them. That’s what we’re doing when we allow the comments of others to act as the wind that directs our sail. We are guaranteed to go off course.
We are there to help them along in their formative years, but only your child intrinsically knows her ultimate path and purpose.
Imagine if your child was not skewed by praise or insults… if she simply remained tuned in to the present moment, the way she was born?
Situations like this allow you to guide your child on how to stay true to themselves. No matter how persuasive the words of the outside world seem, contentment will only come from avoiding the trap of living externally.
Now, we know that this is an idealized response that would be difficult to achieve 100% of the time. But, what if you succeeded more than 70% of the time? How would that change your life and your relationships?
Reinforcing Your Connection
Moments like these provide an opportunity for mutual growth … to build your bond. The bonus in this is that you, too, will become conditioned to think the same way! In these moments, your child is your greatest teacher.
It is moments like these and the resultant habits that you help her create that will allow her to be free within.
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