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April 21, 2024

Where Every Family Matters

Unlock Your Child’s Sense of Self

Here are 10 great ways for your child to develop an understanding of who he really is.

Research shows that “self” is learned, not inherited, and that it’s vital to know who you are in order to value yourself. Your kids (and you!) can benefit from these 10 activities from the book, 100 Ways to Enhance Self-Concept in the Classroom by Jack Canfield and Harold C. Wells. The book is intended for both teachers at school and parents at home, and it can be used with different ages. The 10 activities are great ideas for your child to embrace during the summer.

1. The Journal

Give your child a blank book so he can put personal thoughts and feelings in it. Encourage him to write autobiographical content by giving him prompts like: “10 words that best describe me” or “10 words that best describe each member of my family.” Have him provide answers to the following: My best friend, favorite TV show, books I like, what I like to do best  and so forth.

2. My Time Line

Have your child draw a horizontal line in the center of a large piece of poster paper in pencil. Beginning at the left (with “my birth”), work along the line with your child to add important dates with vertical markings such as learning to walk, starting preK, starting school, getting glasses, joining Scouts, losing pets, new siblings being born, joining sports, trips he’s taken, etc. You can also do this in a crafty way by writing items on index cards and stringing them on yarn for display. Discuss as you go!

3. Magic Box

This simple but revealing activity can have lasting effects: You construct a “magic box” — it can be any kind of box only it needs to have a mirror placed at the bottom to reflect who looks inside. Ask your child, “Who do you think the most special person in the whole world is?” After allowing your child to answer, have him look in the box. Be ready with comments: “Are you surprised?” Discuss individual uniqueness.

4. Pride Line

Our culture doesn’t encourage boasting, yet pride is related to self-concept … so ask your child to make a statement about a specific area of his behavior he’s proud about such as, “I am proud that I …” Give him suggestions if he’s having trouble pinpointing something: perhaps something he did for a friend or parent, work in school, habits he has, something he’s tried hard for, etc.

5. Success a Day

At the end of your child’s day, have him share with the rest of the family the successes he experienced during that day. It may be difficult at first. A variation is for your child to identify something he learned that day. Without recall, kids don’t realize all that they are accomplishing. You can also have your child write his successes down in his journal each day to build writing skills.

6. Positive Mantra

“No matter what you say or do to me, I’m still a worthwhile person!” Ask your child to close his eyes and repeat that sentence in unison with you: “No matter what you say or do to me, I’m still a worthwhile person!” This simple exercise (as old fashioned as it sounds) implants a new seed of thought into kids and gives them a way to handle the negative things that happen to them. Have them exaggerate saying it so it comes out strongly and convincingly, and teach them to use it when something or someone tries to get them down.

7. Who are We?

Around your dinner table or during a relaxed moment, start a discussion with your kids asking, “Who are we?” When everyone looks at you funny, say, “Well, how would you answer that question if a martian were to ask that of us right now?”

8. Who’s Who?

Ask your child to create a “Who’s Who in My Life” paper. Going through family and friends, list each person and write down for each: achievements, hobbies, pets, future dreams, favorite activities, favorite food, etc. Since we learn through experiences and experiencing, knowing others helps us to know where we fit into the picture.

9. Fingerprints

Everyone is unique and different in many ways — one of which is our fingerprints. Get an ink pad and fingerprint each member of your family. You can get the best prints by rolling the finger from left to right without squeezing too hard. Use a magnifying glass to compare each other’s prints. This little exercise reinforces your child’s uniqueness.

10. Family Tree

Help your child understand and appreciate where he’s from. Teach your child what a family tree is and draw one on a piece of paper as best you can. Together, over time, seek out information from relatives to fill out the branches of the tree. See how far you can go and add pictures, too.

About the Author

Susan Swindell Day, Editor

Susan Swindell Day is the editor in chief of Nashville Parent and the mom of four amazing kids.