GIVE THEM A SENSE OF WORTH!
BY DR. JAMES C. DOBSON
For a couple of seasons when John McKay was coaching football at the California, his son, John Jr. was a leading pass receiver. A television reporter once McKay to comment about accomplishments on the gridiron. His answer was most impressive.
“Yes, I’m pleased that John had a good season last year. He does a fine job, and I am proud of him. But I would be just as proud if he had never played the game at all.”
What Coach McKay was saying was that John’s football talent was recognized and appreciated, but his human worth did not depend on his ability to catch a football. Thus, his son would not lose respect if the next game brought failure and disappointment. John’s place in his dad’s heart was secure, being independent of his performance.
I wish every child could feel the same way, but to the contrary, human worth in our society is often reserved for those who meet certain specifications. For instance, the beautiful people are born with it; those who are highly intelligent are likely to find approval; and millionaire athletes are held up by society as heroes. But no one is considered valuable just because he or she is!
Believe it or not, a 5-year-old is capable of “feeling” his or her own lack of worth in this system. Many of our little ones have observed early on that some people are valuable and some aren’t; they also know if they are one of the losers! In many ways, we parents inadvertently teach this system to them. The result is widespread inferiority and inadequacy-traits that could include you and me in its toll.
The same can be said for many of today’s adolescents. I have observed that a vast majority of those between the ages of 12 and 20 are bitterly disappointed with who they are and what they represent. Many of these discouraged young people will not admit how they feel because it hurts to acknowledge these inner thoughts.
But teenagers are by no means alone in this personal devaluation. Every age poses its own unique threats to self-esteem. Little children typically suffer a severe loss of status during the tender years of childhood.
Likewise, most adults are still attempting to cope with the inferiority experienced in earlier times. And I am convinced that senility and mental deterioration at the latter stages of life often result from the growing awareness by the aged that they live in the exclusive world of the young: where wrinkles, backaches and dentures are matters of scorn; where their ideas are out-of-date; and their continued existence is a burden.
Although the task of teaching self-worth to our children is not an easy one, there are ways we can teach them about their genuine significance, regardless of the shape of their noses or the size of their cars or the efficiency of their minds. All children are entitled to hold up heads, not in haughtiness and pride, but in confidence and security.
This is the concept of human worth intended by our Creator. How foolish for us to doubt our value when He formed us in His own image! His view of outward appearances was made abundantly clear more than 3,000 years a when Samuel was seeking a king for Israel. Samuel naturally selected the tallest, most handsome son of Jesse, but God told him he had chosen the wrong man, saying:
“Don’t judge by a man’s face or height, for this [David’s brother] is not the one. I don’t make decisions the way you do! Men judge by outward appearance, but I look at a man’s thoughts and intentions” (I Samuel 16:7 TLB).
Despite the clarity of this message, many of us have not passed this concept along to our children. Some youngsters feel so inferior that they cannot believe even God could love them. They feel worthless and empty, thinking that God neither cares nor understands.
A young boy named Chris was such a child. He wrote the following note to Dr. Richard A. Gardner, a psychotherapist who works with children:
Dear Dr Gardner,
What is bothering me is that long ago some big person it was a boy about 13 years old. He called me turtle and I know he said that because of my plastic surgery.
And I think god hates me because of my lip. And when I die he’ll probably send me to hell.
Can’t you feel Chris’s loneliness and despair? How unfortunate for a 7-year old child to believe that he is already hated by the entire universe!
Instead, as parents, we should be raising our children in an atmosphere of unconditional love. We should be rewarding honesty, integrity, courage, craftsmanship, humor, loyalty, patience, diligence and any other number of virtues. In addition, I have observed that many children know intuitively that they are loved by their parents, but they do not believe they are field in high esteem by them. Thus, the clement of respect must be added if you Lire to counterbalance the insults society will later throw at them.
Philosopher Rene Voeltzel once said, “We must not look too soon in the child for the person he will later become.” Be patient and give your little son or daughter time to mature. Work gently on the traits that concern you the most, but, by all means, allow them the privilege of being children. They will be youngsters for such a brief moment anyway.
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