How do we respect each child as a unique individual?

Our patriarch and matriarch Isaac and Rebecca had two sons, Jacob and Esau. Jacob became the progenitor of the 12 tribes who became the nation of Israel. Esau sold his birthright and pursued a life of physical gratification. At some point, Isaac and Rebecca must have looked at each other and said, "Where did we go wrong?"

One of the well-known commentators of the Torah (Sifsai Chachamim, Genesis 25:27-28) explains that until they reached bar mitzvah age, Jacob and Esau seemed relatively similar and Esau’s pranks were attributed to childishness. After that age, essential differences became apparent, with Esau turning to idols and Jacob to the study hall. Esau became a hunter and was particularly good at trapping his father by asking questions that would make him appear to be pious.

Rebecca saw who Esau really was, while his father appears to have been deceived. This is clear because Rebecca had to disguise Jacob as Esau when the time came for Isaac to bestow the blessing that would define the future of the Jewish people. Isaac seems to have had a major block when it came to understanding who Esau really was.

As parents, we do not always see who our children really are. Sometimes we are blinded by our love for them. Sometimes we delude ourselves into thinking our children are who they are not. Also, our own expectations for our children can prevent us from perceiving their true essence. Whatever the reason, if we do not seek to understand our children as unique individuals, we risk raising children who will not feel good about themselves, an outlook that could jeopardize their overall success in life.

AN ISSUE OF RESPECT

Each child is unique. One of the most important ways we build self-esteem is by appreciating the uniqueness of the child and by expressing this appreciation.

We cannot have any preconceived ideas about who our children will be, what they will be interested in, their level of academic performance, or their professional future. How many parents have hurt their children by being disappointed by their lack of athletic prowess, academic achievement, or social graces?

Be open to exploring the unique personality of your children and to working with them on their terms -- not yours.

King Solomon says in Proverbs, "Educate the child according to his own way."

Therefore we must know what "his own way" means. Who is that child? If we know who our child is, we will be better able to speak to him, discipline him, encourage him, and guide him towards appropriate activities and professions.


If the child sees that we are making an effort to appreciate who she really is, she will feel valued.

If the child sees that we are making an effort to appreciate who she really is, she will feel valued. This is no easy task. There is such a wide range of personality types and it is important to realize that there are no good or bad personality types. The world needs them all. Being aware of your child's personality type will help you understand what kind of language he responds to best and what’s important to him.

For example, I always used to think it was good to be an extrovert and bad to be an introvert. Well, it turns out that I married an introvert and our eldest daughter has a lot of introverted tendencies.

As I learned more about introverts I realized that introverts are not antisocial or inferior people. They are just different than extroverts. They get de-energized in a crowd, for example. They need time alone to recharge their batteries after being at a party. They don’t like staying at parties too long (I always want to stay longer and my husband wants to go home).

As a consequence of these new insights, I understand why my daughter doesn’t always want to be in groups or go to summer camp after a long year at school (I was a big camper and was sure my kids would love camp too!) I understand how she needs her own space and I don’t insist that she sit with the family when she needs to be alone in her room.

Did you ever have the experience of your young child begging you for months to take her to a wedding or other crowded affair and then 15 minutes after you get there she wants to go home already? You can either be totally exasperated with her and berate her or understand that she may be very overwhelmed by the crowd (something she did not anticipate).

Another example is the personality who is high energy, spontaneous, needs a lot of sensory stimulation, likes excitement and dislikes a lot of rules and regulations. This type of child is all over the place, can drive his mother crazy and is often a teacher’s nightmare. You cannot automatically assume that this child has some sort of problem. Such children need teachers who will allow them to fiddle with things in class, do a lot of "hands on" learning and field trips, and not overload them with too many rules.

PERSONALITY TYPES

There are many personality types and parents are not given a choice when it comes to their children. We are each given the children we have for a reason. If you have a child that is difficult, or a different personality type than yourself (which is more common than not) try saying to yourself:

  • This child was specifically chosen for me.
  • I need this child for my growth.
  • I need this child to learn how to appreciate his uniqueness.
  • I need this child to learn how to get rid of my own ego and to learn how to really be a giver.

If a child feels, "my parents are really trying to understand me and appreciate me. They are trying to work with me in a way that is consistent with my essence," she will have fuel for self-esteem. She will feel valued for who she is.

The worst scenario is when a child denies his true self in order to live up to what he feels the parents want from him. A child will do this, because gaining his parents’ love and approval is so vital to him. The tragic result, however, is the child not feeling valued for his true self.