Day #241 – Flowering Self-Esteem

One of the very reasons that we discipline in a very different way is because we face very real self-esteem issues.

I hear a grown from the crowd…’ugh…more talk about feelings and this generation of ‘feel good’ kids?’

Precisely. More talk about feeling good about yourself.  Why?

Trust me…there is not much worse than hearing these words from your child at the tender age of five,

“I should just die.  You would be better off.”
“I should just kill myself.  Life would be better.”
“I can’t do it.  I wish I was dead.”

Very real phrases…spoken by my son – until 6th grade.  Yes…it took us that long to teach him to feel good about who he is.

Some said, ‘Oh, he doesn’t know what that ACTUALLY means.’ Um…okay.  How do you know that?  So…somehow that makes it better?

Some said, ‘You just have to ignore it, it’s for attention.’ Um…okay.  Well if it’s for attention – then why would I ignore it?  That just doesn’t make sense.

Some said, ‘You just have to tell him he can’t say that.’  Um…okay.  It’s always a good idea to shut down the child who doesn’t talk much…and to shut down a real thought.

It’s very real.  If you read Day #119 – Advocacy, Part 1 I wrote about how I told him he had autism in 1st grade.  He’s known for as long as he can remember.  I thought this was incredibly important so he could begin learning to advocate for himself.  It also had drawbacks.

  • He learned that this was his reality, and would be for the rest of his life.
  • He didn’t know (at that time) that he was any different from anyone else.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  The positives (at least for us) definitely outweighed the negatives – but the negatives were responsible for a plunging self-esteem.

As he matured he began to recognize the differences…

No matter how hard he tried there were some things he just couldn’t get.
No matter how hard he tried he felt different.
No matter how hard he tried…he wouldn’t ever be cured.

He began to perceive the correction of his behaviors as criticism.  He had to go to SLP, OT, PT, and special counseling sessions.  Children figure out early on that the rest of their friends are not doing that…so there must be something wrong with them.

He couldn’t always understand his peers and their play because it didn’t come natural to him.  He didn’t understand their jokes…so he began to ‘not fit in.’

There is a nasty Catch 22 here as well.  The more his self-esteem plunged – the more he acted out.  The more he acted out, the more others saw the media interpretation of someone with autism…

  • Someone without emotion
  • Someone without interest in others
  • Someone incapable of love
  • Someone with no social graces
  • Someone with little imagination
  • Someone with poor hygiene
  • Someone who is obsessed

This was probably THE most frustrating part of my life…because Tucker is none of these things.  Well, he can be – but in very different ways.

  • He is not without emotion, he is simply very black and white.
  • He is not without interest in others…at least when others show interest in him.
  • He is quite capable of love.  It may look different – but he’s quite affectionate.
  • Okay, okay…we’re still working on social graces, imagination, and hygiene.
  • He is most certainly obsessed and I think it’s AWESOME to know so much about one thing.

His teachers grew increasingly concerned…and so did I.  It had to begin with us, all of us that surrounded him.  That’s when we all went to work.

We went to work…talking about autism in very positive ways.
We went to work…teaching and telling others who surround Tucker about the positive pieces of how he experiences the spectrum.
We went to work…making sure he always heard more positive than negative.
We went to work…turning all of these preconceived negatives into positives.
We went to work…always listening to him and taking everything he said seriously.
We went to work…at being his ‘adult’ friends.
We went to work…at always giving him the benefit of the doubt.
We went to work…intentionally helping him bridge the conversation gap between him and his peers.
We went to work…learning best practices and sharing those with others.
We went to work…always looking beyond behavior and instead at impetus.
We went to work…celebrating EVERY milestone, even if it was simply wearing a new shirt.
We went to work…looking at the whole, not just parts.

Which brings me to my friend, Dr. Jerry Jampolsky. Okay, he’s not really my friend – but I’m POSITIVE if he met me he would want to be my friend.  I ran across some information on Dr. Jampolsky while research ‘low self-esteem and autism.’  He is dyslexic and writes about his own struggle with feeling ‘worthy’ and accepted.

So, I read his book, Love Is Letting Go Of Fear. He offers many principles that were quite helpful in helping Tucker (and actually, myself along the way). His viewpoint is that most actions in life are rooted in two emotions – love or fear. To help Tucker’s self-esteem I had to change my own thinking (thereby creating change in his) to solely focus on love.  The twelve major premises in his writing:

  1. All that I give is given to myself
  2. Forgiveness is the key to happiness
  3. I am never upset for the reason I think
  4. I am determined to see things differently
  5. I can escape the world I see by giving up attack thoughts
  6. I am not the victim of the world i see
  7. Today I will judge nothing that occurs
  8. This instant is the only time there is
  9. The past is over it can touch me not
  10. I could see peace instead of this
  11. I can elect to change all thoughts that hurt
  12. I am responsible for what I see

Now, I could probably write a blog post for each of these ideas and how it helped us transform Tucker’s self-esteem issues (and maybe I will).  The main idea is that anger, resentment, judgement, frustration are all feelings related to fear. Letting go of this fear allows love to dominate.  Honestly, as I write this I giggle to myself and think, “How very flower-child’like of you.”

But then, I think…let that sink in…

Letting go of fear allows love to dominate….that domination of love has also prevented Tucker from saying any of those phrases for 18 months.  That?  That I’ll take. Flowerchild and all.

flowerchild

 

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12 thoughts on “Day #241 – Flowering Self-Esteem

    • Thank you – we are trying. There are good and better days. Tucker still has moments…but as his mom, I’m always trying my best to help him get over the hump and feel good about who he is. I checked out your blog and was sucked in immediately! You and my son have much in common – I’m going to direct him to read some of your posts. Thank you for sharing your story…we need more folks like you!

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  1. That was a great post, though a LOT to chew on and digest. The twelve major premises are worth repeating over and over again, may even get laminated. We had a rough season with competitive club volleyball, (a win at all costs mentality & minimal playing time) so this self esteem post could not have come at a better time. Thanks, again this blog post will be well dog eared.

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    • I agree! The original post was nearly 2500 words! I try really hard to keep posts under 1,000 words-so I edited down to around there. I”m so glad this could provide some help to you and yours. I often repeat any of the said premises to myself in any given moment. Especially ‘the past is over and it cannot touch me.’ I use this so often in my life – and in Tucker’s to help him understand the past is past…we just have to continue to try to do better. We won’t always do better…but we must try. He has a tendency to get ‘stuck’ in bad moments…so this helps us all continue to move forward.

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  2. I just have to take a minute to tell you that I cannot express in words how very valuable your blog posts are to me and that I look forward to each one every single day in my email inbox.
    I can relate to so many topics you write about, however, you are so perfectly eloquent with your words.
    I don’t know how many people tell you to keep on writing, but all of us should do it more often.
    I sincerely feel as though your blog is a gift to me each day I read it. I’m so thankful I subscribed to it months ago.
    You always highlight resources I have not come across, being attention to an issue or point of view I have not thought about, or rationalize a solution to an issue many of us have.
    Thank you for your peek into your soul.
    It is a beautiful soul and you are wise beyond your years. I wish I had your talent, but since I do not, I will praise you for yours.
    My son on the spectrum is almost 10, diagnosed with ADHD and sensory and Aspergers. I relate to topics you blog about each and every day. Thank you for your blog. Keep on blogging for those of us who wait patiently each day. 😉💓

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    • Wow…

      Wow…

      Wow…
      That’s one way to make a girl cry! Thank you so very much for these VERY kind words. I’m so humbled by your comments… I bet our sons would be best friends if they met. Or…let’s be honest…they would more likely sit on the couch next to each other, probably doing their own thing while we laughed and cried and talked…lol… 😉 I’d love to hear more about your son – one of the things I’m so very interested in is just how big and varied the spectrum is… Keep on loving him, mama – you’re doing great!!!

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  4. Self esteem, flowering self esteem…
    When Ian was 7 1/2 or so, he started saying he hates himself, or when told he’s a good boy ( or handsome) he would say he’s not. Now 9 y/o, he doesn’t say anymore that he hates himself, but would still answer in the negative about himself. I suppose that’s lack of self esteem?
    School year has just started, today his 2nd day in a new school, while waiting for the bell he sat himself away from the others. I was expecting this to happen. He doesn’t know anyone and never really knew how to interact with other children until after a few months of seeing them. That happens only in the school though. In a playground, he is friendlier.
    Do you think school surroundings makes him feel insecure?uncomfortable?
    How may I help him? I tell him to make friends. But not so much so he won’t feel pressured. Besides, it doesn’t help anyway. He does what he wants to do.
    Also today, he started doing things with his hands. I don’t know if its what’s called flapping. I have always thought he’s just keeping himself busy. Maybe it’s his way of coping with his insecurities? Should he be told to stop? It was viewed in his previous school as self injurious.

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