“Till Max said “BE STILL” and tamed them with the magic trick of staring into all their yellow eyes without blinking once and they were frightened and called him the most wild thing of all”
—Where The Wild Things Are
The first part of “Raising Self-Confident Kids” discussed the importance of encouraging imaginative play with your children. Max, from Where The Wild Things Are, reminded me of this lesson. Another important lesson I’m reminded of and really appreciate about Max is his self-confidence. When Max is traveling in his private boat and he arrives at the place where the wild things are, he faces a dragon (as I call the wild thing in the water). Max looks afraid. Then he is confronted by the wild things on shore rolling their eyes and gnashing their teeth and flashing their claws. At this point Max doesn’t fret or cower- actually he is emboldened. Then he concentrates and tames the wild things with his hypnotic gaze!
This is quite a display of self-possession. I think we want our children to know how to manage themselves in the world with confidence. I think we want to parent in such a way as to foster children’s belief in themselves and their ability to effectively interact with their environment. We want our children to learn how to self-govern peacefully. Max could have been afraid or fearful of the wild things but he wasn’t. He was confident in himself. And he stared all the wild things down until they were all frightened and called him their king!
One of the ways we can raise our children to be confident is to create space for their emotions. For example, rather than saying, “There, there, don’t cry” to a child who is upset, get down face to face with the child and say, “You are really upset, huh?” Dan Siegel, in his book, The Whole-Brain Child, describes this simple step as connecting. This is an excellent strategy to help the child calm down sooner.
This parenting strategy can teach your child that connecting with people is a powerful technique for self-regulation. The next step is to help children name these feelings so they can learn how to identify their internal experience and then learn how to manage their internal experience effectively. This helps the child’s mind develop and integrate. The result of such parenting increases the child’s sense of self and this fosters self-government. In his book, Siegel outlines other parenting strategies to help maximize child brain development.
The sole reason Max was able to tame the wild things was because he had someone who loved him best of all and cared for his emotional needs. Based on Dan Siegel’s research, this accounts for Max’s self-regulation and effective coping. So a parenting strategy is this: Help your child name their feelings in order to accept their inner experience and learn how to manage it. Just like Max did!
More parenting support and self-acceptance education for children can be found in Dan Siegel’s book and can be gained through family counseling or individual youth counseling.
The story, Where The Wild Things Are, paints the emotions of a young boy dealing with social conflict very well. Here is a link to a great interview with author Maurice Sendak, who speaks about children and writing children’s stories: http://bit.ly/WI2PAx
All of our children are in a world that is hard to understand and navigate. As parents, we have the opportunity to give our children greater tools for learning how to organize and self-regulate. This builds self-confidence in children. And it also teaches peaceful and effective conflict resolution.
How is your self-regulation today?