Jan Denise is a syndicated newspaper columnist and the author of Innately Good: Dispelling the Myth that You're Not. As a popular seminar leader and public speaker, Denise has conducted workshops and taught empowerment seminars all across the country. She recently offered tips and advice on the topic of raising a "good enough" child.
Please tell us about yourself
Home is a sanctuary in the woods that doubles as a retreat center. I get excited about wild deer, like to jog, swing in the meadow, and watch butterflies in the garden. And, I teach people to know, love, and be who they are! When you find the spark of divinity within and align with it, you know the glory of self-verification, or self-esteem. You also know oneness with the light ... and that's the goal of every major religion. I love my life ... and share it with my husband, best friend, and soul mate!
What inspired you to write your book?
I know how it feels to hurt, to think there's something missing, or something wrong with me. I also know how it feels to be happy and free ... and I can teach anybody how to feel this way. I want to do that; I'm compelled to do that.
How do parents imply that their children aren't good enough?
By making them feel like they have to meet certain criteria in order to be "good," by making them feel like what they would do naturally is "bad." Children get that message when they're too young to make a distinction between themselves and their behavior. They also get messages-over and over again--like: No! You don't know what you're doing. You're not big enough. You're going to fall down. Do you want to get hurt? Well, guess what, we can't get very far in life--without a lot of stress--if we're afraid to fall down.
What repercussions do these implication have on children?
They grow up trying to prove their worth--whether it's by being nice enough, smart enough, pretty enough, rich enough, or important enough--and run into dead ends. Anorexia is a poignant example of how you can't get thin enough when what you're really trying to do is get good enough. Sometimes they just give up and try to escape the pain in drugs or sex, or even suicide.
How can parents reinforce positive messages for their children?
First of all parents can make sure that there are positive messages ... and that those messages are sincere! They can send the messages in words and in deeds; saying one thing and doing another can be very destructive. And, they can avoid the negative messages! We're all programmed to be sensitive to rejection and to beware the negative. If parents truly love their children unconditionally, they encourage their children to follow their own music and not to be worried about what other people think. Then, what other people think is less apt to be perceived as "negative" or hurtful. And when children learn to believe that they are good enough, they will filter messages that conflict with that belief (likewise when children believe that they are NOT good enough, they filter what conflicts with that belief)!
Do you have any other tips or advice you'd like to share?
Parents teach by example, so the most important thing you can do is get to know, love, and be your authentic self.
- Don't let somebody else define you.
- Don't dismiss what you feel; learn to understand where your negative emotion comes from (I can promise you it's not about the toothpaste cap).
- Don't personalize rejection or somebody else's preferences; they can't make you any better or worse than you are.
- And, while you're learning to appreciate who you really are, spend time every day teaching your child to do the same.
- Pay attention to what makes her heart sing. Let him wear what he wants to wear.
- Don't try to spare her the consequences of being herself!
- Don't stifle his creativity or his dreams.
- Respect what makes her unique, and help her to see the value of being true to herself.
- Nurture what's there instead of trying to shape it into something else!
You and your child are innately good. You have a divine spark, or love, within you. And it is enough! Don't bury what's sacred with what you hope will win acceptance. You can be you better than you can be anybody else!
Where can we read more about you?
I share from a very personal perspective in my book Innately Good: Dispelling the Myth That You're Not. If you want to hear me speak, all I need is an invitation. My Web site Innately Good is a self-portrait … and it's a very happy picture. I love doing what I do!