This phrase has always frustrated me as a caregiver. I am a nanny to two beautiful young boys. They are very much a product of their carefully crafted environment. Their parents are wonderful humans who constantly, actively work to make sure the boys are getting everything they need. Both kids attended a preschool that operates on the principles encouraged by just about every reputable child development professional. The parents seem always to have every aspect of the kids’ wellbeing at the very top of their priorities; the kids’ emotional and social wellbeing is catered to just as much as their physical, academic growth. The parents are very busy people with demanding careers, but they make sure their interactions with the boys count; they give them their full attention and really engage with them.
Kids are sponges. They are taking in everything they hear, everything that enters their environment. Children don’t development the ability to “tune things out” until a bit later in life, so they’re constantly bombarded with information. We have a tendency to think that our words and actions won’t be absorbed by children, or that they aren’t old enough to understand or be affected by our words and actions, when really they operate on the “monkey see, monkey do” principle. They learn from what they experience. They learn how to talk about themselves when the people around them talk about themselves. One of the parents I work for struggles with their self-image. As a result of this they are often saying things like, “I can’t,” “I have no idea…,” “I don’t know how,” and vocally giving up on things well within their realm of ability. I’m not here to preach positive self-talk to my employers, but it can be difficult when I see the kids mimic their parent’s defeated attitude. This is especially frustrating because this parent is an incredibly capable person; they just don’t see themselves that way, despite overwhelming evidence in their favor. As I said, their self-concept is none of my concern, but their children’s are my concern.
Our biggest concern with the boys right now is their self-esteem. They seem to give up on things before evening trying or entertaining the idea of trying. I certainly do not think that their parent’s tendency to lack confidence is the sole factor in this issue, but I do know that it doesn’t help. Their parents and I want very much for the boys to believe in themselves and to develop a better sense of their own capability. We want to foster in them a growth mindset. We’re working on it. I’m confident that they’ll get there. They have an enormous support system and teams of people rooting for their success and wellbeing. I’m trying to maintain a “Yes, I can”/”I will keep trying until I can” attitude for the kids and for me.