When a child makes words or art or music, or learns to walk or run or dance, their first steps are taken with an enthusiasm and a joy that is infectious. They have achieved something which is new, exciting, and uniquely theirs. Their first steps are the beginning of a process of learning – trying, experimenting, observing, sharing, asking, absorbing new ideas, reaching new levels of understanding, doing better. From the things they achieve themselves comes a sense of respect for what they themselves have made, the roots of self-respect.
The hard part for all of us who surround that child is to truly respect them by respecting their achievements as only and singularly theirs, not to be compared to those of anyone else. It is only when we do this that we encourage and nurture the continual return of the sense of joy they begin their explorations with.
I have been lucky enough to share in that first joy with my own children, and with others. I remember the sheer joy on the face of a child I was working with when, suddenly, she realized she could put together the phonic sounds she had been learning to read words. Suddenly she had the ability and confidence to enter a whole new world of words, writing and reading. Then step by step, day by day, her ability, her confidence and her self-respect grew.
Today I wish you the joy of your own discovery, for there is always more to learn, and the chance to share a child’s joy. And please feel free to share your experiences here.
“Self-respect is the very cement of character, without which character will not form nor stand; a personal ideal is the only possible foundation for self-respect, without which self-respect degenerates into vanity or conceit, or is lost entirely, its place being taken by worthlessness and the consciousness of worthlessness; and that is the end of all character. It is often said that if we do not respect ourselves no one else will respect us; this is rather a dangerous way to put it; let us rather say that if we are not worthy of our own respect we cannot claim the respect of others. True self-respect is a matter of being and never of mere seeming. As Paulsen says, “It is vanity that desires first of all to be seen and admired, and then, if possible, really to be something; whereas proper self esteem desires first of all to be something, and’ then, if possible, to have its worth recognized.”
Edward O. Sisson
Source: The Essentials of Character, The Macmillan Company, 1915
With thanks to the Gaia Community at gaia.com
Margaret Mair, MairImages.ca