One (1) out of three (3) children is bullied each year. Children with disabilities are at a higher risk of being bullied than their peers. ENUF (Ending Negativity to Unify Families) is an anti-bullying online campaign that will encourage families to empower themselves and their children. On behalf of the ENUF campaign, the following interview is part of the ENUF INNERview Series here on HYH Online. For more information about the ENUF campaign visit us on Facebook at Facebook.com/esilentvoice
Our guest, Vivian Kirkfield is a mom and an educator, as well as the author of the award-winning parent-teacher resource, Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking. She lives in the Colorado Rockies and is passionate about picture books, enjoys hiking and fly-fishing with her husband, loves reading, crafting and cooking with kids during school and library programs and shares tips and tactics for building self-esteem and literacy in her parenting workshops. To learn more about her mission to help every child gain a positive self-image and become lover of books, please visit her Positive Parental Participation blog or contact her by email.
YVONNE PIERRE: Through your books, workshops and advocacy, you are very passionate about teaching building self-esteem, where does this passion for this topic stem from?
VIVIAN KIRKFIELD: As a child I was shy and timid…what today we would label as ‘social anxiety’. As I grew up, I realized there were many activities I didn’t participate in because I was afraid I wasn’t good enough. I lacked the confidence to say, “I’ll give that a try!” As a kindergarten teacher, I worked hard to uplift the children in my classroom and encouraged them to believe in themselves. As a parent, I gave my children unconditional love and support, while at the same time setting challenges and tasks for them to master. Kids need to have a sense of confidence and competence in their own abilities.
YVONNE: How does self-esteem play a role in bullying?
VIVIAN: Lack of self-esteem and bullying go hand-in-hand! Children who have a poor self-image are more likely to become bullies or the victims of bullies. Kids who respect themselves will reach out to make friends with others instead of pushing others around to feel more important or powerful. Kids who are truly confident do not tease others…I’ve observed that it is usually the child who isn’t sure of his own self-worth who does this. So helping a child develop a positive self-image and high self-esteem is the best defense against bullying!
YVONNE: Children are very observant. I’ve noticed as a parent myself that my sons have picked up a lot of my ways that I didn’t try to teach them. And I’ve also catch myself saying things that my mom has said as well. I don’t think parents realize the impact (good or bad) that they instill into their children. Please share with us in reference to victims and victimizers of bullying, how does what they are learning from home play a role in this?
VIVIAN: Children are amazing mimics! Let me share an interesting example. A cousin of mine walks with a limp. There is nothing in his physical or medical history that would account for this. However, his father had been injured as a young boy and walked with a limp because of that. This cousin grew up watching his father walk and unconsciously imitated that way of moving, even though there was nothing wrong with his own legs. Our children are watching and listening and learning ALL the time…they see how we yell at the cashier at the grocery store who made a mistake giving back change…they hear us disrespecting a friend on the phone. They are learning that yelling and disrespecting others is an acceptable mode of behavior. I’ll share another quick example that shows how children can pick up great habits from their parents. When my daughter was a teenager, her friends always seemed to confide in her and look to her for advice. She came to me once and laughingly told me that as she would talk with them, she was surprised to hear my voice coming out of her mouth…saying the things I had said to her. Do our kids learn from us? You bet they do!
YVONNE: What are some examples of things parents might say or do that affect their child’s self-esteem?
VIVIAN: Picture this: your kindergartener comes home from school, bursting with excitement and triumphantly pulls out a picture from her backpack. “Look, Mommy!” she cries. “I made this at school!” Just then, the phone rings….or someone comes to the door…or the baby spits up…or….any one of a number of interruptions occur and you say distractedly, “I’ll look at it later”, or “Very nice.” And the picture ends up under a pile of papers. And your little girl feels that the most important person in her life doesn’t care what she has done.
Here’s another example: Your son is in the first grade and has picked out his own clothes for school and has dressed himself…but his socks don’t match or perhaps he has not buttoned the shirt correctly. “That looks terrible!” or “You never do anything right!” are responses that are sure to cause his self-esteem to plummet way down.
May I share another quick story? There is a famous tale about the Pencil-Maker. When he was putting the pencil in the box, he told it several things…the first was: Everything you touch will leave a mark. As parents, we have to always keep in mind that every time we touch our children…with words or with deeds, we will leave a mark…will it be a positive one or a negative one? That is our choice.
YVONNE: If the parent is struggling with confidence themselves, how can they begin to rebuild their own esteem?
VIVIAN: We all come to parenthood with baggage of one kind or another. Many of us did not have good parenting models and are lacking in self-confidence. And, as I mentioned before, when people lack self-confidence, they are more likely to push others around. Unfortunately, children are small and easily pushed around. It is critically important for parents to rebuild their own self-esteem so that they can parent their children effectively and positively. Here are a few suggestions that might help:
– Join a church or temple or other local community group…if you have a friend who attends, go with him or her…it does take a village to raise a child and you will find you are not alone.
– Find a parenting support group…there are groups for every type of situation…parents of twins, special needs children, single-parents, etc.
– When you were younger, did you have a dream of what you wanted to do with your life? Were you interested in drawing or singing…did you think you would be an ice-skater in the Olympics? Parents can gain confidence in themselves by spending time doing what they love. You might not become another Picasso, but you could take an art class or volunteer to help in your child’s classroom during arts and crafts time. A career as an opera singer might not be in your future, but you could participate in your church choir. The Olympic Gold Medal won’t be sitting on your shelf, but you can go ice-skating with your children and have lots of fun!
YVONNE: While working on their esteem, where do they begin to become better role models in their children’s life?
VIVIAN: Begin with Positive Parental Participation…you will become better role models, while at the same time they will be building your own self-esteem.
POSITIVE: have a positive attitude towards life and yourself…we can choose how we act and react to people and situations…uplift instead of beat down, encourage instead of discourage, smile instead of frown…be loving towards yourself and your children…these simple changes can make so much difference.
PARENTAL: these days, many parents are afraid to be the parent and say no…if you set up schedules and routines…your life will be so much less stressful…put rules in place and follow through with consequences…have high expectations of yourself and your kids…but be willing to forgive if you or they fall short of the goal…be supportive and encouraging.
PARTICIPATION: spend time with your kids and make sure you have time for yourself…kids don’t need expensive electronic gadgets and toys…they just want your time and attention. A great example of this happened the other day. My seven-year old twin grandchildren were visiting…I know they love to make things so I put several sheets of construction paper, a pair of scissors, a package of markers and a glue stick on the table. For over an hour they had a ball, coloring and cutting and pasting…they didn’t want to stop and would have happily occupied themselves for the entire afternoon. As they finished each project, they would come over and show us what they had done…we praised their work, asked them about it and happily accepted and hung up on the fridge what they had made.
YVONNE: What tips would you like to leave with parents with or without children with special needs?
VIVIAN: Parenting is the most difficult job in the world…and the only job that doesn’t require training or licensing. In the olden days, extended families lived close by and parents got help from them. Today, many parents feel they are on their own…and it does take a village to raise a child. When you add the extra factor of parenting a special needs child, the job can seem overwhelming. Putting the four C’s into action will make the job easier and go more smoothly:
Connection: arrange time with and away from your kids, get support from other parents, family or local community services.
Communication: this is a two-way street…it means listening as well as talking, ask for help, share stories with your kids about when you were young.
Compassion: love your children and yourself…accept who you are and who they are.
Consistency: say what you mean…and mean what you say. As I mentioned before, our kids are observing and learning from us all the time. For example, you tell your 3-year old that you will not be buying candy at the store, but, when you get to the register, your little one starts crying for a treat and you give in. You are teaching your child two important lessons: that you lie and that they can have whatever they want if they make enough noise.
YVONNE: What would you like to see change for the betterment of all people?
VIVIAN: I think we go back to my first observation…that people who have a feeling of confidence and competence are people who will reach out to help others. We need to start with young children now…building their self-esteem, teaching them to accept consequences for their behavior, encouraging them to reach out and care about others. I’d like to see more emphasis on spending time together having fun in simple ways and less time being involved with electronic technology that is disconnecting people from each other. A sad sign of the times: 2-year old in the shopping cart…eyes glued to the video playing on the iPod that is taped to the handle; mom talking or texting on her cell phone, grabbing items from the shelves and throwing them in the cart as she rushes from one aisle to the next. Where is the conversation? Where is the eye-to-eye contact? Where is the connection?
YVONNE: How can people get in touch with you?
VIVIAN: I love people! You can find me at my website where I write a parenting blog. I review a picture book and provide a quick and easy craft every Friday and then on Sunday, I post about a parenting problem or children’s challenge. If you are interested in learning more about my book or my parent/teacher workshops and presentations, you can email me. I also have a Facebook page for my book.
YVONNE: Before we go, do you have any closing remarks?
VIVIAN: I’m thrilled that Yvonne asked me to be here today. Bullying is unacceptable…anytime and anywhere. This May, I’ll be speaking at the 2013 Asian Festival of Children’s Content in Singapore, sharing the program in my book, Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking I’ll be demonstrating how parents can build self-esteem while having fun reading a daily picture book story with their kids. By helping young children gain a positive self-image and by helping parents gain confidence and competence in their own parenting abilities…we CAN change the world…one child and one family at a time.