Giving children care and attention to build dignity

When a child is born some have said they are a blank slate.  Some believe it is up to us adults with all of our experience to teach them the way they should be.  Others believe that children are inherently pure, and we should leave them alone to grow into who they want to be.  Some see children as a reflection of themselves, therefore they are seen as approval objects.  Their child is living proof of their own worth as a parent.


In reality our children are made up of three things:

  • Inherited traits
  • Individual temperament
  • Innate capacities: gifts, talents, limitations and virtues.


While a child’s personality is not completely formed, it is inside of them, just like an oak tree is inside an acorn.  Like that acorn, parents need to direct the potential for good, focus on the child’s gifts and possibilities and help them become an independent spiritual being.


Children are born with certain innate instincts:  how to breathe deeply, how to eat only when they are hungry, how not to think about what others think of their singing, dancing, coloring, and how to play, create, love without holding back.  Then the adults in their lives replace many of their innate understandings with what we call ‘reality’.  The children end up learning negative false beliefs, fear, shame and self doubt.  The pain for them begins and they want to numb it with drugs, alcohol, TV, food.  Or they end up settling for mediocrity.  Or they rise to the occasion and become spiritual beings.


Giving our children the care and attention they need is how we give them dignity.  It is how we help them to grow their nature and skills.  We give them opportunity to find the music within themselves, but it is up to the child to put forth the effort to practice.


I believe that every child has all of the virtues within themselves;  with all virtues having the  potential for goodness and for destructiveness.  Every quality they have can be directed or misdirected.  Our role as parents is so key to their success.  In the end though their success is up to them.


This spring I will be announcing a workshop for families to find the strong virtues within their children and themselves.  We will work on bringing out the best in our children and ourselves.  If you are interested in learning more about the workshop – look for announcements on the Balanced Life Skills website.

Take a pause for the sake of dignity

Perception is everything, it colors everything that we see and understand.  It is very individual.  What we see that brings on fear to one person, may just be exciting to another person.  Our perception is formed by two factors.  The first factor is our imagination and the second is our experience.  When the two mix is when we come up with our perception – our reality.


When we look at others and their customs, through our own perceptions we can come away with opinions and ways of reacting that may not be treating the other person “like they matter”.  In this holiday season, with so many different celebrations, meanings and customs, it would be awesome if we could take a pause.


  • Let pause to understand where others are coming from
  • Let’s pause to see the ideas of others
  • Let’s pause before we speak and think about the impact

Dignity comes from treating ourselves and others like we are worthy of care and attention.

3 step compliments to build dignity in others

Putting people down is not the way of making them feel like they matter or that they deserve care and attention.  Every single one of us has strengths and gifts that we are able to share with the world.  If we take the time to see those gifts in others we will find ways of treating them with dignity.


One way of building others up is by giving compliments.  What are the strengths that your family members have?  Does your brother or sister have a gift of writing well or are they athletic?  Does mom or dad cook special meals or paint pictures that are beautiful?  Are you impressed with the compassion, empathy, friendliness of someone in your family?  Or do some show perseverance, determination, or helpfulness in special ways?


If we take the time we will see the value in anyone that we meet and we can compliment them in a manner that will encourage them to continue and improve.  Here is a simple formula for complimenting another person.


Start with:  I appreciate, honor, celebrate your

Name the gift:  determination, cooking, helpfulness

Name the behavior:  when you bring in the groceries…..
Look for those moments when you can compliment and soon you will find that others will give you the dignity you deserve and see you as a valuable friend.

Listening and Fairness – The Foundation of Dignity

How can I demonstrate that everyone is worthy of care and attention – dignity?  In my mind there are 2 major ways, both of which are more easily stated than done.  We discussed these this week with our students and their comments were especially profound.


Listening to others:  We hear parents always say that they just want their children to listen to them or their spouse to do so.  Listening is a skill that most of us can work on.  The hardest part is really listening without thinking about how we are going to add to the conversation.  One of our students said the reason people do not listen so well, is because they think their answer or what they have to say is more correct or more important than the person talking.  I don’t think any of us do that on purpose, but the perception of the person speaking may be just that.


Imagine a student in class, who has been called on by the teacher, giving their answer, and other students are raising their hands, waving, making anxious noises in anticipation of correcting or making their point.  Does that not make the person commenting a bit anxious to say what they started saying and to add to it, just to be sure they cover everything they think others might be thinking.


In the adult world we may not wave our hands around and make anxious noises – but we all have been interrupted, or had the other person tell us how they know how we feel as they begin their own story without asking anything about our experience.  How was that for you, How did that feel, What worries you about this.  They may not have noticed our emotions as we told our story – just thinking about how they are going to solve our issue or one up the story with one of their own.

Listening begins with:

  1. asking open-ended questions,
  2. continues with receptive silence, and
  3. followed by questions that allow the speaker to empty their cup and get to the heart of the matter.


Being fair to others:  This is a tough philosophical question about what is fair?  Fairness does not require that all things are equal.  That may sound harsh at first, but to use a very simple example – does a 3 year old get the same size slice of pie as their mom or dad?  Of course not.  They get what they need and deserve.  When I brought this example up to a group of 6 year old’s though I used ‘pumpkin pie’ as the example and they all thought that they should get the same size piece of pie.  I was not surprised.  But when I asked them if the 3 year old should get the same amount of spinach as mom or dad – the answer was a resounding NO!


Here is what I learned from that exchange.  Many times our idea of fairness is based on our wants and desires (or sugar) and not on what we need or deserve.  How does this tie into dignity and our relationships with others?


Every human needs to be accepted as a part of the global community.  In our society we need to ask ourselves if our relationships are based on the dignity of others or on popularity?  Does our role as a leader either in a family, business or organization demonstrate that we accept others as valuable and connect with them on an equal level?  Are we willing to allow others to shine and do we create opportunities for others to grow and create their independence or do we avoid and push some out because they are different?  Do we listen to others equally and treat them like they matter?
Our discussions have really made me stop and think about dignity and the connection it has to being respectful of all life.  Helping our children to appreciate treating others like they matter will help them in all of their roles in life as they grow up.

3 Ways to Practice Showing Others They Matter

Think of all of the people in your life.  All of us play different roles in life – mother, father, spouse, children, friend, schoolmate, employer, employee, teacher, student, acquaintance.  If we believe that all people deserve to be treated with dignity, how can we be sure that we are living that belief?  How can we show that we are treating others with care and attention – like they matter?


There are a few simple things we can practice – yet sometimes these are easy to forget:

Listening:  Really listening to whom we are speaking.  We know we are listening if we have good eye contact, asking appropriate questions, nodding our head as they speak, and most important – not thinking about what we want to say when they are done.  People feel that the best conversations they have are the ones that the other person really listens – they feel like they really matter.

Empathy:  When we see another person having a tough day, showing them that we care and that they matter.  For different people that may look different.  For some having a tough day they just need time to de-compresss, so allowing them that time is what we do.  For others they need to talk about what is happening to them – our listening skills come into play – not judging or fixing – just listening.  Asking those we recognize as not feeling so great – what we can do to help them.  We may know what we can do and then when we just do it – they feel cared for.

Meeting new people:  When there is someone new in our community (school, neighborhood, workplace) treating them with dignity may be as simple as a greeting, showing them around, inviting them to eat with us.  This is especially true if they are not outgoing or are a bit different from others, our response to them with a caring and helpful attitude will make them feel accepted.

Did you notice how all of these tie together?  Meeting new people calls for empathy and listening skills, listening skills helps our empathy, empathy increases our listening skills.  Giving others the dignity that they deserve is a way of showing honor to others as humans, compassion, kindness, respect, unity, friendliness and consideration.   We get to practice many of our gifts of character by giving dignity to others.

Dignity: showing that we matter to ourself

There are certain things of life that all humans should have including food, shelter, clean water and education.  There are many places in the world where that is not the case.  Living in the United States the rights we are afforded so freely are valuable to us, and we recognize the rights of others to feel valued and treated with kindness, care and respect.  Even animals in our society are recognized as valuable and they are treated like they matter.

The question we would like to explore though is how you can treat yourself with dignity.  Do you treat yourself like you matter?  We treat ourselves with dignity when we take care of our bodies and stand up for ourselves.  Here are some ways that we can demonstrate that we matter:

  • Healthy foods – when we eat healthy we are supplying ourselves with good things for our body, being careful not to take in harmful things that could shorten our life. Character trait: Self Discipline
  • Sleep – getting enough sleep is one of the leading helps to emotional &  physical growth Character trait:  Orderliness
  • Hygiene – Taking care of our body, hair, teeth all is a part to showing we respect ourselves. Character trait: Cleanliness
  • Self talk – The words we use and the stories we tell our self has an impact on our emotions and ability to have courage to be ourselves.  Character trait: Gentleness
  • Standing up for ourselves-  Character trait: Assertiveness

Begin with treating yourself with dignity, followed by family, followed by others who are close to us and then we can be of service to those in the world who may not have experienced feeling dignity in their own life.