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Developing Self Awareness in Children

Self-awareness is defined as, “Conscious knowledge of one's own character, feelings, motives, and desires.”

It is a characteristic that we, as adults, know only too well. For children, however, it is a different story-they almost never have a sense of developing self-awareness, and teaching them to be aware of who they are and their place in this world can be very challenging, indeed. When my son was a toddler, how I envied his complete lack of inhibitions and ability to run around our backyard completely naked, without a care in the world.

Alas, as adults, that behavior tends to be looked down upon. And, if done in public, could lead to some serious fines and/or possible jail time. That is the exact fate that, as parents, we hope to protect our children from. Isn't our goal to raise healthy, productive members of society, aka non-streakers? If that is our goal, then a healthy self-awareness is vital.

While nurturing the idea of developing self awareness in our children, it is also important that we do not inadvertently foster feelings of shame or embarrassment in our impressionable offspring. There is a fine line between being self-aware and self-conscious.

While we want to nurture the former in our children, the latter can be detrimental to our children's view of themselves and can cause them to be shy and introverted. So how can we help our children to be self-aware, yet confident?

• Allow your child to be themselves, whether it's who we want them to be or not. For instance, my son insists on doing his own brand of interpretive dance to Party Rock Anthem every time it comes on the radio. Is my child a gifted dancer? Not by any stretch of the imagination. Yet, I applaud and encourage him as soon as he starts to “dance”. Why? Because he loves it and it makes him feel good about himself.

Allow your children to express themselves, and encourage their creativity. This will build confidence and a healthy self-awareness in your child.

Self Awareness Games

  • The Mirror Test! This test was developed by Gordon Gallup Jr. to help animals with their developing self-awareness. Although we don't like to compare our children to animals (though, in all fairness, it may be a fitting description for some), this exercise can prove useful with our kids, as well, to help them develop their self-awareness.

Sit in front of the mirror with your child and ask them what they see. Ask them to describe themselves, their interests, likes and dislikes. By getting them to open up about themselves, our children will feel less shy and more confident.

  • Provide an emotionally secure environment. Possibly the most important item on this list. When we show our children love and affection and provide a positive and nurturing environment where they can thrive, they feel good enough about themselves to develop their own personal identity.

If we put into practice the above suggestions to developing self awareness, we will find ourselves on the path to raising healthy, self-aware children. And, in ten years, if you happen to see my son busting a move at the So You Think You Can Dance auditions in all his uncoordinated glory, just know that I've endeavored to follow the above steps, too. If he does it fully clothed, know that I've been successful in doing so.

Developing Self Awareness

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