let your true colors SHINE

“Just be yourself.”

It’s something I’m sure all parents have said, or will say, to their children at some point. It’s a great piece of advice and an important life lesson but what exactly does it mean to our child? Does he or she understand what it truly means to be him- or herself?

Being yourself is a hard concept for children to understand. From childhood through the teenage years, they are still discovering who they are and where they fit into the world. As parents, we can help guide our children through this time to discover their authentic self – the core of their personality, values and beliefs.

their beliefs must be their own
A familiar scenario is that of a teenage daughter who, up until this period of her life, had been a kind child who listened to her parents and followed the rules. Now she is misbehaving and making poor choices, allowing her new group of friends to influence her decisions.

She is following the crowd and allowing others to change her beliefs. She had spent her entire life mirroring the beliefs of her parents that she simply began mirroring the beliefs of her peer group.

As parents, we may have strong beliefs that we wish to pass to our children but we may be telling them what to value instead of showing them why they should value it. It is important to encourage our children’s personal beliefs so that when they go out into the world these values remain instilled in them.

helping our children develop values
If we can’t simply hand our values over to our children, how can we teach them to develop their own? A lot of this has to do with allowing them to make their own mistakes and decisions while only providing guidance instead of answers.

That teenage girl has an argument with one of her friends and confides in her mother. Her mother asks her daughter how she wants to approach the situation and she responds that she is going to spread a rumor about her friend in an act of retaliation.

If that is what the daughter believes would be the best solution to the problem, her mother can’t change that. She can guide her daughter and explain the negative outcomes of the act and suggest a more mature approach to the situation. Ultimately, her daughter gets to decide and learn from the consequences.

our children are not us
It may be frustrating to watch our children act in ways that contradict our own but we must remember that they are individuals – they are not us. They are going to enjoy things that we have no interest in or despise activities we are passionate about. It is important that we respect and celebrate these differences.

be true to yourself
In order to help our children discover and become comfortable with who they are, we must reflect the same in our own confidence and self-expression. We must also praise them for who they are and not what they do. As children gain confidence in being their authentic self they will have the strength to let their true colors shine.

books to encourage kids to be themselves
Children’s books can be a great resource to convey this message in an enjoyable way. A few of our favorites are A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon which illustrates what can happen when a girl cares too much about fitting in instead of being true to herself, Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall also shares the same message of being true to one’s self despite what others say through the identity crisis of a blue crayon that is mislabeled “red”, and Elmer by David McGee delightfully tells the story of a colorful patchwork elephant and his journey to self-acceptance.

coloring fun
Please enjoy this free Tot Tails coloring page to help share this message with your child.

share with us
We would love to hear your experiences and advice on teaching your children to be themselves. Are there any books or resources you feel can help as well? Thanks for reading and feel free to comment below!


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