I’ve been doing a bit of spring cleaning this past month and I came across this book, hiding on one of my bookshelves: You Are Special by Max Lucado.  I received this book from one of my favorite teachers when I graduated high school and as I re-read the note he wrote me in the beginning as well as the rest of the book it brought back a lot of memories and made me want to read this book over and over again to my children.  If there is one thing I want to be sure that they know, it is that they are special, regardless of what other people may say or do to them.

This story talks about a town of wooden people called Wemmicks.  Everyday the Wemmicks go about their days doing the same thing; giving each other stickers.  The gold star stickers were given to those who were pretty or talented and grey dot stickers were given to those who had chipped paint or didn’t have any special talents.

One of the puppets who only received dots was named Punchinello.  Everyday, even though he tried his hardest, he only received grey dots and it got to the point that he didn’t want to go outside because he had so many grey dots.  Pretty soon he started to believe that he wasn’t a good wooden person and that he deserved the dots.

One day he meets a Wemmick who had no stickers at all.  People tried to give her stickers but they didn’t stick.  The gold star stickers didn’t even stick.  He wanted to know her secret and she tells him to visit Eli, the woodcarver on the hill.  Through visiting Eli, he finds that the stickers don’t stick to her because she doesn’t let them.  She doesn’t care about what the other Wemmick’s think of her because Eli helped her to understand her true worth. Eli explains to Punchinello that what the other Wemmick’s think doesn’t matter and that he is special because he made him that way.

As I send my oldest boys off into the world everyday I always worry about the things they will see and hear.  I worry about the kids who might be putting “stickers” on them by placing them into categories, or judging them based on physical attributes or limitations.  It  makes me sad to think that the stickers might just stick and as their mom I want to make sure that they don’t.

I’ve been thinking about ways we can make sure our children know they are special and here are a few I’ve thought of:

1-Take the time morning and night to tell them how much you love them but be specific.  An “I love you”, is so simple to say and adding a little extra such as “I love you because….” can mean even more to them.  Never go a day without telling them you love them and being specific about the great qualities you see in them.

2-Take their problems seriously and help them work through them.  I look back at some of the problems that seemed HUGE when I was a kid and realize now that they were kind of silly, but at the time they were hugely important.  We need to make sure we don’t diminish our children’s concerns/problems when they come to us.  If they don’t feel like they can come to us with the little things, they definitely won’t come to us with the bigger things as they get older.

3-Make a habit of complimenting them every single day.  I think it is so easy to get caught up in what are kids are doing wrong that we need to really remember to compliment them on what they are doing right.

4-Spend one-on-one time with each child as often as you can.  It is hard to do sometimes when you have a lot of kids but for me, just sitting down with my boys after school and going through their backpack can start all sorts of conversations.  My 6-year-old loves to show me every single paper he bring home and he loves to hear me compliment him on his work.  So I try to focus on how well he is doing in those moments.  I’ve found that the one-on-one moments can get conversations started about what might be troubling/worrying my kids and that they really open up more when the whole family isn’t listening.

5-Help them understand that their worth isn’t based on the opinions of others.  This may be hard to do when we, as adults, tend to fall into the same trap as our kids and a lot of the time we do worry about what others think about us.  I think in order for our children to build the self-worth that they will need to get through their youth, we need to stop basing our self-worth on what others may say or think or things that have happened in our past.  We need to be like, Punichello, and take the time to speak with our maker to realize that the opinions, words, judgements of others really have no impact on our worth and will only affect us if we let them and then we need to teach that to our children.

I worry a lot about my kids but I hope that by just taking more time each day to focus on the positives and to fill their buckets of self-worth that as they go out in to the world, the stickers just won’t stick because they will know how special they really are.

What things can you think of to help our children know they are special?