Teaching self-awareness and self-love to a toddler is a huge responsibility because it will be the foundation of how they grow in perception of themselves and how they relate to the people they meet. It will also be the foundation of how they grow to understand their abilities and inabilities, uniqueness and eventually their confidence to proudly own who they are as a person.
Self-awareness is about understanding your own thoughts and opinions. Self-love is about regarding your own well-being and happiness. Together, self-awareness and self-love are about understanding who you are and your uniqueness and then embracing and nurturing those things.
Why teach it? Why talk about it? Among many reasons, so our children can grow-up to be honest with themselves and so they love who they are enough to not let anyone knock them down. To know your strength and the things in which you hold authority is so empowering.
Sometimes with toddlers, there is no happy medium. Things like teaching them to be friendly, but then realizing they are without caution of “stranger-danger” come to mind. I can remember a time when Aaron was super soft spoken. The role hubby and I played into reminding him how important it is to speak up and voice his needs and wants confidently evolved into him speaking at unnecessarily high volumes all the time. Like I said sometimes there is just no happy medium. I think this really speaks to not only the responsibility of teaching self-awareness, but also the challenge in navigating those lessons. I know that the balance comes with maturity in age.
Inspired by the book, Positively Different, I set out to be more intentional about conversations that provoke self-awareness and self-love. Our initial conversation looked something like this:
I realized that I needed to have more conversations like this with him and tap into the part of his brain that makes him aware of who his through his own little eyes. It’s a confidence booster too. According to the Rosie, the main character of the book, it’s also a form of celebration of who you are outside of birthdays.
That said, I think the best way to teach self-awareness and self-love is to constantly expose them to all their nuances. Reading and reading comprehension is a good place to start. Here are 5 books I think are great to get you started:
1. Rose and Friends, Positively Different by Helen C. Hipp
This book is about a nervous Ostrich worried about how others see her, and unsure of how she sees herself. With the help of Eli-Zee the Zebra, and a host of new friends. Olivia soon discovers that Uniqueness is not a Weakness!
There is a lot of depth to this book (maybe too much for a toddler), but I was able to glean from it those important conversations with my son. No matter how complicated the language use or dynamic of the conversation, I believe kids absorb so much. The pieces will be connected eventually.
2. Giraffe’s Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae
This is a story about a giraffe who learns to dance to his own beat and not that of others. He knew he could dance, he just had to find his own tune.
I love that this story sends a message of self-awareness and self-love through Giraffe choosing not to do things the way others do it, but rather finding his own way.
3. The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss
This is the story of a little boy who had faith despite the naysayers—faith that was eventually rewarded as he pushed through the signs that could have convinced him that what he was doing was impossible.
You have to believe in what you believe in order to keep going and that my friends is self-awareness and self-love on another level. To have a belief and to be convicted of it is the self-awareness. The self-love is to continue to be positive about it and to fight for it.
4. Boy, You’re Amazing by Virginia Kroll
This book serves to encourage a young boy in all his greatness.
This book is all about the self-love–acknowledging the talents, the personality and essence of what makes up your young boys.
5. We Are Growing by Mo Willems and Laurie Keller
In this story, everyone is growing up and learning what makes them stand out. Walt, however, struggles in figuring that out until later in the book. He discovers something special about himself.
This book screams self-awareness in a community of friends and the challenges that come with that journey. One thing they all have in common, is how much they also love their uniqueness (unafraid if they are the only one). Remember, self-love is about embracing and celebrating your differences.
I can’t wait to hear about your adventures with these books. When you read them, be sure to ask your toddler questions and provoke them to answer ones that are unique to them. If interested, you can just click on the individual pictures to order them for the littles right away.