Raising kids with confidence has been my goal ever since I started studying education. It was funny to discover along the way that teaching my kids knowledge was not going to make them successful and happy in life. At first, I was a bit disappointed to discover this, but as I have chosen to focus on the role of the most important agents – parents and teachers – in raising happy, confident, successful, healthy and friendly kids, I kept searching for ways that work.
I have 3 kids of my own and they are everything a parent can dream of. They are “the full package”. One of my friends told me that if she did not know them, she would think I was making them up. Almost every person who meets my kids asks us, “How did you do it?” Modestly, we say we were lucky, and we were. I am convinced that some things were just lucky, but no one wants to know about your luck, because luck is not something you can bring into your life. So these people say, “Come on, Ronit, tell us how you did it”.
I think I am using this parenting blog to say how I did it. As of today, there are 911 posts (is this a sign?) explaining how 3 kids in big differences in age, each born in a different place in the world, who each went through many changes in their life, can all be their parents’ bliss.
Eden came home one day and told us about some research she was studying in her psychology degree that tried to predict people’s success based on how many books they have had at home during their childhood. This made me wonder about what possessions our family has had during the life of the kids. This was not an easy task, because we lived in different places around the world, some apartments, some houses, some rented, some owned, some buildings, some complexes, some small and some big. Over the 23 years of having kids, we have lived in over 16 homes.
I did this research, I found out that apart from having Gal, Eden and me there, we also had mirrors in all them. Big, huge mirrors.
How has having mirrors contributed to our kids being so great? Let me explain.
Mirrors are a fascinating thing for babies. I still remember the first times my kids saw themselves or them and me reflected in the mirror. It was fascinating. At first, they tried to find what was behind it. Then, they tried to touch the reflection and feel it. At one stage, they learned it was them and they loved looking at themselves.
In one of the early childhood centers where I worked as the academic director, I had a huge mirror installed in the babies’ room. The littlies looked at themselves crying. Try it, when your 1-year-old cries, put them in front of the mirror and watch how their face changes as soon as they see themselves.
When my kids were toddlers, I used to play with whipped cream and shaving cream on the mirror. I had learned this during my work with autistic children and my kids loved every second of it.
When Tsoof was just 2 years old, we lived in a building and had a huge 2×4 meter mirror in the living room. The kids used to spend hours in front of it dancing, singing, acting and exercising. Whenever they had friends over, they all went to look in the mirror and make faces in front of it.
When Noff was a baby, she used to watch herself crying in the mirror and make faces. She used to stand there hours and examine her faces. She was very amused by this and she still does it at the age of 10.
Kids who live with huge mirrors at home are used to seeing themselves. They do not need others to tell them how they look, because they already know very well. Instead of forming an identity based on what others tell them, they form their own identity based on what they see in their own reflection.
Kids who grow up with a huge mirror to look at themselves before they leave home can be confident they look good just before they go out. They are not worried about the way they look, because they know exactly how they look whenever they want to.
Kids who grow up with a huge mirror and see their body over and over again, learn to love their body. They are not so worried about how their body looks in other people’s eyes, because they have seen millions of self-images reflected at them and they can use those to make up their own mind about their body.
If you have ever seen a video of yourself, you know that it is a strange feeling, because you are not used to seeing yourself from that position (or hearing yourself, but that is another matter). It does not look like your reflection in the mirror. This is why many people are very self-conscious when they present in front of others. Kids who grow up in front of a large mirror get so used to this image of themselves that they are not very self-conscious about it. Children who grow up with huge mirrors and see their full figure themselves often are more confident presenting in front of others. They do not panic during “show and tell”, they are not scared to read their book reports or do anything that requires them to stand and talk in front of an audience, because they use the mirror at home to practice.
Advantages of mirrors
Mirrors are very good surfaces for painting and drawing with whiteboard markers or lipstick and are easy to clean. This allows young kids to have fun on the “walls” without Mom or Dad freaking out.
Mirrors make the room look spacious, which helps everyone feel that they have more space.
Mirrors can be used as (sliding) doors, which can be good use of space that would otherwise be used for nothing.
Mirrors can be decorative features.
Mirrors can reflect a lot of light. If you have a mirror opposite a window, you can double the light that comes in through the window. You can also use them to direct light to places that would otherwise be dark. It even multiplies electric lights.
My kids gained a huge advantage from the fact that we always had a huge mirror at home. In some houses, we had even more than one.
19 years ago, when we started our world travels, I gave my mirrors to my sisters. One of these mirrors is still in use today. When my sister’s first son was born 3 years ago, he spent hours looking at himself in that big mirror. When I visit him and when I talk to him on Skype, I find a very confident little boy who speaks well beyond his age and does many things 2 years “ahead of schedule”. It is probably because my sister is an amazing mother who talks to him all the time, explains things to him with patience and respect, teaches him, exposes him and stimulates him continually.
And I am convinced it is also because of the big mirror.
Try it. What have you got to lose?