As I mentioned earlier in the week, I was the guest of the Moms of Boys Twitter chat. I enjoyed the opportunity to share my history and thoughts about protecting kids, and helping kids who find themselves being abused. Unfortunately, given the transient nature of tweets, it might be difficult to see the posts in context, but you can catch some of them on Storify
Anyway, one of the topics I spent some time talking about, and one that I’ve raised here before, deserved more of an explanation than the 140 characters of tweets could allow for, and that is the idea of kids knowing and believing that they have intrinsic value.
As many of you know, I have always believed that the best thing you could do to protect your kids from abusers, is to raise kids who are less vulnerable to the tricks of pedophiles. Most pedophiles do not choose a child at random to abuse. They carefully watch kids, and identify kids they will be able to groom. Those kids are usually the ones who are most vulnerable, the kids who do not feel as though they have intrinsic value. In order to explain what I mean by that, I think it’s important to talk a bit about what I was like as a kid. I was the “fixer”. I was the kid that tried very hard to keep things under control, make sure everything was taken care of, and keep everyone happy. And that was where I considered myself valuable. As long as things were getting taken care of, and I was doing it, then I had value.
That made me a very vulnerable child. Because my only value was in keeping things quiet, smoothed over, and having other people tell me how good I was at it. So in order to feel good about myself, I had to constantly search for ways to get praised for taking care of things, or ways to belong, and fit in with others. I would have done anything to be accepted. Think abusers don’t spot that tendency from a mile away? Think they don’t know how to take advantage of that to get kids to do what they want, keep secrets, and gain their trust? Yeah, don’t kid yourself.
So in the face of abusers who are on the lookout for kids who are only too happy to please other people, who don’t have healthy boundaries, have no idea what a loving relationship looks like, wouldn’t it makes sense that the best thing you could do to protect your child, is to raise them to not be like that? That’s where the idea of intrinsic value comes into play. People who understand that they have value, not because of something they do, or a way they look, or how other people see them, but just because they are living human beings, have the strength to confidently deal with those who would try to manipulate them. They have a sense of worth that prevents them from being vulnerable. These kids understand that they are unconditionally loved by their family, and can feel confidant as they move through life, less affected by what others say about them, or attempt to use against them. It doesn’t guarantee your kids won’t be abused, but it sure as heck makes them a tougher target, and isn’t that the point?
Parents who don’t install a healthy sense of self value in their kids, who aren’t able to because they don’t have one themselves, are leaving their kids without the preparation to deal with the world, whether it be dealing with potential abusers as children, or simply the outside world as an adult. If we really want to address the issue of child abuse, we have to do a better job on many fronts, but to me, the one place we can do the most good, and do it without waiting for a government program, or some resources to become available, is to raise kids who know that they have worth, and where they fit in relationships with the rest of the world.
So, when I talk about intrinsic value, I’m not talking about puffy self esteem, where we never criticize kids, or never have losers in games and all of those sorts of things that only serve to give kids a fake sense of self. I’m talking about giving kids a strong, stable, environment in which to truly grow up and understand their place in the world, and the value they bring to it just by being there. We’d do a lot worse than raise kids like this.