My heart sank when my son first said it: “I don’t know if Santa will bring me any presents.” I told him that Santa brings presents to all girls and boys on his list. C replied, “I’m not good.”
My son thinks he’s on the naughty list. He struggles with physical and object aggression due to autism. Every day, I tell him how much he is loved. I praise him in as many ways as he allows. I recruit other loved ones to praise him, because he doesn’t like to hear it from me. I lift my son up in as many ways as I know how, and still he questions if he is good enough.
I hoped this was a one-time concern after a difficult day. Yet, every time we talk about Santa he brings it up. A five-year-old boy who is filled with life, a snarky sense of humor, a thirst for knowledge, and a love of cars thinks he is not good enough to be on Santa’s nice list.
If only you could hear my heart shatter. I’m sure it’s audible.
I am now on an even greater mission to amp up my boy’s self esteem. I was teaching the following three things to him before, but more fervently now:
Being good means trying our best
Every day is a new day to try our very best. We aim to do the right thing, love our people and spread kindness. No one is ever perfect all of the time.
We all make mistakes
Sometimes we have bad days. Sometimes we act before we think. Even when we try our best, sometimes we make mistakes.
Mommy and Daddy love you all the time
When they make mistakes. When they do awesome things. When they tell great jokes. When they yell. When they laugh. When they cry. We love them just the same, all the time, and no behavior can ever change that.
I am sad and concerned that he doubts his worth at such a young age. I’m also hopeful that addressing it while he is still young will help him grow into a confident, self-assured boy who believes in love, grace, kindness and putting forth his best effort. I want him to know how truly awesome he is – all the time.