For teachers, therapists, and concerned friends, it builds self-esteem in children when you so you care enough to remember not only their names, but the names of their pets, family members, places they told you about, other significant details about them. Familiarity with concrete names shows you were really listening and you really understood.
For parents, it is important to remember names of your children’s playmates and special classmates, including important details about them, such as the kinds of pets they have and their pet’s names. It was important to my children that I got the names of their friends straight, which was not necessarily easy at the beginning since some names sounded a lot alike, such as Marcy, Mandy, and Maggie; or Elise, Risa, and Lisa. I remember addressing one of my daughter Julie’s friends by the wrong name, and she told me it upset her.
As a diagnostic tutor and as a therapist, I found it made an impact on children when I remembered not only names of their brothers and sisters, but also which was older and which was younger. Remembering such details indicated to these children that their lives were real for me and that I found details about them important. They could tell I had a grasp of the family territory that formed their living space and affirmed it as real and important to me.
I remembered Tommy, a child I worked with in therapy, who told me he took his dog Pepper and his little brother Timmy to play in Glover Park. Weeks later, during a therapy session, I reminded him of these details and said I had thought of him and even looked for him when I had walked my dog in Glover Park the past weekend. It made Tommy feel very special.
My word had affirmed that he kept living in my thoughts even when we were not in session, that he did not cease to exist for me when he stepped outside my office door, that he had a place in my life. It made him feel valuable to realize I knew a bit more of who he was in the larger setting of his family and friends.
When I work with children, I like to remember stories they tell me, including some of the details; and I like to mention these stories to them at a later date when some statement comes up that triggers my memory. For example, I might remind a child, “Isn’t that the little town where you told me you saw a play you really liked when you were at camp last summer?”
When a child has told me about a dream, and months later I say, “That reminds me of the dream you told me about where you were being chased by a shark,” it obviously has a special effect on the child because my remembering reminds them the details of their life they share with me are important to me.
When I not only recall dreams a child tells me but also make connections among those dreams – “I remember another dream you told me about being chased, except then it was a bear chasing you” – it seems to be especially powerful. I am remembering things important to them, and by doing so I validate them in a larger context.
Self-Esteem Principle: Children are enhanced by the network of people, things, and events that make up their lives. When you accept children in their network, you most fully accept them.