Every parent wants to raise kids who are strong, confident, and independent. And you try to build them into these strong individuals by being supportive and encouraging parents.
But sometimes, your words and actions—even if they're made and said with the best of intentions—may do more harm than good. You may be undermining your child and leaving them more broken than secure.
Here are 5 ways you may be (unknowingly) damaging your child's self esteem.
- Saying "That's easy."
We've all been through that before. Your child takes up a new hobby; you're happy and supportive. Let's take for example, baseball. Your child practices batting hours every day, swinging and perfecting his technique. But at the end of the day, he still has a hard time hitting the ball. As someone who has coached many little leagues, you try to keep him motivated by saying, "You can do it. It's easy."
Contrary to what you believe, you are actually crippling his self esteem. In a child's mind, when he is unable to do task and a parent says, "It's easy," he thinks, "Oh, I must be I'm dumb, because I can't seem to get it."
INSTEAD, you can try saying, "It is difficult, but I know you can do it. " This shows that you support him and have confidence in him. When he does overcome a challenge, he will realize that "Hey, I can accomplish things even if they're hard. I just have to work at it."
2. Saying their dream is unrealistic.
As parents, you know that not everyone can grow up to be an astronaut, princess, or rockstar. Parents often try to steer their kids away from unrealistic dreams and expectations, because they want to shield their children from failure and rejection. But when Mom or Dad says a dream is unrealistic, in the mind of a child, he's hearing, "You can't do it."
INSTEAD, be supportive, even if you think the dream is unrealistic. You can still be "real" about it by sharing with your kids the steps that they need to take in order to achieve their dream. This helps to reinforce the thought that any dream is achievable, but you will need to put in the hard work and effort.
3. Criticizing your own appearance
Based on experience, you know the pain of being criticized for one's looks and the insecurity is causes. And most probably, as a parent, you've made the promise to never make any comment that would make your child feel insecure. They are perfect and beautiful in every way, just the way God made them. However, though you may never utter a negative word, you may forget that your children follow your example.
So if they constantly hear Mommy say, "Oh, I'm so fat. I look like a cow," they're very likely to pick up on those negative feelings and habits as well.
INSTEAD, teach them to be confident and proud of their bodies by embracing your own physical appearance. Show them that the value of a person is not based on their looks, and what is important is that you take good care of yourself.
4. Constant praise
Compliments are good and help build self-esteem, but too much will ultimately have the opposite effect. Too much praise showered on a child can bloat self-esteem, and the opportunity to learn that there is always room for improvement is lost. Research shows the children who are regularly praised for their efforts ("You studied really hard for that test.") instead of their qualities ("You're so smart!") become more successful in life as they are more open to take on new challenges. In addition, when praise comes often, it loses its impact.
INSTEAD, praise your child when he exerts real effort on a task.
5. Always being the lifesaver
Parents all want to be superman, protecting their child from pain, rejection, and failure. But in order for kids to grow strong and secure, they must go through these challenges themselves. When a parent dives into every situation, trying to save and fix the problem, kids miss out on valuable learning experiences on how to cope, how to deal with challenges, and how to correct their mistakes.
INSTEAD, when your child finds himself in a dilemma or has committed a mistake, teach him to be accountable. You can guide him, but let them deal with it on their own.
READ: Positive parenting tips: 20 ways to show love to your child
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