3 ways we unknowingly sabotage our children's self-esteem

Written by: Jill M Hope

How parents sabotage our child's self-esteem, opening him up to bullying.

As parents, we do everything we can to nurture our children’s physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual needs. Yet, despite our best efforts to raise our kids to be resilient and have a strong sense of self, we see more and more children the victims of bullying.

When a child has healthy self-esteem, she is less likely to be the victim of bullying and more likely to make healthy choices that lead to a fulfilling life.

In my work with parents, I have found three common ways we sabotage our children’s self-esteem without realizing it, making them more likely to become a victim of bullying at some point during their school years and make poor life choices.

1. Not recognizing how our past experiences and beliefs impact our kids.

Often our children’s challenges reflect an unresolved challenge in us. I was working with a parent whose 12-year-old daughter was being bullied by other girls in her class.

The first question I asked the mother was how she got along with girls in school. Her knee-jerk reaction was that she had no problem with other girls, but upon reflection, she realized that she did not have many friends and held a belief that girls were mean. 

Once she uncovered this belief, we talked about how this does not need to be true for her daughter. Within a few weeks, her daughter began feeling more empowered and befriended the main bully!

Reflect on what beliefs you may hold that could impact your child’s self-esteem, and see how that belief doesn’t need to be true for your child.

2. Praising in a way that has our kids chasing praise and giving up rather than rising to challenges.

Many parents give praise by saying things like “You did a great job cleaning your room,” and we think we are doing right by our kids. However, praising by evaluating your child’s result is actually damaging in the long run.

When you evaluate and judge something your child has done, you take away your child’s ability to evaluate himself. Because self-esteem is something that he cultivates on the inside, it is important to praise in a way that has him evaluating himself as doing something good, rather than hearing it from the outside, which leads to chasing praise and feeling manipulated.

Try describing and appreciating your child’s efforts by saying “You picked up everything in your room and made your bed….thanks for your help!” Praising in this way allows him to evaluate his work and tell himself something empowering like “I am a helpful person.”

3. Not giving our kids the space to solve their own problems.

It’s hard not to jump in and solve every problem your child encounters, however you do them a disservice when you do. A great question to ask your child when facing a problem is “What do you think you should do to solve this problem?” I guarantee you will be astounded by the wisdom in the answer you hear!

Allowing your child to think through the problem and come up with options will help her feel empowered and confident as she deals with challenges, and will set her up for good problem solving skills as she grows.

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Posted on January 01, 2013 at 9:40 PM