By: Dr Randy Cale
Parenting is a difficult job. And as you often hear, the job seems to be getting more difficult by the day. Challenges with technology, media influences, peer relations and academic pressures…it all adds up!
In the midst of all this, many of us worry about our child’s self-esteem. We may be particularly worried, if we are aware of our lack of confidence. If you have low-self-esteem it is easy to pass it on to your children. (There are also ways to avoid this, so make sure you read the entire article to get some direction!) Many parents with low self esteem do not realize they are modeling low self-esteem behavior to their children every day, and thus passing it on to their children. Here’s how this works:
When you have low self esteem, you tend to not realize when you are putting yourself down. Your internal thoughts may not be expressed to your child, yet, if you believe you are ‘dumb’ ‘not smart’ ‘fat’ ‘ugly’ ‘bad with people’ or ‘not worthy’ … such thoughts show up in your behavior. It shows up in the way you dress, the way you talk about your neighbors, and in what you discuss at the dinner table or in the car. When we lack confidence, we often fail to initiate conversation or take on a new project. We don’t ask for a raise, or apply for a better position. Over and over…our internal lack of confidence…is demonstrated to our children.
Unfortunately, we almost can’t help it. Children pick up cues from their parents and in turn begin to speak about themselves the same way. This is also true for the way they carry themselves, represent themselves to others, and view themselves.
It is not easy to rebuild your esteem, but if you are focused and determined it can be done! Positivity and confidence are important for your children but just as important you! Please don’t ignore this point, because when you first focus on taking care of your poor self-image, or lack of confidence, supporting your child’s self-esteem becomes easier.
In the following tips to build a more confident child, you can side-step some of your own issues, to start effectively building your child’s confidence.
The single most important belief for you to hold is this: “Sweetheart, I know you can handle it. It may hurt right not…but you will get through this!”
This approach does not require you to believe they will handle it perfectly, or without some drama or pain. Many times, there will be a struggle.
But imagine, if you are able to convince your child to have a deeply held belief in themselves that affirm, “I know I can handle this. I will get through it.”
This is power. This is power that will help them through many tough times, even when you can’t be there.
Whether children are from an intact family with happily married parents or a divorced family, are healthy or in some way disabled, are exceptionally gifted or just normal, there’s no reason to teach them that their lives are in any way “less than” what they should be.
If you label their lives as sad or unfortunate, they’ll believe you. If you believe their life is lacking, they will come to believe their life is lacking. If you wish they were smarter, they will wish they were smarter.
Again, your children will grow to believe what you believe about them (mostly).
Why not empower them with a belief that will serve them for years to come!
If you don’t have faith in them, where will they get it?
NOTE: this is not meant to tell them they are the best at everything, and can do no wrong. We see many ‘delusional’ teens these days, who believe they are the “BEST” at signing, or playing baseball, or the smartest kid in school. Yet, this belief has nothing to do with reality. Their parents just kept feeding them stories, which had nothing to do with truth.
This is, of course, remarkably damaging to children.
So one more time, have faith in them. Tell them they CAN DO IT. But don’t tell them, that they can do it better than anyone else. This will likely not be true.
This distinction is important, and is critical to the power behind my Confident Child Program.
Once you realize that your lack of faith in them is their biggest enemy, and then you realize it’s essential that you find this faith…so you pass it on to them. How? You…
Let’s talk reality: Life can be frustrating. Life can be challenging. Life can be hurtful and let us down.
It can also be the opposite. Life can be awesome, inspiring, hopeful and filled with joy.
The difference is that we must prepare our children for the disappointing, hurtful and challenging moments… so they do not linger.
You see more and more children…lingering in their drama…their negativity… their struggles.
This destroys self-esteem and confidence. Absolutely DESTROYS it.
So, it’s essential to teach children about handling their emotions, if we want them to develop a resilient and strong sense of themselves.
Here’s how we begin: When all is calm (not during a drama moment), talk to your children about the things that upset them. Go over the history, and how they have handled things in the past.
Next, offer some solutions, with an eye toward helping them to solve the problems.
Notice, for many children, they are not interested in the solutions. They simply want to complain about their brother or sister, or their teacher or about their homework. They really don’t want a solution…they want to complain or focus on the negative.
This is where the conversation changes. Let them know, that these emotions are to be expected in life. And, that mom and dad have not been able to change this…and will never be able to change this.
Why? Because it’s part of life.
“So…from now on… Mom and Dad are going to do this when you have these upsets, and focus on the negative. We know that YOU CAN HANDLE YOUR EMOTIONS. We will not try to fix it. We will not try to solve it, or take the emotions and make it better.
“If you want to focus on the negative, go ahead. Do so. We can’t stop you.
“But you will feel better as soon as you let go of thinking about the negative, and focus on the good stuff you have here in your life.
“Sweetheart, we know you can handle these moments. You will get through them…it’s just that we can’t do it for you. You have to learn that YOU CAN HANDLE IT.”
If questions arise, explain that you’re not going to run to their rescue anymore or try to calm them when they’re upset. Tell them that the feelings they have may be painful, but they’ll go away. Let them know that you have confidence in their ability to cope.
Psychologist Tip: The secret here is that the muscle of confidence can only be worked by your child. You cannot lift the weights for them. They have to lift the weights…if the muscle it to get stronger.
And most importantly, you decide to…
When you do, you undermine their confidence. They grow to believe that it’s your job…to solve the problem.
How can a child develop any sense of self-confidence, if we keep stripping away their chances to learn how strong and capable they really are?
When your children become upset and it’s part of their pattern to move toward drama, upset and tears— allow them to whine, complain, cry, have a tantrum. Please don’t get angry, upset, or tearful, and don’t get into a conversation about the upset. Just be patient and let them handle it. As soon as they show signs of calming down, engage them in normal conversation about other events or activities. Don’t talk about whatever it was that upset them. If they start to get upset again, disengage.
Remember: what you consistently give your attention to…it must grow.
If you consistently give your attention to patterns of whining, complaining, and “sensitivity”…you will find that you nurture a child who seems to choose these unhealthy patterns over and over.
Why? Because you…as the most important teacher…keep investing in those patterns.
Thus, to start nurturing confidence, you simply need to get out of the way, and allow your kids to realize that the world will not rescue them from their upsets…their whining…their crying…their meltdowns…their placing too much importance on the actions/words of others.
If you follow these simple guidelines, I’m confident that your children will respond within two to three weeks…maybe longer if you struggle in your own ability to disengage these “signals” of sensitivity. You can get the full step-by-step guide to building your child’s confidence here:
The Confident Child.
Finally, please note: Your child’s behavior will change radically as they begin to develop a greater sense of confidence in themselves. Dependent, immature behavior will fall by the wayside if you give them permission to tap their own strength and abilities. Be brave! Test it for just a week or two…and you will be amazed at the power you have to enhance their esteem.
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