Jun 16 2016

Ways To Grow Your Child’s Self-Esteem

Ways To Grow Your Child’s Self-Esteem – Vol. 366, June 16, 2016

Over the many years that I have been working with kids, I have noticed that there are a few different situations that harm a child’s self-esteem. When I see adults who have emotional issues, it is usually due to upbringings where they didn’t feel loved, wanted, respected or cared for by one or both parents.

I am writing this weblog in an effort to help you, the parents to become more aware in the messages you are giving your kids through your words and actions.

  1. I was working with a kid a while ago whose mother was involved in the theatre and whose kid was presenting as depressed. Sadly, the kid, really wasn’t able to do the hypnosis. However, the mother wrote me a thank you email, expressing her gaining a better sense of what was wrong in their relationship. Her son had some special education needs and she found it hard to relate to him. After the sessions, she was able to better understand some of his challenges which ultimately helped their relationship.
  2. I worked with a precocious 10 year old whose mother worked in the mortgage banking industry. While we were in session, her mother was constantly texting her clients, unwilling to put the phone away while we worked with her daughter on her daughter’s problems. It got to the point where I worked with her daughter alone because of her mother’s preoccupation with her work. If you were the daughter, what is the message that you would have received from her mother’s behavior?
  3.  If you are a parent who knows that you drink alcohol liberally and/or pop pills to help you calm yourself down, what is the message that you are giving to your teen? We can’t expect our teens to have more resolve to stay away from these things we won’t. So, I would challenge you to find a better way to deal with your stress, like: working out, doing yoga, self-hypnosis or meditation, or going out into nature. You want to do something that is healthy and aligned with calming yourself down. You want to teach your kids healthy ways to manage their stress, don’t you?
  4.  I was working with a teenager whose mother was frustrated in the “stay-at-home” role she has been in for the past 19 years. Here is a very bright woman who was once a professional in her own right. In frustration of running the home, there were times when she would make comments to her teen daughter that hit an emotional chord, hurting her deeply. So, watch, what you are saying to your kids. If you hear yourself saying something rude or mean, do apologize for doing so. We are all human, and we all have our challenges in life. However, it really isn’t okay to take these issues out on or kids, especially if they are already demonstrating that they are anxious and perhaps feeling depressed. A thoughtful caring ally is what is necessary here, not a condescending judgmental parent.
  5.  I have a client who is very interested in and loves everything to do with snails. Being a teen on the Autism spectrum, having this sort of interest is normal. The unfortunate thing is that her mother was unable to understand why the fascination and didn’t really see that perhaps this is an area that her daughter could study. That was until a woman was found who studied snails for a living who was just as enthusiastic about them as her daughter, and holds a Ph.D. We don’t need to be as fascinated as our kids are in their various interests. However, it is much more helpful to our kids to be supportive in their interests, which in turn will help to build their self-esteem.
  6.  Never neglecting one child because of the needs of another child. I had client who came in to see me because she was bulimic. Her biggest issue was that her parents spent all their time and energy on her sister’s concerns, her sister being very over weight. So, to get her parents attention, she developed bulimia. Now, her parents had two kids to be concerned about. If you have a child who needs special assistance, of course that assistance needs to be given. However, it is very important to give special time to the other kids, so that they know that they are also important and matter to you.
  7.  Allow your child to study what she desires at college. I had a client, again years ago, who wanted to be a fiction writer. The only problem with that was that her parents would not pay for her college tuition to study writing. Her father was a lawyer and they wanted her to become one as well. The only problem with this agenda was that she had zero interest in it and went on to fail the bar exam multiple times. After a few tries, she was able to pass the bar. However, she was never in a happy situation working in law firms. It seems that she felt she was never understood or respected having a miserable time with the whole process. Allow your kids the ability to choose what they want to study.  Realize that more often then not their jobs will have nothing to do with their degrees anyway.  
  8.  Allow your teen to choose the college or university that they want to attend. This is similar to the last one in that parents feel that they should have a say as to where their child goes to school. In one case all that was affordable to the teen’s parent was a community college, where the kid wanted to go to a four year state university. He went to the community college failing out of about half the courses there because he didn’t want to be there. He went on to bring his grades up enough to transfer to the state university graduating with decent grades. The better way to have handled this whole affair would have been to allow the kid to take out the necessary loans to attend the school of his choice. It would have saved a year of time and made for a happier kid sooner. 
  9.  There are also kids who are forced to go to very highly ranked colleges for their parents to be able to brag about them. This is made even worse when the parent fills in the application and then sends the kid off to a school that the kid is unable to succeed in not having the skills necessary for the school work to be done. To build the self-confidence of your child, your child needs to be in situations that allow for both learning and growth – commensurate with their ability. Please don’t force your kid into a situation where failure is the natural end. There are all sorts of colleges and universities for the this very reason. We weren’t all meant to go to Ivy League colleges.  
  10.  Comparing kids is a super destructive behavior most often ending up with the siblings not getting along. Being human, I am sure this is one of the more difficult things to contend with. However, if one kid is seen as perfect, that kid feels so overwhelmed with having to “”people please” everybody that her own sense of self is destroyed. The kid who is seen as the lesser able, may develop a sense of unworthiness of love because of the lack of unconditional love given. I have had clients in both of these situations and the amount of damage that comes from both is unsettling. Many of the  “people pleasers” become the eating disordered, and the one’s who are only seen as problematic, the substance abusers.

What are the behaviors that help to give a child great self-esteem?

  1. Focus on the efforts that the child is putting forth in life.
  2. Model the sort of behavior that you would like your child to emulate.
  3. If the child does something that needs correcting, make the correction commensurate with the issue to be dealt with. Always correct the behavior, without bringing the child’s personality into it.
  4. Always help the child to aspire to be the best they can be. Celebrate the positive steps taken.
  5. Share hugs and kisses. Have the kid give you the hug, so he knows that you are there and that you unconditionally love him.
  6. Tell your kid that you love them. I can’t tell you how many of my clients never hear these words come out of their parents mouths. We ALL need to feel loved and this is one way to do it.
  7. Support your child in his interests and allow him to learn more about these things. It could very well lead to an interesting career.
  8. If you are going to give positive reinforcement, have it be a fun activity instead of something to do with food or money.
  9. If you say or do something that your kid finds hurtful, be a role model and apologize for it. Then make a note to do your best to never repeat the same hurtful deed.
  10. Be honest about your past and those things that you did that were stupid and caused you grief. This will humanize yourself to your kid and build rapport. There is no need to pretend that you were perfect – because none of us are. Be a person who is willing to be humble and real with your kid, and you will find that your relationship will be better for it.
  11. If there is a time when there is a misunderstanding, have a chat with your kid. This will clear the air between you. while allowing your kid to know that you can indeed be trusted to do your best to make things right.
  12. Be liberal in your complementing good behavior and solid achievements, while withholding criticism and judgement. 

The healthiest adults I know, had parents who were respectful of themselves and did their best to instill that in their own kids. They allowed their kids to make mistakes and deal with the natural ramifications of those mistakes to learn. Most of all, they were real people who truly loved and cared for their kids. They loved being with them and doing things with them. While their kids were teens they allowed them the autonomy to go into the world to learn what they needed. If their kid got into a situation that didn’t feel right, the parent was available to get the child out of that circumstance. These days where drinking and drug taking happens at parties, it is a great idea to let your kid know that you are available if needed in this way.

Parenting is a very hard thing to do. We may not have all the answers, but there are people around to help us navigate it when necessary. However, it is my belief that if you treat your child the way that you would like to be treated, in the ways that would help you to feel good about yourself, your child will have a better than average ability to be raised as a healthy and functional adult.

Photo by Jamiesrabbits

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