We aren’t the only ones who influence our child’s self-image. They have other important influences- teachers, peers, and the media; but we certainly are the most important role models (at least before the teenage years) and the ones they want to please the most.
We aren’t suggesting that you shower your child with constant compliments. In fact, that isn’t a wise tactic because you’ll prove yourself to be insincere and they will lose trust in you.
I remember a story my friend told. She had gushed over her 6 year old’s artwork when he pulled it out of his backpack. He became frustrated and blurted out “you just have to say that because you’re my mom”. If you praise your child for every little thing they do, your positive feedback will become meaningless.
Compare Your Child to Others
Your child is his own person, with his own strengths and weaknesses. All of us are.
Comparing your child to others damages their feeling of self-worth. It’s like saying you aren’t good enough or you aren’t loveable the way you are.
Ignore Your Child
Kids need to be acknowledged, just like we all do.
How does it feel to get pat on the back from your boss? How about when someone comments on how flattering your new hair style is?
Imagine how much it has helped when you’re going through a rough time and a friend just sat and listened to you. That’s what we need to do for our kids.
We all know how annoying it can be when we’re stressed or in the middle of talking to someone another adult to have our kids tugging at our sleeve trying to get our attention.
It’s okay to tell your child they need to wait -that you will talk with them a little later. Just make sure you follow through and give them your undivided attention like you promised.
Listening to your child without judgment is an easy, powerful way to validate their thoughts and feelings.
Live Vicariously through Your Child
Did you dream of being the football captain in high school or to be accepted to a prestigious university? Some parents try to live out these fallen dreams through their child, by pushing them to excel in something that isn’t their interest or they just aren’t good at.
Trying to push your child in a direction that doesn’t fit them is another way to say they aren’t good enough the way they are. Your child is his own person. Kids have their own interests, which we should help them explore and develop.
Years ago, a good friend of mine was headed to medical school because his father had pushed him in that direction. At some point he realized he had a knack for decorating. He went into the field without any formal education.
Today this friend has a hugely successful design business creating custom kitchens. Luckily he followed his heart rather than allowing his father to pressure him into a medical profession.
Criticize Your Child
This almost goes without saying but it bears repeating. Most parents know that calling their child names or putting them down is damaging, but we parents are perfect and sometimes we say things we regret.
We should watch our words when talking to and about our kids. Words can be very powerful. The dangerous thing about words is we can’t take them back once we utter them. Sure, you can say you’re sorry; but words have a tricky way of staying with us long after they are spoken.
Make Your Child’s Decisions
Kids need to learn skills in order to grow up. Children should learn to make their own decisions- appropriate for their age, of course. If we make all of our child’s decisions they won’t learn to feel confident about their own ability to face adversity.
Back in the day when our parents’ generation was growing up it was conventional wisdom to avoid complimenting a child too much. The fear was making a kid think too much of themselves.
Today it seems as though we have swung in the opposite direction, where all kids get participation trophies so that no one feels bad about themselves. Kids see through this, though.
Helping your child to develop a health self-image isn’t about giving them unending praise or making them feel as though they are superior to others.
It’s about accepting and supporting them and helping them become the best person they can be.