8 Ways you might be ruining your child's self-esteem

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Low self esteem in children causes them to lack the confidence to try new things. Parents, here are some unintentional mistakes you might be making...

Obviously, all parents know that calling their children names like “stupid” or “lazy” is unacceptable. What many don’t realise is that they may be ruining their kids' self-esteem even without realising it. Low self esteem in children causes them to lack the confidence to try new things. They give up easily, or not try at all.

Mums and dads, were your parents strict or lenient with you when you were growing up? While both parenting styles have their advantages and disadvantages, there is no arguing with the fact that both have a profound effect on how children grow up.

Here are some causes of low self-esteem in children, and how it can affect them in the long run.

Low self esteem in children causes

1. Lack of parental support/involvement

It is difficult for the child to feel motivated enough to want more and try new things when his parents are not paying enough attention to him. It makes him feel forgotten, unwanted and unimportant.

It also makes him feel that none of his achievements really matter to anyone.

Self-esteem grows when kids see that what they do matters to others. Pay attention to what your child does well and enjoys. Make sure your child has chances to develop these strengths. 

2. Getting angry if kids make a mistake or fail at something

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When parents overreact to their child’s mistakes, it makes them afraid to try new things in the future. It’s important to use mistakes a learning tool so that children have the confidence to handle mistakes in the future. Without this confidence, you will likely end up with a child who is always looking for the easy way out.

3. Comparing a child to their siblings or friends

We’ve all seen or heard parents do this innocently enough, “Look at how good your brother is at soccer” or “Wow, your sister got the highest score in the class”. These comments, while not intended to be hurtful, make a child feel like he is inferior to his peers and diminishes his sense of individuality.

4. Judging them based solely on their grades

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Many parents place a huge importance on grades from a young age and although it is understandable in Singapore where your PSLE scores determine what kind of schools you will be eligible about in the future, it can still be very detrimental for kids’ self-esteem.

For children who do not excel at school, this kind of emphasis solely on grades will make them feel like they can never be ambitious because they won’t succeed anyways.

5. Telling them that something they can’t do is easy

When your kids are struggling to learn something new like reading or basic arithmetic, it can be tempting to try to reassure them by telling them “Don’t worry, it’s so easy”.

Instead of helping them though, it makes kids worry why they can’t do something that is supposed to be so easy. It’s much better to say something along the lines of, “Reading these big words is hard, but I know you can do it.”

6. Criticising your own appearance or grumbling about your tasks

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Mums, when you look in the mirror and make an off-hand comment about how your skin looks or that you need to lose weight, your kids will start to define themselves and their worth in terms of their looks.

Instead, teach your kids that the important characteristics are on the inside. 

Also, as parents, we tend to crib a lot about the never ending pile of laundry and the work left to be done. But remember, your kids are watching you.

When you do tasks without grumbling or complaining, you teach your child to do the same. When you avoid rushing through chores and take pride in a job well done, you teach your child to do that too.

7. Telling your kids, “Good job”

Maybe the most surprising parental behaviour that is bad for a kid’s self-esteem is using the phrase “good job” indiscriminately.

When you say it for every small thing your kid does, they learn that they can get praise for very little effort. Ultimately, this makes kids dependent on receiving this kind of approval from superiors and peers and unable to achieve anything without it.

Instead, be sure to praise kids for their efforts and be specific about what they have done well.

8. Being a “helicopter” parent

We understand, you want to protect your little ones but when you become overprotective of them you are essentially sending the message to your kids that they are unable to do things for themselves without a parent stepping in.

Instead, teach your children to take responsibility for themselves and to learn to deal with the consequences of their actions.

How low self esteem in children causes them harm

Building self-esteem starts very early. In fact, it starts from babyhood. A baby who is loved and cared for feels safe and accepted.

As babies grow up and start meeting their milestones, it is their parents' support, love and encouragement which motivates them to try new things and develop their skills.

Kids with self-esteem:

  • feel wanted and accepted
  • feel confident
  • feel proud of what they can do
  • think good things about themselves
  • believe in themselves
  • are able to cope with mistakes and failure better

Low self esteem in children causes them to:

  • be self-critical and hard on themselves
  • lack the confidence to try new things, and give up easily
  • doubt they can do things well
  • feel like they're not as good as other kids
  • think of the times they fail rather than when they succeed

Mums and dads, are you guilty of doing any of these things?

Read more about low self esteem in children causes: How to build confidence in your child

Sources:

We Have Kids, Family Share, Family Share, KidsHealth

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