Kids' self-esteem is a product of their upbringing. That said, parents can easily harm their kids' self-esteem with even meaning to.
Obviously, all parents know that calling their children names like “stupid” or “lazy” is unacceptable but what many don’t realise is how parents can ruin kids’ self-esteem even when they have their children’s best intentions at heart.
Mums, 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.
How parents ruin kids’ self-esteem
1. Getting angry if kids make a mistake or fail at something
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.
2. 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.
3. Judging them based solely on their grades
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.
4. 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.”
5. Criticizing your own appearance
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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
Mums and dads, are you guilty of doing any of these things?
Read more about kids’ self-esteem: How to build confidence in your child