I asked my son what he thought I should write about in my next blog entry and with a great amount of ease he said, “Me!” I chucked at the suggestion thinking his response was cute and then he said, “What’s so funny? I’m a great kid! Right?”
In that moment it occurred to me that regardless of how confident or unsure our children maybe about themselves, they have a need to confirm their self esteem and identity with us; their parents.
Luckily, at this point, my son thinks highly of himself overall. He believes he a good student and he likes his school. He believes he’s funny and he loves his brothers and he has a good set of friends. But what about children who don’t feel so good about themselves or their circumstances? How do parents handle that? What will I do when my son hits a slippery patch of low self esteem and his group of friends start to dwindle or shift in other directions?
There are plenty of tools to mothers as we navigate these emotionally treacherous waters. Lets start by making sure that our comments, responses and facial expressions are NOT confirming the child’s already challenged esteem. When your mommy frustrations are high, avoid making damaging comments like, “You think you’re special?”, “Why are you so bad?” or “You make me sick.” If the child does have a shred of good self esteem, we are sure to kill those good vibes with those kinds of negative statements. If your daughter sees herself as adventurous and you label her as bad, you’re effectively attacking her spirit. These seemingly small experiences will send our children into years of mental health therapy and potentially land us in the hot seat on the Dr. Phil’s show in the not-so-far future.
Once we’ve got a handle on ourselves, then we can help our children shift the negative views they inflict on themselves. Boost your child’s esteem by giving extra time and attention to the things they love or do well. If you’re son doesn’t do well at making friends but is great at making sandwiches, announce to the family how they have to try one of his sandwiches at the next family picnic. Then help him prepare some sandwiches for his class on a special day. That will boost his esteem and help him make friends in the process. If your daughter isn’t great at reading but she’s a good dancer, have her teach you some dance moves and then go get a ” how-to” dance book from the library (remember those?) and learn a new dance by reading the book together.
Another important approach is helping your child to understand that he or she will not be good at everything. Most people are great at one or two things, good at a few other things and not good at all with most things. The key is doing what you must to do (learn math, eat vegetables and clean your room, for example) so you can do what you want to do later on (like start your own business, be healthy and travel the world with friends).
It would also help if we mothers are honest about our flaws, weaknesses and insecurities and share them with our children. If our children pay half as much attention to us as we do to them, they already know our challenges. It can only help to strengthen our bond and bolster their self esteem by allowing them to hear us admit to our own struggles. Mothers are not perfect and if our children hear us accept our truths openly, they will be far more inclined to accept their own.
Life is not about being perfect or succeeding at everything. It’s about completing the necessary tasks, pursuing your passions, getting up after you’ve fallen down and being able to laugh at yourself along the way.
La Shell is a blogger, therapist and life coach who is continuously attempting to acknowledge her flaws and challenges with ease and grace. www.lashellwooten.com