Managing the ups and downs of how we feel about ourselves is one of, if not the biggest of our many daily challenges.
We are emotional beings and to downplay this fact causes humanity great suffering.
So, what do you say when your child says they don’t like themselves, they hate themselves, or they are bad?
For many parents, the first response is to placate their child.
Placating is an attempt to take away your child’s bad feelings because you can’t stand to see them suffer or you don’t want them to suffer.
The act of placating can sound like this: “You’re just fine”, “No, you’re not”, “You’re being too harsh on yourself,” or “You’re not bad.”
Watching your child suffer is difficult, however, learning how to manage difficult feelings is key for children to develop resiliency.
Start With Yourself
What are your beliefs, thoughts, and actions when you don’t do well?
How do you manage your feelings? Do you denigrate yourself?
Do you call yourself stupid or say, “I should have known better,” “I should have been better”, “I’m not very good”, or even “I’ll never be good”?
I believe that in order for parents to help their children handle their insecurities in meaningful ways, that parents need to first address their own challenging feelings.
After Your Self-Reflection
Understand that children respond better to encouragement from you on how to positively approach negative feelings, when they have meaning dialogue in the family on this topic.
So, rather than telling your child how they “should” feel or act, share how you grapple with negative feelings, too.
Here are some statements about negative self-talk and valuing ourselves that can stimulate loving and connecting dialogue about managing these difficult feelings.
- Let’s talk about what you specifically don’t like and what you do like.
- It’s important to be compassionate with ourselves when we are not as “good” as others.
- Let’s focus more on what we can do to become more like what we want to be.
- It’s okay to not be satisfied with ourselves in certain areas. That doesn’t mean we are not good. Let’s focus on planning so you can become what you want to be.
- We are all changing. We are never stuck in one place. Let your dissatisfaction with where you are be the starting point of change.
- It’s crucial to have compassion and love for ourselves.
- We will always have weaknesses that cause us to struggle or be unhappy.
- When we are unhappy with ourselves, let’s also think about what we like about ourselves.
- Let’s not label ourselves as “bad” or “good” because we are never all one or the other.
- How can we make choices that cause greater happiness and forgive ourselves (and others) for our weaknesses?
Parents can be vulnerable and still be the leader in the family, simultaneously.
Developing the ability to connect emotionally with your children now will make it easier when the time comes that you have to set and enforce rules.
Your children are more likely to cooperate when emotionally connected to you.
Accept your children’s temporary negative feelings about themselves, and then guide them through compassionate dialogue to accept themselves and take steps forward to higher self-esteem..
Copyright 2019 Cynthia Klein. www.bridges 2 understanding.com. Author of Ally Parenting: ANon-Adversarial Approach to Transform Conflilct Into Cooperation