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Ten Ways Parents Destroy Their Children's Self-Esteem

Updated on June 8, 2016

How to Destroy a Child's Precious Sense of Being

Parents want to believe that that they are doing a particular deed or applying a specific disciplinary methodology for the child's own good. They also tell themselves that the child will appreciate this one day and assert that if they did not care, they would not be applying such corrective measures.

However, many use discipline and corrective measures in ways that irreparably damage or negatively impact a child's self-esteem. Many parents believe that they are only guiding and helping their child when in fact, they are causing harm instead. There is an old saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Here are the ten things parents do that can destroy their children's self-esteem!

Each child is unqiue. Many parents fail to realize this. They believe that by comparing one child to another, the "errant" one will improve. However, it does quite the opposite, and many such chldren feel worthless.
Each child is unqiue. Many parents fail to realize this. They believe that by comparing one child to another, the "errant" one will improve. However, it does quite the opposite, and many such chldren feel worthless.

(1) Comparing Children to Siblings or Other Children

Parents often believe that if they extol the positive characteristics of siblings and other children to their so-called errant child, their own child will improve. Oftentimes, comparison does the opposite. Those who are constantly compared to others have a diminished sense of individuality and ultimately come to believe that they are worthless.

(2) Criticizing a Child's Innate Abilities, Temperament, or Characteristics

Many parents are threatened and nonplussed if their children's abilities and characteristics are different from their own. These are firm believers that their offspring should be carbon copies of them with similar characteristics, interests, and goals. They feel that if their children are just like them, everything sill be harmonious and stress-free. Those whose characteristics are different from the parents' are viewed as a threat to the familial social order.

Those who criticize their diametrically different children's innate abilities and characteristics are often invalidating their children's innermost psychological core. These children often feel insignificant and totally unappreciated.

Some apply corrective or disciplinary methods that can verge on emotional or verbal abuse which damage their children's self-esteem.
Some apply corrective or disciplinary methods that can verge on emotional or verbal abuse which damage their children's self-esteem.

(3) Requiring Conformity

Many parents staunchly believe in blind and mindless conformity. They are of the belief that there is safety in following the prevailing and/or majority opinion. They contend that following the consensus offers a sense of belonging and security. They insist that it is safest to conform to the prevailing philosophy and strongly discourage their children's individualism and nonconformity because they think that if their children refuse to conform to the prevailing groupthink, they will be considered oddballs or worse, be ostracized and left alone, or the parents themselves will be ostracized and denigrated by their neighbors and associates. So if a young one dares to have a unique, creative, and innovative thought or idea, it is squashed and oftentimes labeled outlandish and weird because nobody else thought of it! These parents are totally soul-destroying and killing the dreams of a potential Picasso, Einstein, Mozart, and/or free thinker.

(4) Continuously Harping About Mistakes

Making mistakes is an integral part of a child's learning and growth process. Childhood is a time to freely explore, try on different personas, and fall on your face! However, there are parents who equate mistakes with grave mortal sins. They often have insanely unrealistic expectations that their offspring must be as perfect and blemish-free as possible. God forbid that they should make mistakes. Oh no! Making mistakes = ineptitude + utter stupidity. They want their kids to be perfect because perfection = success!

Well, continuous harping about mistakes to a child is tantamount to abuse. This child begins to lose what sense of initiative and risk-taking that he/she has and thus becomes extremely anxious and risk-aversive, often not electing to attempt anything less he/she errs. They will always choose the path of the least resistance all through life!

(5) Teaching That a Child's Dreams, Aspirations, and Goals Are Impossible to Reach

There are individuals who aspire to uncommon goals and unique careers. Many parents refuse to acknowledge this. Oftentimes, they consider their offspring's goals "unrealistic" and "lofty." They often attempt to gear their children into "more realistic" careers and aspirations, ones that are "workable" and "secure." Well, some individuals have goals and aspirations which are dramatically different and rare! They should be encouraged. Oftentimes these kids do settle for ordinary and safe careers, much to their regret. They are grossly unhappy, yearning for what might have been.

(6) Living Their Kid's Lives and Planning Their Careers

There are parents who believe that they know what is best for their children. They plan their children's life from birth to marriage to career and beyond. They believe that they are making their kids' lives easier and less stressful. However, they are doing irreparable damage and making their kids quite dependent and indecisive regarding the simplest life choices. Many people are living their parents' lives, not their own authentic lives, much to their regret!

Some parents want their children to be physically/emotionally flawless. They believe individualities are flaws that need correction.This results in a child's poor self image.
Some parents want their children to be physically/emotionally flawless. They believe individualities are flaws that need correction.This results in a child's poor self image.

(7) Evaluating a Child's Intellectual Capacity upon Grade Point Average

Many base all their expectations on grade point average. For example, many parents of A students relentlessly push their kids to succeed even though they may have different ideas and aspirations for success. Conversely, many parents of C students believe that their kids are less than apt and intelligent, telling them to aspire lower as they are not ever going to be successful. A child's GPA is not always an accurate reflection of his/her innate intellectual capacity. An extremely conscientious A student of average ability may have to study all night to obtain those As while a C student of above average ability may be bored with school and have a more relaxed attitude towards his/her studies. To pigeonhole anyone's intellectual ability based entirely upon his/her grade point average often creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. If the child believes that he/she is stupid because he/she is a C student, he/she will become a low achiever throughout life, no matter what his/her human potential is!

(8) Zeroing in on So-Called Negative Characteristics

Many parents want their kids to be as physically and emotionally flawless as possible. They often view their children's physical and emotional differences as imperfections to be corrected and/or changed and may denigrate their children in order to make them shape up. However, this has the opposite effect and gives the child a permanently poor body and self-image.

There are parents who feel that praise makes a child conceited. They don't realize that children need positive reinforcement.
There are parents who feel that praise makes a child conceited. They don't realize that children need positive reinforcement.

(9) Never Praising

There are parents who do not believe in praising because they believe that it softens and spoils kids and will make them conceited and think too highly of themselves. These parents maintain that they should never have to praise their offspring for things such as having good behavior, doing chores without being asked, and/or earning good grades. They assert that such behavior should be a given.

Children need praise in order to assess the positivity of their performance and to continue with such behavior! If they do not receive praise, oftentimes they will not achieve what they might have.

(10) Demanding Blind Obedience

There are some parents who believe that their word is law and etched in stone, and that might equals right. It is these parents' contention that they own their offspring. They do not view their kids as thinking, independent, autonomous individuals in their own right but instead as automatons and pieces of property that they can dictate and program at will. These parents' mantra is that their children are to obey and nothing else. They want kids who they can easily control and they are highly threatened by those who exhibit a more independent nature.

Anyone raised by authoritarians like this becomes timid and submissive. They also become passive, believing that they do not count. They feel powerless and that others are more powerful than they are.

Final Word

Correction and discipline are meant to improve and enhance a child's sense of self and help a child become self-disciplined, self-motivated, and self-determined. Correction and discipline are not meant to demoralize children and to make them feel less than what they are.

© 2011 Grace Marguerite Williams

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    • profile image

      ScottHough 5 years ago

      gmwilliams,

      What a great hub! Should be required reading for many parents. This would be of particular interest to individuals and parents of individuals with Autism.

      My Best,

      SH

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      shea duane 5 years ago from new jersey

      are you a psychologist?

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      masmasika 5 years ago

      Excellent hub. I totally agree with you. I have reared my son alone and I found out that parenting should not be about what parents feel and what parents should do to tell things to their kids in order to behave. Parenting is never how parents feel but it must be a process of the give and take between parents and kids. Democracy is needed and freedom for kids to choose but guided accordingly. I am not a very good parent and I am frank about it but at least I am sharing my experiences to other parents so that they may change their parenting styles and make them effective to their kids. Of course there are always individual differences but parents must always find improvement.

    • gmwilliams profile image
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      Grace Marguerite Williams 5 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      To masmasika: Thank you for your enlightening views and for stopping by.

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      kelleyward 5 years ago

      Great info! I really like the concept of not comparing your children to others. We are all unique and special in our own right.

    • gmwilliams profile image
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      Grace Marguerite Williams 5 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      Our children are fragile and precious souls. Subjects relating to children and family life are my favorite things to write about. Even though I am single and childfree, I believe that all children are my children in spirit. One does not have to a parent to be concerned and write about our precious children. It pains me of the verbal and psychological abuse in the name of "good parenting" that children must endure. I also have observed from early childhood, how parents unintentionally damage children from what they inflict, either venially or otherwise.

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      kelleyward 5 years ago

      I agree!!! I think you have a very important voice in your own right. Thank you for caring about children.

    • gmwilliams profile image
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      Grace Marguerite Williams 5 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      To kelleyward: In the universe, we are all connected to each other whether we acknowledge it or not. None of us should live in a vacuum. I feel that our children are innocent and precious and when I see injustice, I loudly voice it, especially when it pertains to the most innocent and vulnerable among us. Peace and love.

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      johnwindbell 5 years ago from - the land of beards and buggies

      Super hub, almost scary, ya certainly got to the bottom of ol' Johnwindbell's childhood.

    • Chuck Bluestein profile image

      Chuck Bluestein 4 years ago from Morristown, AZ, USA

      Yes the above never happens in the Yequana village in South America. They have been raising children the same way for 50,000 years. Somewhere Western parents had forgotten the way that children should be raised. A poll showed that for every positive thing said to a child, they would get 200 negative comments.

      As far as blind obedience, the children in the Yequana village are never told what to do!

    • gmwilliams profile image
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      Grace Marguerite Williams 4 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      Thank you Chuck for your wonderful and insightful input. Now, you have further piqued my interest in aboriginal cultures. I will have to do more research regarding the Yequana culture. Thank you again!

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      Chuck Bluestein 4 years ago from Morristown, AZ, USA

      Actually this is a really hot subject now since Time magazine had an article on attachment parenting (May 21, 2012) and on the cover was a toddler sucking his mother's breast. I wrote an article on this. Dr William Sears worked with Time magazine on this article. He wrote his book on this (The Baby Book) around 1992.

      But Jean Leadloff wrote about this type of parentiing in 1975 in the book The Continuum Concept. She went to South America to find treasure-- diamonds. But she came across the Yequana tribe and saw some amazing things. So she stayed with them for over 2 years to learn how little kids can be so mature. A 5 year girl there can easily care for an infant. Many celebrities are now practicing attachment parenting which can be seen when you see them wearing babies in a sling-- known as baby wearing.

      My article has a link to your article and your article has a link to my article so HubPages is helping us out.

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      Sarah 4 years ago

      Wow... My parents have done all 10 plus MUCH worse for as long as I can remember... And I'm not even 18 yet.

    • Faith A Mullen profile image

      Faith A Mullen 4 years ago

      Great list! I think many parents do not realize they are doing these things, but they really can have a negative impact. Thanks for posting.

    • gmwilliams profile image
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      Grace Marguerite Williams 4 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      You are quite welcome, Faith. Thank you for stopping and responding.

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      Lili 4 years ago

      This is true, my parent had done all these throughout my childhood, told me she told me that I can never achieve my dreams of being a doctor, she never praised me more than once every two years. When I told my teacher this after she asked me about my parent's reactions to my good grades, he just looked at me like he couldn't believe what he was hearing .

    • gmwilliams profile image
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      Grace Marguerite Williams 4 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      Some parents are NEVER satisfied. They are soul destroyers. I have written another hub on how parents destroy their children's self-confidence. It is sad how parents denigrate their children, it is egregious and child abuse. Thank you for stopping by and responding.

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      Mout 3 years ago

      I never thought someone could understand my upbringing. Everything about this article. My mom does them all. I love my mom, she's a good person but a bad mom. She really doesn't believe in complimenting her child. She's never proud, never give me a hug or show any affection. I've been neglected for the first 10 years of my life. I've lived 9 years with her and I couldn't wait to get out. I've been fantasizing about moving out since I was 15. It was hard cause I was raised by many people before her. I 've lived with my mom since I was 10 and it destroyed me. My dreams, my self-esteem, who I aspire to become,... She also takes credit for all my accomplishments while I only am who I am cause I try very hard not to be anything like her. But when somethings goes wrong it's my fault. She literally says it's my fault even if it isn't she says it to my face. She even tried to stab me and I ran away from home and didn't came home for 2 days. I became a passive person (contrary to who I was before her upbringing) because I wasn't allowed to have an opinion or say something what I wanted, what I believe,... She wants to earn a lot of money to pay her back cause she brought me to life and brought me up and spent so much time and money on me. And I'm gonna give her that, if money is what makes her happy than she can have it. Talking doesn't help cause I tried and it made my situation at home worst. Now she is convinced I am a bad person, she says that to, she threatens me. She says she gonna call the police, kick me out,... The funny thing is. All her relationship are bad, my step dad is the same. They have the same personality, at New Year, Christmas all family gather around the table having diner. My parents are the only one who aren't invited. They were the the beginning but not anymore. My step dad doesn't talk to his siblings. While all his siblings have a reunion every week, he's the only one who doesn't want to go too. My stepsister got married, they got invited but didn't went to the wedding. Now they don'

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      momfromthe60's 3 years ago

      I would like to email this to my husband but cannot cause we don't know how to tweet twitter or pin it. Also, we don't have a pininterest account. So please put the email buttons back.

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      Chuck Bluestein 3 years ago from Morristown, AZ, USA

      To email any website, just copy the URL and then paste the URL on your email.

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      Ellyse Mae Tadifa 2 years ago from Philippines

      This post is very informative, I have a son and I completely understand parents too. They should read your hub because I learned something new and fresh. This is a complete guide on how to tread a child. Children are very sensitive, just one wrong move and everything might change for the rest of his life.

    • gmwilliams profile image
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      Grace Marguerite Williams 2 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      Thank you so much for stopping by and for your eloquent response. There are so many parents who fail to realize that how they treat their children can have quite a negative impact on them.

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      greeneyedblondie 2 years ago

      "Telling their children that their dreams, aspirations, and goals are impossible to reach."

      That's my dad's "parenting" method right there.

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      cjensen 2 years ago

      WOW this article is amazing!! My mom did all that to me for 39 years of my life and here I thought everything was my fault. Before I moved out, she told me I owe her $40k which was never talked about. Thank you for making me realize that it's all on her.

    • gmwilliams profile image
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      Grace Marguerite Williams 2 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      It was HER fault; however, your mother & other parents who were similarly abusive refuse to acknowledge their complicity. Some people should NEVER be parents. Parenthood is only for the few enlightened & evolved people who unselfishly help their children be the BEST people they can be. Sadly, the majority of parents are like what you describe in one way or another.

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      min 2 years ago

      Amazing; my stepdad does all of these and I self esteem is bottom rock low.

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      Chrissy 2 years ago

      This is 100% accurate. My mother has done this to me for years, and she has COMPLETELY destroyed my self confidence.

    • gmwilliams profile image
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      Grace Marguerite Williams 2 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      How sad. Unfortunately, so many parents destroy children's precious sense of self.

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      Anonymous 2 years ago

      basically my parents.

    • profile image

      Bsbznnsj 18 months ago

      What can you do to heal? Thats the next step

    • profile image

      Rob 17 months ago

      There's no healing from any of this. Kids are resilient, but hammer them with this crap for a couple of decades as was done to me and the rest of their life will be miserable.

    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 17 months ago from France

      Very good points on what parents shouldn't do to their children. Childhood is a very fragile period of life, whatever we do or say to a child will remain with them for the rest of their lives. A well-rounded adult was a child that had plenty of love and support from their family environment.

    • gmwilliams profile image
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      Grace Marguerite Williams 17 months ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      Princessa, thank you for stopping by and responding.

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      Claire Yuan 15 months ago

      Wonderful points - my childhood was like that, but I never really thought that my parents were destroying my self-esteem. I thought I was just shy, and naturally had a low-esteem. Listing out those ten points made me understand more about parenting and the effects of bad parenting...

      Children look up to their parents and expect to be praised for what they did well, if they aren't...well I would be hurt and think whatever I did wasn't good enough. In worst cases, children think they aren't good enough, that they're worthless.

    • Joyette  Fabien profile image

      Joyette Fabien 13 months ago from Dominica

      Great Hub! Increasingly, the need for parenting lessons is becoming more vital. The future of many children would be saved if their parents would only take parenting classes or at the very least, stop and take note of their errors and make necessary changes.

    • gmwilliams profile image
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      Grace Marguerite Williams 13 months ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      Thank you for stopping by and responding. Parents have to be thoughtful and mindful in raising their children. What parents say and do can affect their children for better....or WORSE.

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      Roo 10 months ago

      I wish my parents would read this they do a lot of this to me

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      Gaming 3 months ago

      My parents do half of that, and honestly, my self esteem is pretty much destroyed... I actually feel that, my dad is attempting to ruin my childhood.

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      Maya 6 weeks ago

      I am 14 and I look forward going to school because I love to talk to people, I also love being alone and peace and quiet. My grades are awful but a partially blame them on my parents. I don't look forward to coming home at all, my dad constantly calls me useless and tells me I should die. It has come to the point where all he talks about are my grades. All of my teachers hate me after his constant emails. He tells me I don't care about them, how does he know? Obviously I care about my grades, I can't fix it but maybe you can somehow help, obviously what you are doing now is not working. My mother sometimes talks about other things with me but it has come to the point that once in a while if I want to look good my parents say that all I worry about is how I look. Of course I don't, dressing up and wearing makeup does not affect my grades, it just boosts up my self confidence. Don't get me wrong, my parents moved houses so I can go to the school I am in right now but they use that as an excuse when they scream at me. Today out of anger I broke my wall, now I seem like some sort of crazy person. They spend alot of money on tution for me, but they can't see that I don't need tution, I just need some sort of support. When they see me studying they say to me, whats the point, you never get good grades after studying anyways. At home it is always tension, screaming, and hitting. We live in a great home and to others we seem like a good family. I am seriously considering go to a counciler or something, I am going crazy. Sure, I basically have 4 c's, 1 a, 1 d, and 1 b in all of my classes but still, I am taking advanced classes and there are kids doing much worse. They keep saying that without them I am going to end up working in a Mc'Donalds. My family is Indian by the way. The keep accusing me for things I never do, I honestly just want to be alone

    • gmwilliams profile image
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      Grace Marguerite Williams 6 weeks ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      Yes, your parents are the problem. They are soul devouring parents. Please talk to your teachers & guidance counselors about your situation. They can recommend a psychologist to address & solve this issue.

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