Ten Ways Parents Destroy Their Children's Self-Esteem
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!
(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.
(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!
(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.
(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.
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