11 signs you’re accidentally damaging your child’s self-esteem (without even realizing it)

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Isn’t parenting a wild ride? Full of twists, turns, smiles, tears, and most importantly – lots and lots of love. We all make mistakes. I know I’ve made my fair share!

But here’s the thing, sometimes the mistakes we make can accidentally hurt our children’s self-esteem. We all want our kids to be confident and believe in themselves, right? But sometimes without even knowing it, we might do things that shake that confidence a bit.

Let’s be clear here – it’s not about pointing fingers or making anyone feel bad. We’re all in this parenting game together, learning as we go. My aim here is to share what I’ve stumbled upon during my journey in hopes that it might help you avoid some of these bumps.

So, why don’t we take a closer look at our actions as parents? It’s time to reflect on what we might be doing that could be damaging our child’s self-esteem without even realizing it.

Here are 10 signs that suggest you might be accidentally hurting your child’s self-esteem. And don’t sweat it – for every problem, there’s a solution. I’ve got some tips on how we can turn things around too!

1. Constantly Correcting Them:

I’ll start with a personal story. My son, Jack, has always loved drawing. He’d spend hours doodling and sketching, completely lost in his own little creative world. But I must admit, I had this habit of constantly correcting him. If he drew a tree with blue leaves or a purple sun, I’d jump in and say, “But honey, leaves are green and the sun is yellow.”

I thought I was helping him learn, but what I didn’t realize was that this constant correction was stifling his creativity and making him doubt his choices. It was as if I was saying his ideas weren’t good enough.

So here’s the thing – it’s natural for us parents to want to guide our kids and help them learn. But there’s a thin line between guiding and over-correcting. Let’s give our kids the freedom to make their own choices, make mistakes and learn from them. It’s okay if their trees have blue leaves and the sun is purple in their world. After all, it’s their world of creativity!

2. Focusing Too Much on Achievement:

Here’s a bit of a counterintuitive one. As a parent, I was extremely proud when my daughter, Lily, won her first spelling bee. I still remember the thrill of hearing her name called out as the winner and seeing her little face light up with joy. And of course, like any proud parent, I praised her to the moon and back.

But then something started to change. Each time a new competition was announced, she’d become anxious. She started spending hours studying and worrying about how she’d do. It dawned on me that my praises had unintentionally put pressure on her – she felt she needed to win, to achieve, in order to make me happy.

This was a wake-up call for me. I realized that while it’s great to celebrate our kids’ achievements, it’s equally important to let them know that our love and pride isn’t tied to their success. We need to praise their efforts and hard work, not just the outcome. Let’s tell them it’s okay to lose sometimes, it’s okay not to be the best at everything – because they’re already the best in our eyes just by being themselves.

3. Comparing them to Others:

Trust me, I’ve been there. My kids are different as night and day. My son, a natural athlete, can catch a ball before it even left your hand. My daughter, on the other hand, is more of a bookworm and could read before she even went to school.

I remember one day, while watching my son struggle through his reading homework, I said: “Why don’t you try reading like your sister? She’s really good at it.” It seemed harmless at the time, but his face fell and he quietly closed his book.

That’s when it hit me. In trying to motivate him, I had inadvertently compared him to his sister. What I meant as encouragement might have made him feel like he was less in my eyes because reading was harder for him.

So here’s a lesson I learned: Each child is unique and has their own strengths and weaknesses. When we compare them to others, we might accidentally make them feel ‘less than’. Instead of comparing, let’s celebrate their individual strengths and help them embrace their weaknesses. Let’s make sure they know that they’re perfect just the way they are.

4. Not Letting Them Make Decisions:

Did you know that decision-making is a critical life skill that can boost confidence and self-esteem? It’s true! When we allow our kids to make their own decisions, we’re giving them a chance to learn and grow. We’re sending them the message that we trust in their judgement.

But sometimes, in our quest to protect our children, we might take over and make decisions for them. I used to do this a lot, especially when my kids were younger. From choosing their clothes to deciding what they’d eat for lunch, I was in charge.

I didn’t realize at the time that by doing this, I was inadvertently stunting their ability to make decisions. I was unintentionally sending a message that I didn’t trust them to make the ‘right’ choices.

So here’s a tip: Let’s start letting our kids make decisions, big and small. Whether it’s what they’ll wear today or what they want for dinner, giving them the reins can do wonders for their self-esteem. Remember, it’s okay if they make mistakes – that’s how they learn!

5. Being Too Busy:

This one is tough to write about, but I think it’s important. Life can get hectic, right? Between work, chores, errands, and just trying to keep everything together, we parents often find ourselves juggling a million things at once.

I remember a time when I was so caught up in my own world that I didn’t realize the impact it was having on my kids. My daughter would come home from school, bursting with stories to tell and drawings to show. But I’d often find myself half-listening, nodding absently while checking emails or planning dinner in my head.

One day she turned to me, her little face serious, and said, “Mommy, you’re always too busy for me.” It was like a punch in the gut. My actions had made her feel like she wasn’t important enough for my time.

Here’s the harsh truth: when we don’t give our children our full attention, we might unintentionally make them feel like they’re not valuable. So let’s try to slow down and be present. Let’s put away our phones and really listen when they talk. Because nothing we’re busy with is as important as making our kids feel loved and valued.

6. Overreacting to Mistakes:

I’ll never forget the day my son spilled a whole jug of milk all over the kitchen floor. He was trying to help by setting the table for dinner, and his little hands just couldn’t hold the heavy jug.

My immediate reaction? I lost it. I yelled out in frustration over the mess, and the look on his face still haunts me. He was trying to be helpful, and all I did was make him feel bad about a simple mistake.

That’s when I learned a valuable lesson. Our reactions as parents play a crucial role in how our children perceive themselves. If we overreact to their mistakes, they might start believing that they’re ‘bad’ or ‘clumsy’. They might become afraid of trying new things for fear of making mistakes.

So here’s what I suggest: Let’s try to keep our cool when our kids mess up. Instead of yelling or expressing frustration, let’s use these moments as opportunities to teach them that it’s okay to make mistakes – that’s how we learn and grow. After all, a spilled jug of milk is just a little mess in the grand scheme of things, but our reaction can leave a lasting impact on our child’s self-esteem.

7. Not Praising Effort:

Here’s a hard truth I had to face – I wasn’t giving my kids enough credit for their effort. I found myself praising their successes, but not the hard work they put in, regardless of the result.

Let me give you an example. My daughter spent weeks preparing for a school play. She practiced her lines until she knew them by heart, and gave it her all on the night of the performance. But she didn’t get the applause or recognition she was hoping for.

I remember her coming home, feeling defeated, and all I said was, “Well, maybe next time.” I now realize that what I should have done was praise her for her hard work and dedication.

The truth is, when we fail to acknowledge our child’s efforts, we might unintentionally give them the impression that only outcomes matter. This can lead to fear of failure and a blow to their self-esteem.

Here’s a note to self: Let’s make sure we praise our kids for their efforts, whether or not they succeed. Let’s teach them that effort and persistence are just as valuable as success. Because in the end, it’s not about winning or losing, but about giving it your all.

8. Ignoring Their Feelings:

We’ve all heard of the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” But the reality is, words do hurt and feelings matter. Sometimes, more than we realize.

Take this for instance. My son came home from school one day, upset because his best friend had decided to pair up with someone else for a project. I brushed it off and told him not to overreact, that it wasn’t a big deal.

But here’s what I later learned – to him, it was a big deal. By brushing off his feelings, I was inadvertently telling him that his feelings didn’t matter.

Let’s recognize and validate our kids’ feelings, no matter how trivial they seem to us. If something is important enough for them to bring it to us, it deserves our attention and understanding. By doing this, we’re helping them understand that their feelings are valid and important – a key step in building self-esteem.

9. Setting Unrealistic Expectations:

This one hits close to home. When my daughter first started playing piano, I had high hopes. I imagined her playing complex pieces effortlessly, captivating everyone with her talent. But I forgot one thing – she was just a beginner.

I remember pressuring her to practice more, to get better faster. I didn’t realize then how my unrealistic expectations were weighing heavy on her small shoulders. She started dreading piano lessons, and one day, she simply refused to play.

That’s when it dawned on me – my high expectations were taking the joy out of her learning experience. Instead of encouraging her, I was making her feel like she wasn’t good enough.

Here’s what I’ve learned – it’s important to set expectations that match our child’s abilities and pace. Let’s encourage them to improve, but let’s also celebrate their progress, no matter how slow or small. After all, everyone learns at their own pace and that’s perfectly okay!

10. Not Leading by Example:

Let’s get real here. As parents, we’re the first role models our kids have. They watch us closely and often mirror our actions and attitudes. I didn’t fully grasp this until one day, I caught myself criticizing my own appearance in front of my daughter.

Upon hearing me, she turned to the mirror and started critiquing her own reflection. It was a wake-up call. I was setting an example of self-deprecation, and she was following it.

Here’s the hard truth – if we’re too hard on ourselves, our kids might start to think that’s the norm. If we want our children to love and accept themselves, we need to start by loving and accepting ourselves.

11. Not Encouraging Independence:

This one’s a bit tough to swallow. When my son started middle school, I found it hard to let go. I’d hover over his homework, double-check his assignments, and even pack his bag for him.

One day, he turned to me and said, “Mom, I can do it myself.” It stung a bit, but it made me realize that by trying to help him, I was actually undermining his ability to handle things on his own.

The truth is tough but necessary – our job as parents is not to do things for our kids, but to teach them to do things for themselves. Let’s give them the chance to be independent. Trust me, they’re more capable than we often give them credit for!

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Clifton Kopp

Welcome to my writings on Hack Spirit! I'm a bit of a "polymath" in that I like writing about many different things. Often I'm learning from the process of writing. I hope you enjoy, and please leave a comment on one of my articles.

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