How to Speak to Your Kids About Self Esteem and WorthinessJan 22, 2024
Did you ever have the sense that you didn’t really fit when you were young? However much you tried? And are you sometimes concerned that something similar may be going on for your child?
What if the greatest contribution you could be to your child is to show them that whoever they are choosing to create themselves is a gift? Even if it requires you to step out of your comfort zone at times?
Growing into adulthood with self-awareness and strong self-esteem goes a long way in navigating through life. But sometimes that is easier said than done. There is a pressure to fit in. To find out where we belong. We wonder if others find us smart, funny, pretty, or attractive. We compare ourselves with regards to grades, sports, circle of friends and the list goes on.
As a parent, if you choose to, you can be a key to the development of your child’s self-esteem. Here are three great starting points!
- Never judge your child or their choices.
If you judge your kids for the choices they make, they will stop coming to you when there are things they are struggling with. Actually, they will stop coming to you, period. They need to know that no matter what they tell you, they will not be judged. If your teenager tells you they were drinking, ask them questions. Did you have fun? Tell me about it?
Being interested in your child’s life, without continuously grading their experiences as right or wrong or good and bad, creates the space for them to come to you with the big things.
The old paradigm of parenting to teach our kids right and wrong no longer works. The world is different and what was true for you may not be true for your kids. What if your kids could be your greatest teachers? And what if being your teacher is a gift to them?
If you’ve been taught that to be a good parent you HAVE TO judge kids and their choices, it may seem challenging, nearly impossible, to change the narrative. For one thing, it would mean that you are wrong. :-)
But you are the only one that has the power and the choice to start a different conversation! If you’re willing, just give it a try for a day, a week, or a month.
You can start by telling it as it is: “I do realize I have been trying to be a parent like my parents were to me. I didn’t like it either. I am sorry because that is not really me. I’d like to start anew. I would like to know about your life and please know that whatever you tell me, it is ok. To my best ability, I will not judge anything you say or do from this point forward. I will be here, I will listen and I will give you my input or advice if you ask for it.”
- Teach your kids to be aware of the result of their choices.
Children do not suddenly become complete beings when they turn a certain age. They are complete beings from the moment they are born. We need to treat our kids as such rather than treating them as children or lesser beings. They have a choice. Their choices create what they experience. And in the long run, every choice creates their life.
That is how powerful each and every one of us is, from the moment we are born!
When we use rules and regulations in an attempt to get our kids to do the right things, they will resist and fight against those rules, or align and agree with them in order to get approval. They will not, however, learn the power of choice.
My friend and Parenting Facilitator Sarah Grandenetti tells this story: One day my daughter grabbed a knife, dipped it into some batter and started bringing it towards her mouth to lick it off. Saying, “Stop! Don’t do that!” would be parenting from presumptive realities and what that creates is kids that have to look to an adult in order to determine what choices to make. Seeing what my daughter was about to do I asked her, “Hey, you are picking up that knife to use it like a spoon. What do we use a knife for?” Her reply, “To cut things.” “Do you really want to run something we use to cut things over your tongue right now?” If your kid is getting too close to a fire, rather than saying, “Don’t touch that fire! It’s hot.”, say something like “Pay attention as you move toward the fire. What does your body know? What are you aware of?” Asking your kids questions like this requires them to be present with themselves and their bodies and it helps them to see how aware they actually are, on their own, without needing someone to tell them what to and not to do every step of the way.
A great question to ask your kids when they are considering something is, “If you make that choice will it create the result you would like to have?”
Then allow them to choose, however difficult that may seem at the time. Teaching your kids to choose requires your perspective to be longer than the current moment. Just ask: What future am I creating for my kid with this conversation?
- Don’t expect them to fulfill any role
From the moment we are born, there are roles we are expected to fulfill, based on our gender, the composition of our family, the culture and country, and even the time and date of our birth. And those are just some of the most obvious!
Every single one of those roles comes with expectations, judgments, separation, and projections. Who would you be if you didn’t have to fulfill any of those roles when you were young?
What if you were to break the cycle of roles? What if you were willing to let go of all expectations and allow your child to show up as they truly would like to? How exciting could that be? For both of you? And the world?!? :-)
If you find this challenging, there is a tool you can use referred to as an interesting point of view. Here is how it works. Every time you notice a point of view, a judgment, projection or expectation, say to yourself, “Interesting point of view. I have that point of view.” Keep saying it until you feel lighter. When something is just an interesting point of view rather than something you’ve decided is true, right and better, you can let it go. And in that letting go, you create the space for your child to be them!
As I mentioned in the beginning, supporting the development of self-esteem is not always easy or comfortable. As much as it requires no judgment of your child, it also requires you not to judge you.
There will be times when you’ll screw up. There will be times when you will forget and fall back into old habits and ways of being a parent. There are times when you just want to give up and throw your child in the waste-basket! That is ok!
Always remember: the key is to treat your child as you should have been treated. And then give that gift to yourself as well, even if it is late in arriving!
Keep choosing no judgment. Keep choosing no expectations. Let go of rules and regulations and teach your kids that every choice they make creates their lives. The result? Your children are empowered to know that they are the source for the creation of their lives and that no one and nothing is greater than them. Self-esteem at its best.