You can do anything for love – BUT YOU CAN’T DO THAT!!!!!

cant-do-that-appleYou can nurture it, you can support the acquisition of it, you can discuss, debate, and debase it, but you cannot build someone else’s Self-esteem. Your children know that they are not the prettiest, smartest, funniest, or most talented person in the world. They know that you are just complimenting them because you’re their parent and that’s your job. So, don’t think for one minute that your positive comments change the way that they think about themselves.

Negative comments, that’s another story. You can certainly make your child feel so bad about themselves that they run away from home, exile themselves to the home, or execute/ contemplate suicide.
What to do – What to do?

  1. Be an honest parent. Every conversation that you have with your children will not be positive.
  2. Don’t be judgemental. You can give YOUR opinion without making them feel that THEIR opinion is wrong.
  3. Show compassion. Validate their concerns. Don’t make them feel like their concerns are not real. Their perception is their reality.
  4. Provide unconditional love. Your love should not be contingent upon their grades, looks, winning ways, or their love for you (ouch).

Remember, you can tear it down, but you can’t build it.

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4 Comments on “You can do anything for love – BUT YOU CAN’T DO THAT!!!!!
  1. Parenting Multiples commented on a link you shared.

    Parenting Multiples wrote: “While it is true that negative comments can have a major impact, i have to disagree whole heartedly with this statement: “They know that you are just complimenting them because you’re their parent and that’s your job. So, don’t think for one minute that your positive comments change the way that they think about themselves.” My father made it his goal to compliment his daughter often. Several times a year he would write us letters or cards listing all the ways were are gifted. Only for a few years when I was an angry, hurting teenager did i not believe them. As a child they were so important and now as an adult I still receive letters from him in the mail and they mean the world to me. “Sarah, I’m so glad to be your father. You are generous, loving, compassionate, intelligent, a great mother to your children, you are wise and picked a loving husband…” etc. On really rough days i open those cards up read my dad’s encouraging words. -Sarah”

  2. Dr J I agree with you that you cannot “build” your child’s self-esteem. I do believe you can reinforce what they already believe about themselves or, you can point out the good things they may overlook because they are so busy concentrating on the negatives. I don’t totally disagree with the comments from Parenting Multiples. The letters she receives from her dad may make her feel better for that moment. My question is: Did she believe she was loving, compassionate, intelligent, a great mother, or wise prior to hearing it from her dad. If she did not inherently feel those things about herself, she would feel satisfaction in knowing that her dad felt that way about her, but it would not change the way she felt about herself, in my opinion. Parents do need to be honest with their children. I constantly tell my granddaughter how smart, funny and pretty she is because I believe those characteristics are her strong attributes. I also tell her about her behavior and the other areas she needs to work on. She’s receptive, but I believe it will come in its own time. When your child believes everything about him/her is perfect, what would be the impact when they hear something to the contrary? The majority of children are quite resilient. The few that aren’t need to be acknowledged for who they are, as they are. They need to be understood and accepted within the stream in which they flow…even if it is not the mainstream.

  3. Dr. J!
    Like the other commenters here, I found ur comment about the “negligible” influence parents have in building their child’s self esteem and interesting one. You follow that point by then saying that the child’s self esteem can be negatively impacted, however. Well, if u have admitted that the parents can influence a child’s self esteem, then why wouldn’t they have a similar influence positively.
    Granted, a child’s peer group has a significant role in a kids’ esteem, but parents positively influence Kids self esteem if the praise is
    1. Consistent
    2. Not a reaction to negative
    statements fed unto students.
    3. The parent actively recognizes and reinforces such positive comments

    For example, if all your children’s peers call your child ugly, then constantly attempted to praise how pretty the child looks May be a drop in the bucket to the kids’ sense of self. But if the parent has, since day 1, commented in how beautiful the child is and does things to reinforce it– photo shoots, cards, and being specific as to what is beautiful about them, then they are more meaningful.
    Children are very specific in their attacks on others. Ether a kid’s nose is too huge, ears too wide, hair too nappy, etc. A parent’s words “you are pretty” doesn’t help unless they are shown why they are, what is pretty, and why they should feel that way.
    And if the compliments are provided to a child when they are feeling positive– not just a remedy statement to assuage a hurtful comment– they go a long ways toward building a consistent positive sense of self.

  4. Hi Dr. J – I understand what Derrick is saying; but I do not think that being consistent with positive thoughts builds self-esteem. Sometimes, children draw from something about another child and embellishes that something to the point of negativity. Some believe their assessment is honest. The recipient of such behavior will take what is said to heart and each child will process that information differently. If a child divulges their feelings to their parents, the response from the parents should address the concerns of the child. Why not explore what was said and why it may or may not have impacted the child. Find out if the child thinks that is true about themselves. At certain ages, the parents can compliment their child until they are even convinced their child is perfect but it doesn’t help when the child thinks/knows/feels/senses the truth about themselves. To me, self-esteem is an internalized assessment of one’s self worth over which one has complete control. I don’t think a parent should try to negate the comments with positives (agree with Derrick). They should try to help their child manage/understand the hurtful feelings associated with what was said. Photographs and cards (disagree with Derrick) do not build self-esteem. Be there for your children, recognize behavioral changes, be cognizant of mood swings–talk to your children–listen to your children, love your children–give them ownership of THEIR self-esteem. They will soon realize that those other people saying those mean things are not important enough for them to acknowledge. I told, and still tell my kids how great they are, the difference is, they already knew/know it!

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