When we become a parent, we often forget how important it is to keep nurturing and improving ourselves. We invest all of our time into our children and pretty soon we don't recognize ourselves in the mirror.
You thought you were being a good parent because you were putting your children first. But your child saw something else - he saw a parent who was no longer taking care of herself, was angry and verbalizing angst at herself. He or she then begins to internalize your "angst" and begins to believe it. This child learns to have low self-esteem because you didn't have healthy self-esteem. It is difficult to raise a child with healthy self-esteem if yours is low.
Self-esteem is taught at home; parents model it and adjust their behaviors to help children acquire healthy self-esteem.
How can you teach your child to feel good about their abilities when you don't feel good about yours? It isn't easy, but it is possible.
Tips for Raising Your Child's Self-Esteem
- Recognize we all make mistakes. Demanding perfection from your children causes them to be anxious and depressed. They feel like they will never be good enough. No one is perfect.
- Pay attention to what you say. I promise you that every negative thing you say about yourself your children will repeat about themselves. It is unsettling when you hear it, and negative tapes are very difficult to erase. Always talk to yourself nicely when your children are around. (Talk nicely to yourself when they aren't around, too.)
- Show respect. Treat your children and your spouse with respect. That doesn't mean you give in to them; it means you don't interrupt when they are talking and you listen attentively. Address them lovingly. No matter how old your child is, they need to be talked to respectfully.
- Hug your child. And tell her how much you love her.
- Show interest in your child's interest. Any interest your child expresses is an opportunity to raise his self-esteem. Listen to him. Buy him books, take him to appropriate museums, or join a group with other people who share that interest.
Mary Jo Rapini is a psychotherapist and co-author of the book "Start Talking: A Girl's Guide for You & Your Mom."