As children, positive self-esteem is something gained through internalizing external praise. As we develop our own truths, we are able to create our own value. Les Brown once referred to this as, “to feel worthy by permission.” What this means is that we condition children to do as they are told, to not talk back, to respect their elders and to believe that adults are always, always right. The problem with this philosophy is that sometimes grown ups are not healthy or patient with children and their negative input can hurt kids. I want to share some ideas regarding healthy ways to assist you with building positive self-regard by pointing out effectiveness. Ask yourself three questions to determine whether you are being effective:
- Does it feel good to you?
- Does it feel good to your child?
- Is it working?
For example, when children make mistakes do we forced them to apologize?
Towering over them with a pointed finger, “YOU SAY YOU’RE SORRY, RIGHT NOW!”
The kids will begrudgingly comply, “SORRRRRY!”
Did they mean it? Was the forced apology effective to changing negative feelings and behaviors? We all know the answer is of course not. So why do we insist on humiliating our children? Consider the internalized message embraced as our kids watch the other person gloating in their misery and humiliation. The overriding message delivered is, “You’re bad, you’re inadequate and you’re unworthy.” Nothing positive comes from a forced apology. Consequently, parents unwittingly condition their children to believe that saying sorry means they are insignificant and, I promise, in reality they will avoid being sorry at all costs. When we had our children did we consciously plot to degrade and crush their self-esteem? Not likely, but our actions suggest otherwise.