Did you know that simply praising your child can cause more harm than good? If we tell our kids their doing great at some activity and that’s not exactly the truth, they learn that our praise is just flat-out lying. And, if we’re a parent, the last thing our developing child needs is to lose trust in the person(s) they believe should love them most. When we lie to our children about their accomplishments, or lack thereof, we actually erode their self-confidence and instill in them the misbelief that they lack the capacity to excel.
The more productive approach is to be honest with them and help them to become competent in the world. Self-esteem comes from feeling loved and secure. One major way that our kids know we love them is by providing them with guidelines and loving discipline when they stray outside of the lines. But, without those lines, our kids feel scared, alone, confused and most of all, un-loved.
Of course, there are numerous other reasons beyond misplaced parental praise which can explain a child or teen’s feelings of low self-esteem. In fact, studies have shown that one-third to one-half of adolescents struggle with low self-esteem, especially in early adolescence. Suzanne Lachmann, Psy.D. suggests 10 sources of low self-esteem in youth. Here are just a few of the situations she mentions that can drive a child or teens self-esteem into the ground:
- Dissaproving Authority Figures. Imagine growing up hearing that whatever you did was never good enough. If that was the case, you know how hard it would be for such a child to grow up to be a confident adult with a positive self-image.
- Uninvolved/Preoccupied Caregivers. If a child’s parent or caregiver doesn’t care, why should they? Such an attitude leads a child to low motivation when it comes to striving to be and do their best according to their unique God given talents.
- Authority Figures in Conflict. When parents fight, their kids get scared, overwhelmed, and disorganized. Intense conflicts within families are experienced by children and teens as extremely threatening.
There are some circumstances that a young person has experienced that has contributed to their struggle with self-confidence and esteem. Sometimes these circumstances can be extremely difficult for a child or teen to understand. But, with the help of a qualified counselor, kids can learn to understand and properly categorize life’s difficulties. The more they understand the sources of their low self-esteem and can put them into context, the more the young person can use their self-undeerstanding to begin the process of repairing self-esteem.