7 Parenting Tactics that Can Damage Your Child’s Self-Esteem
Many parenting techniques can not only damage the parent-child relationship but lower children’s self-esteem too. Fact: children need to grow up with a healthy amount of self-esteem - they’ll then be more able to take the knocks of life and to bounce back. And: they’ll be better at making their own judgements about what is right and wrong - which is particularly important during their teenage years when peer pressure is strong, and they’ll be encouraged to try alcohol, cigarettes and drugs.
- Bribes. Example: ‘If you feed the dog, you can have your pocket money.’ Note: rewarding children is okay, but avoid bribes - children need to learn at an early age that they just have to do some things such as cleaning their room because they’re responsible family members, not because they’re paid to do it. Wise: encourage them to take responsibility for appropriate tasks as early as possible so that it becomes a habit; it’s easier than introducing the idea later on. Even a toddler can be encouraged to tidy away crayons.
- Threats. Example: ‘If you don’t tidy your room, you’ll not be playing out today.’ Tip: threats are no better than bribes. Why: we often let our children get away with things, so they soon learn that the first threat is meaningless because we don’t follow through on it. They then assume that other threats will be equally irrelevant. Bottom line: if you issue a threat, make it clear that it’s a one and only, final warning - and carry it out if necessary. It’s then far less likely that you’ll have to issue threats in the future.
- Nagging. Example: ‘Haven’t you finished your homework yet?’ Problem: the nagging parent starts to assume responsibility for the child, who never learns to be responsible for their own actions - which is fundamental if their self-esteem is to grow. The child doesn’t need to accept responsibility because Mum or Dad is always there to do it for them! Better: do nothing, and there will be a natural consequence of your child’s failure to act. Typical: they will be scolded by their teacher for not doing the work - and a child who is embarrassed at being reprimanded is far more likely to take responsibility for themselves in future.
- Criticising. Example: ‘You’ve not done that properly have you?’ Truth: even if the parent is trying with the best intentions to help the child to learn by pointing out their mistakes, this criticism is often resented by the child. Important: children need positive rather than negative recognition to enhance their self-esteem. Wiser: a parent should constantly try to catch their child doing something right - and praise that.
- Smacking. Most experts agree that smacking as a means of disciplining a child should be avoided. Why: in the short-term it may be effective, but long-term it just builds resentment. Details: a child who is smacked and feels it was too mild may reason that they got what they wanted so it’s worth the trade-off. But if they think you’ve smacked them too hard, they’ll feel you haven’t been fair and this will lead to rebellion.
- Passing the buck. Example: ‘You just wait until your father gets home, and hears about this!’ But: even a two-hour wait is an eternity for a child and by that time there’s no link between the already - forgotten incident and the punishment. Outcome: this simply bewilders the child. Better: any punishment should be carried out on the spot.
- Giving insincere praise. Example: ‘Isn’t that wonderful. You are a clever boy’. Essential: don’t ever give false praise to a child - this is detected easily even by small children, and eventually they’ll lose trust in you. Best: find something that you can praise genuinely. Example: Your marks have gone up in the weekly spelling test, and you’ve worked very hard. I’m really pleased with that.’ This is money in the bank; you’ve acknowledged that your child has achieved something and given recognition for it, and you’ve boosted their self-esteem.
Thanks to Personal and Finance Confidential for this article