Article Details

Growing low self worth in kids

What you will get: Reflections on how we can damage a child’s self worth


It all starts so well.


And then we damage it.


And that’s such a criminal thing to do. Often without knowing it, we steal away from children the most important thing.


We steal their Self Worth.


You see…


Babies are not born with a set of negative beliefs about themselves. And as children, we are naturally happy.


Think about it, how many children are born needing therapy?


But sadly, it often goes badly wrong.




Because of the way parents and many education systems damage self worth.


Not intentionally.
Not maliciously.
Not consciously.


But it happens.




Well young children, who haven’t yet formed any clear beliefs about themselves and their sense of worth, look to adults for guidance on this.


So they take on board whatever adults tell them.


And sadly many parents and educators shame and criticize their children.


What is shaming?


It is any negative word tagged on to the send of the sentence “You are…”


Let’s take an example. Billy’s mother finds out he told a lie and she gets angry.


So in a raised voice she utters the fatal words…


“You are a liar Billy.”


And there it is. A negative, untrue, damaging belief statement about who Billy is that starts to form a belief in Billy’s subconscious mind, “I am a liar”. That’s the first hit to Billy’s self worth right there!


You see…


There is a world of difference between these 2 statements…


“You told a lie Billy.”


“You are a liar Billy.”


The fist one is true. It is based on fact. It is a specific behaviour. And it is about what Billy did NOT about who Billy is.
So if Billy told a lie, the first sentence is a fair and accurate observation.


But to say “You are a liar.” is a negative generalisation about Billy’s character. It is a criticism of who Billy is as a person. And it will damage Billy’s self worth.


And of course…


Most parents don’t mean top damage their child’s self worth.
It is just they have no idea that the language patterns they use are so powerful and can do so much damage.


And then…


There is education.


If we only praise kids for getting an A grade and indeed push them more and more to do this, we run the serious risk of helping those kids to develop a conditional self worth. Something like…


“I am only ok if I get an A grade.”


So what happens when that child does not get an A grade?


Of course he or she comes to the logical conclusion…


”I am not ok”


So it is absolutely vital that parents and educators learn to give praise to children that is unconditional. In other words, praising the children for who they are, irrespective of what they do.


Things like…


“I love your sense of fun Billy.”
“Your enthusiasm is such a gift Jurgita.”
“Thank you for your kindness Helle.”


If we as adults don’t learn to do this, we are really helping children to question their sense of worth.


So I’m off to praise a child for who he is and not for what he has done.


How about you?


To your success







Steve Neale
“Europe’s Leading Expert on Personal and Professional Growth”


Psychologist, Executive Coach, EI Practitioner, Award Winning Trainer, International Author, Psychodynamic Therapist, Hypnotherapist, Mindfulness Instructor, International Speaker, Creator of the LPS, Creator of the Accredited Masters in High-Performance Leadership

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