Every parent wants their kids to feel good about themselves — and with good reason.
As a psychotherapist and author of “13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do,” I’ve seen many parents engage in strategies they believe will build their children’s confidence.
But some of those strategies can backfire, creating a vicious cycle where kids struggle to feel good about who they are. As a result, parents may find themselves working overtime trying to boost their children’s self-esteem.
Here are the seven biggest parenting mistakes that crush kids’ confidence:
1. Letting them escape responsibility
While you might think chores will weigh your kids down and add to their stress level, pitching in around the house will help them become more responsible citizens.
Doing age-appropriate duties helps them feel a sense of mastery and accomplishment. So whether you tell your child to help with the laundry or take the trash out, responsibilities are opportunities for kids to see themselves as capable and competent.
2. Preventing them from making mistakes
It’s tough to watch your child fail, get rejected or mess up on something. When this happens, so many parents rush in to save kids before they fall. But preventing them from making mistakes robs them of the opportunity to learn how to bounce back.
Whether your child forgets their cleats before a big soccer game or gets a few questions wrong on their math quiz, mistakes can be life’s greatest teacher. Each one is an opportunity for them to build the mental strength they need to do better next time.
3. Protecting them from their emotions
It’s tempting to cheer your kids up when they’re sad or calm them down when they’re angry. But how we react to our kids’ emotions has a big impact on the development of their emotional intelligence and self-esteem.
Help your kids identify what triggers their emotions and teach them how to self-regulate. Provide them with a framework that helps explain how they feel so they’ll have an easier time dealing with those emotions in a socially appropriate way in the future.
4. Condoning a victim mentality
Saying things like “we can’t afford new shoes like the other kids because we come from a poor background” reinforces to your child that most of life’s circumstances are out of their control.Kids who recognize their choices in life feel more confident in their ability to create a better future for themselves.
Rather than allowing your kids to host pity parties or exaggerate their misfortunes, encourage them to take positive action (e.g., setting up a lemonade stand so they can save up to buy things they want or need). Kids who recognize their choices in life feel more confident in their ability to create a better future for themselves.
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5. Being overprotective
Sure, keeping your child inside a protective bubble spares you a lot of anxiety. But keeping them insulated from challenges stunts their development.
View yourself as a guide, not a protector. Allow your kids to experience life, even when it’s scary to let go. You’ll give them the opportunity to gain confidence in their ability to deal with whatever life throws their way.
6. Expecting perfection
High expectations are healthy, but expecting too much has its consequences. When kids view expectations as too high, they might not even bother trying or they might feel as though they’ll never measure up.
Instead, give clear expectations for the long-term and set milestones along the way. For example, going to college is a long-term expectation, so help them create short-term goals along the way (e.g., getting good grades, doing their homework, reading).
7. Punishing, rather than disciplining
Kids need to learn that some actions lead to serious consequences. But there’s a big difference between discipline and punishment. Kids who are disciplined think, “I made a bad choice.” Kids who are punished think, “I’m a bad person.”
In other words, discipline gives your child confidence that they can make smarter, healthier choices in the future, while punishment makes them think they’re incapable of doing any better.
Amy Morin is a psychotherapist and instructor at Northeastern University. She is the author of the national best-seller “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do″ and “13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do.” She was named the “self-help guru of the moment” by The Guardian.
CORRECTION: This headline has been updated to indicate that Amy Morin is a psychotherapist.
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