Responsible Children Feel Good about Themselves

Prepared by Dr. Bert Alexander

Translation and Prezi by Henry Roncancio

Prezi Presentation: Click Here

Poll: Click here

There are two types of children in this world. One wakes up and looks in the mirror and says, “Hey look at that dude. I like that guy, and I bet other people will like him too.” The other wakes up and looks in the mirror and says, “Oh, no, look at that loser, I don’t like what I see and I bet others will not like him as well.”

Children with poor self-concept often:

  • Forget to do their homework
  • Bully other kids
  • Argue with teachers and parents
  • Steal
  • Withdraw into themselves when things get rocky
  • Are irresponsible in making good decisions.

Children with good self-concept often:

  • Have lots of friends
  • Do their chores regularly and on time
  • Don’t get into much trouble in school
  • Take responsibility for the course of their lives. 

THERE IS A DIRECT CORRELATION BETWEEN SELF-CONCEPT AND PERFORMANCE IN SCHOOL, AT HOME, OR ON THE PLAYGROUND. We want to offer our children a chance to develop a positive self-concept: with love enough to allow the child to fail; with love enough to allow the consequences of their actions to teach them responsibility, and with love enough to help them celebrate the triumphs, our kid’s self-concept will grow each time they survive on their own. 

“I am what I think you think I am.”

Many parents don’t give their children a chance to build a positive self-concept because they concentrate on the child’s weaknesses. The conversation is about how the child is doing poorly or what the child cannot do at all. The parent rides the child constantly about these issues and erodes their self-concept. Parents who concentrate on child’s strengths find them growing in responsibility regularly. Instead of the child becoming what they could be or even think they could be, they become what they think we think they are. In our words and through our actions, in how we encourage and how we model, the messages we give our kids shape the way they feel about themselves. When we say something like, “if I have told you once, I have told you a thousand times…” we are giving the message, “you are pretty dumb.” 

Try to never use the phrase, “What are you doing that for?” It packs a double meaning: the first is simply a question, and the second can be misunderstood as “You are not very competent.” When we say, “If I have told you once, I have told you a thousand times,” the implication is, “You are pretty dumb, and your neurons work sluggishly.”

When we give our children orders, like “Shut-up!” or “Stop arguing!” we send out messages that slash self-concept, because these messages say:

  • “You don’t take suggestions.”
  • “You can’t figure out the answer for yourself.”
  • “You have to be told what to do by a voice outside your head.”

Kids say to themselves, I don’t become what you think I can, and I don’t become what I think I can. I become what I think you think I can!

The Three-Legged Table of Self-Concept

Our children’s self-concept could be compared to a three-legged table. If any one of the legs is weak, the table will rock or wobble. This table is build through the implied messages we give which either build up or tear them down. 

Leg One: I am loved by the “Magical People” in my life.

We all want to be loved unconditionally. Genuine love must be shown regardless of accomplishments, but not necessarily actions. Some parents actually withhold their love as a way of motivating or manipulating their children. Other times, parents have so much zeal that they give the unintended message that real love has to wait until the child improves. The interaction between parents and children is far more important than the kid’s successes or failures. Kids cannot get better until we prove to them, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they are good enough the way they are. 

Leg Two: I have the Skills I Need to Make It.

Parents must send messages that tell their children they have the skills people their age need to be successful.  Children need to know that they possess the traits and abilities they need to succeed. These skills are learned through good parent modeling. Parents who focus on end results rather than on the learning taking place wind up with kids who have a negative self-concept about their skills. 

Leg Three: I Am Capable of Taking Control of My Life

Children who have that little voice in their heads telling them they are capable are much more successful. Although kids are born with great courage to take control of their own lives and make decisions, they have little experience on which to base their decisions, they have little experience on which to base their decisions, so they often make poor choices. 

What is the difference between praise and encouragement?

Every parent wants their child to develop a positive self-image, and every parent knows that a positive self-image is related to feeling good about accomplishments. However, false praise almost always leads to disrespect. Ironically, when children have a poor self-image, praise almost always causes the child to act out. Praise is not bad, but it tends to emphasize the external evaluation, the joy of another, and has no real thinking is encouraged. 

Children will get more out of making a decision for themselves, even if it is the wrong decision, than they will out of parents making the decision for them. Kids get the most out of what they accomplish for themselves. If we never let our kids struggle to get something they want or work through a problem for themselves, then when things get difficult later in life, they won’t suddenly turn tough and get going; instead, they will gust quit. We learn more through struggling through difficult things than when those things are done for us. The pattern for building self-esteem and self-confidence looks something like this in almost every case:

  • Kids take a risk and try to do something they think they cannot do.
  • They struggle in the process of trying to do it.
  • After a time, they accomplish what they first set out to do. 
  • They get the opportunity to reflect back on their accomplishment and can say, “Look at what I did!”

By allowing our kids work their way through age-appropriate tough times when they are younger, we are preparing them to effectively face truly tough times down the road. 

If We are Happy, They are Happy!

Do you realize that children learn nearly every interpersonal activity by modeling? We are their primary models as parents! The way we handle fights, frustration, solving problems, getting along with other people, language, posture; everything is learned by watching the big people in their lives. The key to parental modeling is to always model responsible, healthy adult behavior by taking good care of myself, personally. We want to feel good, we want our children to feel good, and so we model taking care of ourselves in a nice, healthy way. 

We still do things for our children, but it is a two-way street. We join in their activities because we want to be with them, we want them to excel in something for which they have a passion and this reflects back on us in a positive way. When it is a one-way street, we do for them, but the child feels no need to repay the parent or make the trips pleasant for the parent. The child takes and the parent gives. A Love and Logic parent might say, “I know you want me to be involved in this particular activity, but my participation lately has not been beneficial for me personally, therefore I am going to pass this time.” This parent will raise respectful, thoughtful children who grow to take good care of themselves too.

Homework

  • Think back on the last week as you have dealt with your children. Have you bolstered a good self-concept in your child or a poor self-concept? Have you fussed at them for not doing their homework or encouraged them for doing it? 
  • Realizing that there is a direct correlation between self-concept and performance in school, at home and on the playground, what are you doing to help your child feel positive and capable? 
  • “I am what I think you think I am.” What image does your child have of you? Do you encourage or do you concentrate on weaknesses? If you ask them to do a task, do you praise their efforts or do you criticize their shortcomings? 
  • What messages are you sending your child that is shaping who he is and will become? 
  • Kids cannot get better until we prove to them, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they are good enough the way they are. Do you ever give your child the feeling that you would love them more if they were smarter, more obedient, neater, etc.? They need to be loved by the “magical people” in their life who accept them as family and love them unconditionally. 
  • Do you instill in your children that they have the skills they need to make it in life? Parents who focus on end results rather than on the learning taking place wind up with kids who have a negative self-concept about their skills. Do you ever take something from your child and do it yourself because they did not do it correctly? 
  • Children who have never been given the opportunity to learn from trial and error grow up with the inability to make decisions on their own, and often make poor choices as adolescents and adults. 
  • What is the difference between “praise” and “encouragement?” Praise creates good feelings from the outside and encouragement builds good feelings from the inside. Praise makes statements; encouragement asks questions [“you did a great job,” versus “what do you think of your performance?]. Praise is judgmental, encouragement is nonjudgmental. Examples: Praise---“What a great job!” “You did so well!” “I bet you feel proud of yourself!” Encouragement--- “How do you think you did?” “Why is that?” “How did you figure that out?” “How do you think you will handle it next time?”
  • Remember that a child will get more out of making a decision for themselves, even if it is the wrong one, than they will out of parents making the decision for them. 
  • The pattern for building self-esteem and self-confidence looks something like this:
    • Kids take risk to try to do something they think they cannot do.
    • They struggle in the process of trying to do it.
    • They accomplish what they first set out to do, after a time.
    • They get the opportunity to reflect back on their accomplishment and can say, “Look at what I did!”
  • Allow your child to struggle through age-appropriate tough times when they are younger in order to prepare them to effectively face truly tough times when older. 
  • Since children learn almost every interpersonal activity by modeling, and we are their primary models, what are they observing? As an adult and parent, how do you handle fights, frustration, solving problems, getting along with others, language, posture, etc.?
  • What negative words or phrases have you heard your children use that came directly from you? Do you use profanity around your children? Do you use words like “stupid” in their presence, regardless of the context? Do they see you respecting people in authority? Do you belittle others who have an influence over your children, such as teachers, aides, day-care workers, etc.? 
  • During the next week, we want to encourage you to look for small things in your child’s life with which you might make them feel good. Instead of praising them for something, try encouraging them with comments like, “How does that make you feel?” or “How do you think you did on that project?”
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