"Mom, I'm starting a new piano song! Will you sit by me?" my youngest son asks.
I walk in and sit down at the piano bench. When he starts new songs, he likes me nearby.
A bright smile flashes across his face and he starts playing. After a few mistakes his smile fades and a frown appears. I sense his growing discouragement.
From my perspective the song is quite simple, it is easy for me. I almost say, "Oh come on this is easy, you can do it." Instead I pause and think, "What I say will make my son feel encouraged which helps his self-esteem grow or cause discouragement which can lower his self-esteem. The choice rests with me."
Parent's want their children to grow up self-confident and capable. Sometimes without even realizing it, your responses may be doing the exact opposite which lowers your children's self-esteem.
Saying "It's easy"
When your children are struggling with a task, it may seem easy to you, however, it is not necessarily easy to them. When you say, "That is easy, you can do it." You are trying to motivate and encourage them, yet it causes your children to think, "Something must be wrong with me because it's not easy to me, therefore, I must be dumb." This causes your children to feel discouraged and want to give up. It decreases their self-esteem.
Instead tell them, "This can be tough or this is difficult." Then if your children complete the task, they tell themselves, "I did something hard." If they cannot figure it out, at least they know it was tough to begin with. This approach helps children stay encouraged and increases their feelings of self-worth.
Your children want to do tasks on their own. This gives them a great sense of accomplishment and helps them feel good about themselves. You may feel one way to show your love is doing things for your children. This robs them of the opportunity to learn life skills and the satisfaction of feeling independent. It sends your children the hidden message, "You are not capable."
Instead of doing too much for your children, break the task into smaller more kid-friendly tasks. This gives your children the chance to feel the personal satisfaction of completing it on their own. Their self-esteem will soar.
Freaking out when they make mistakes
Mistakes are part of life - we all make them. You may feel you need to rescue your children from making mistakes or help them avoid making mistakes. This does not help them - it cripples them for life.
Your children will make mistakes and the way you respond either helps your children learn and grow from the mistake or teaches them mistakes are bad. Mistakes are painful, but they can cause great growth if handled in a healthy way. Don't rob your children of the opportunity to rise to the occasion, admit they are wrong, fix the problem, and feel great about themselves.
Instead of freaking out when your children make a mistake, teach them how to make amends and be accountable for their actions. This promotes a healthy view of mistakes and allows your children to feel good about who they are.
Many parents do not realize these three parenting responses diminish their children's self-esteem. If some of these ideas are new to you - take heart because reading and learning shows you are interested in improving as a parent and doing the best you can.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on parentingbrilliantly.com. It has been republished here with permission.