The lack of self-esteem is a common trait among children who use counseling service. They may receive positive comments from their parents who try to strengthen their self-confidence but the children still feel inadequate.
While parents hope to encourage their children, their comments can backfire. If affirmative comments can boost one’s self-confidence, the less positive ones can be equally detrimental to the ego.
To help their children become truly self-confident, parents should guide them through the journey of self-discovery. Until they come to realize their unique values, the foundation of their self-esteem will remain weak.
The more the external motivations, like hearing how smart they are, the more likely the children will seek approval from parents. They play “good kids” by doing the “right” things to draw attention from others, which is far from being genuinely proud of what they do.
To help children build inner confidence, parents should avoid showing their love only under certain conditions.
Carl Rogers, a 20th-century humanistic psychologist, contended that children should be entitled to unconditional positive regard whether they behave well or poorly.
That said, parents ought not to be too judgemental about their children’s school performance. Instead, they should validate their effort during the progress, be their assistants when they face challenges and encourage them to solve problems on their own for a true sense of achievement and confidence.
In addition, parents should allow children to make decisions on their own so that they will learn to be decisive and responsible for their choices. Forgoing one option for the sake of another option is something children must experience to better understand their personality, preferences and orientation.
Remember, self-esteem cannot be gained externally but excavated through life experiences.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan 24
Translation by John Chui
[Chinese version 中文版]
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