The toughest job you’ll never be thanked for is being a parent. Let’s about self-esteem.
A lot of people have the wrong impression of what good parenting is, thinking that it’s going to
create a great person or a great relationship. When in fact, these methods hurt your child’s self-esteem or keep the self-esteem from growing.
There are parenting techniques that seem good to some people or seem good on the surface that really aren’t. Let’s start with the good soldier technique, maybe because I am in a military community there are a lot of parents who think that the child who is obedient, “yes sir, no sir,” type, that that’s a good kid. There is nothing wrong with bad manners, I’m not saying manners are something you need to teach a child for sure but an obedient child is not a good child.
When somebody comes in and the child’s in college and they’ve been A-ok the whole time, that means the child has not been able to practice the other thing that they need to be well-developed human beings that can be in a relationship and that is their aggressive skills. By making them or insisting they be obedient you’re giving them one skill and that is to learn how to be passive, humble, to learn to take direction, all those things are important but what about being the leader, the authority figure the one to give direction? How can they learn that if you don’t practice that with them?
I hear so much of this obedience part is, “they have to respect me.” But somehow if the child has their own idea, their own way of doing things, or if they’re disobedient; somehow they don’t respect the child. First of all, like anybody else has to, you have to earn their respect but more importantly, the question is why don’t they respect you? That’s the question you should be asking yourself. What’s going on? Why is he acting out? It’s so much more valuable than to keep trying to shove your way and your stuff down his
Letting the child have their own way, and give you a little guff, a little pushback is healthy for that child. That is where they get their self-esteem. There’s no self-esteem involved in saying yes sir, yes ma’am. It takes some self-esteem, some guts, some bravery to say, “you know what? This doesn’t work for me, I understand it’s what you did but it doesn’t work for me.” You gotta let him have a little bit of that, you have to lose once in a while.
This is really great when your child becomes an athlete in a sport that you’ve never done or maybe you used to do play that sport with the child let them win, let them beat you, let them know when you’re wrong. Being able to admit you’re wrong and letting your child see that is very valuable. This is the whole flipside to the passive- I’ll do whatever you say, I’ll take orders as if I’m in the military. They’re not in the military. This is totally different than the military, our family is not the military, you cannot superimpose what you learned in the military.
You’re developing this child well before they’re 18. Once they’re 18 they’ve already learned hopefully from good parenting how to take orders and when and how to take orders, when and how to give some kickback. They should have already developed these things. If you do this in your parenting technique you’re missing out on teaching your child the other side, the other half of the equation. Plus, by losing and admitting you’re wrong, in graciously accepting some opposing views, or pushback you’re showing your child how to do that. You’re demonstrating for yourself how your child should behave when they’re faced with somebody who is pushing back or has a different viewpoint.
You have to show them both sides of the coin so they can learn both sides of the coin, make sense? That’s where they get their self esteem from being able to say, “hey, I beat him and I feel pretty good about that, I told him out another way I wanted to do this and that makes me feel good.” That’s self esteem.
The other parenting technique that seems so lovely on the surface but isn’t is feathering the nest. As a parent, when your child hurts, you hurt. I get it, I’ve been there as I mentioned before I
have two adult children now. I know how much that hurts. It’s a little self-centered sometimes when you try to look like you’re helping the child but you’re really just solving the pain for yourself. It’s not always the best thing to do, again we’re back to balance. If you don’t let your kids struggle with something, if you step in to solve every problem, give them everything, it keeps them from having the pain. That’s necessary to make changes in their life and to reach for something and to obtain it.
Feathering the nest, it’s tricky because when you give them something and you solve the pain, they’re like, “oh thank you, thank you.” It feels like a really warm and fuzzy place and wow he’s always going to remember and she’s going give that back to me one day. That’s not how it works, that’s short-lived and again that’s just half of the equation. There are times to step in and we’ll talk about that in a little bit. But if you’re always stepping in and never letting them have the pain, they don’t get to develop the self-esteem to work through a problem.
Think about this, how many times have you had an algebra problem you couldn’t figure out in class and then suddenly you figured it out, it feels so good! When you wanted to take on an exercise program or learn a new skill, “it’s so painful, it’s so difficult,” but when you solve it, that’s where self-esteem develops. What about when you stroke that check for your first fancy car or your first mortgage check and you did it yourself, it’s huge.
I begged my parents, don’t take that away from your child. Don’t rob them. If you have males or even females, it’s emasculating. You’re sending a message that “you can’t do it, I don’t believe in you. I’ve got to save you.” You’re undermining them as well.
When you give them the pain, let them have the pain, let them work through it, let them figure it out. Yes, they may whine, they may complain, they may look dejected and down. The best example I can use is when they’re learning to tie their shoes, they absolutely have no idea, you have to step in but then they start and they struggle, struggle, struggle. Watch when they struggle, don’t jump in because they may be able to figure it out. Or they may have another
way of doing it, that’s even better and you’ll have missed it, you’ll have robbed them of that possibility if you step in there.
The exception is if you’re watching and they get more and more frustrated to the point where they sort of meltdown. I don’t just mean have an emotion here, I mean actually stop being able to function. That’s when you step in. As the child gets older you step in a little differently. You step in and you take it over when they’re little. When they’re older, you step in by saying, “what’s your plan? Do you need some assistance?” You ask. Have you ever had somebody come in and say “okay, you can’t deal with that. I got it.” When you already had a plan? It’s very annoying. Don’t do that to your older child. Ask them, step in, watch, you want to be more of a safety net for big problems rather than stepping in for every little problem. That’ll help their self-esteem tremendously.
Lastly, the opposite is giving a child too much space. Giving a child space is a good thing. There are some distancing techniques that parents sometimes kid themselves, by giving them space when it’s actually hurting them and their self-esteem.
Let me give you an example, we’ve come a long way as parents. We now know physical distancing isn’t the best idea. I see dads making great strides to try to be there for all kinds of things. Physically, we’re more on top of that which is a good thing. But there’s some symbolic and emotional distancing that parents do, that seems kind of good on the surface but really isn’t.
Let me give some common examples, being their best friend, that’s a common one. Talking about your problems with your child, revealing problems with them and discussing them with them. Giving your responsibilities to your child, turning over parenting responsibilities to them. And then not stepping in when you see a meltdown like we just talked about when something is dangerous going on; you’re not stepping in.
Those are the four ways that you are abdicating. You’re leaving the parental position. Again, children can look like this is a good thing. They’ve pushed you aside with fear or they’ve said, “oh how wonderful that you’re my best friend.” You’re the adult you have to have the bigger picture of the bigger vision and understand that this way you’re stepping out of position is not good.
All children. no matter what their age, they want their parents to be in control. They want their parents to be good, safe, in charge. You’re on a cruise ship and you don’t want to hear all the problems that the captain’s having. You just want to trust that they’re dealing with all the problems. Kids want parents to be in charge while they’re being a kid. It gives them a safe space.
If you stay in place, they don’t need you as a friend. They have the opportunity to have lots of friends, they have friends. They need a mom, they want a mom and a dad, they want the captain’s solidly in place. Don’t talk about your problems with them, they’re not your friends. That’s treating them as if they’re a friend and not letting them have the freedom to do their own thing without worrying about your problems.
If they suspect you have a problem you can be honest and say, “yes, we’re having a problem with that but I’ve got it. Don’t worry about this, this is not for you. I’m taking care of it.” That’s a way to let them know, be honest and let them know that you got it.
If they’re doing something dangerous and you don’t rescue them from that, that’s your primary goal. It’s like your only goal by the time the kid is in their teens and early adulthood. You step
in- a legal issue or something that’s physical harm to themselves or somebody else. I just had this talk with a parent, they were all concerned because their son has been doing drugs and they have been watching for two years. Knowing that the kid is still going to the school they’re paying for, knowing that kids still driving the car, that they’re paying for. If the kids doing drugs, you
take away the car and if they’re not doing their schoolwork or if the kids going to school high, you take that away.
That’s your job. They’re so afraid they’re being mean or damaging and that is all off the table you can rebuild afterward but you got to step in there and get that kid-safe. You don’t give your responsibilities to your kid. That’s just another way of abdicating your role. You’re making them the parent. I see this all the time- they have their kids cook and clean and take care of the younger ones. If you have your kids babysitting, make it a job give them money for it so it doesn’t become that you’re ditching your role. But better yet get other people, to pay other professionals to do those jobs. The babysitting, lawn care and that kind of thing.
Yes, they have to have some responsibilities but it’s very different when you’re giving them responsibilities to build their self-esteem and give them chores and jobs and ways to get things done. It’s different if you are lazy or don’t want to do it and you’re just ditching it over to them.
Those are the way we build self-esteem in kids. Maybe you were raised that way and you think it can’t be that bad, we’re evolved, we’re an evolving species. You want to begin to evolve, you want to learn and don’t let that stop you from realizing maybe you’re the exception, maybe some things didn’t go as well as you remember. Too much distance from your child, abdicating your place, being a good soldier or feathering the nest is not good ideas.