Children With Low Self-Esteem
Mommy, Daddy-Why Aren't You Ever In My Corner? Am I Ever Good Enough As I Am?
In this day and age, many children are taught that they are worthwhile regardless of their circumstances and what they achieve. There is a conglomeration of parental support groups which maintain that every child is a winner even if he/she comes in last place whether it is a baseball game, spelling bee, and/or beauty contest. These children are assured that they are winners and that so called negative events does not and/or should not distract from their innate worthiness.
There are parents who are constantly in their children's corner. If their child makes 70% instead of 100%, that is fine as long as the child learns a valuable lesson along the way. To these parents, their child is not dumb or less than at all. According to these parents, his/her child making 70% on a test is purely circumstantial and actually does not reflect on his/her overall ability at all.
These parents steadfastly maintain that their child is great regardless of the grade they make. Their child is a beautiful and worthy human being. Their thoughts are maybe the child makes 70%, now let us see how we can help and encourage the child to make a higher grade. They believe in never denigrating their child as their child is not the grade at hand.
However, there are parents who are the exact opposite. These parents believe that their children's worthiness lies not in their individual humanity but in outward accomplishments and achievements. They maintain that their child is either a winner or a loser. If their child misses the mark whether it is a test, sporting event, and/or a contest, these parents are not hesitant in letting their child know that he/she is definitely not a winner.
These parents contend that their children should be winners and as perfect as possible. They assert that their children are to be the best and nothing else counts. This is the parents who actually go ballistic if his/her child makes 95%. Instead of praising the child for doing his/her best, this parent believes that the child should earn 100% and if he/she does not, something is seriously amiss with his/her child.
Some parents believe in using harsh corrective measures in order to make their child be successful. These parents are the ones who form a close association between the child and the act committed. They would say that the child is a failure instead of saying that a child failed at a particular task. They are not above using verbal abuse in order with the "purpose" of correcting their child's misbehavior and/or mistake.
These parents maintain that their children's self-esteem in and of itself means nothing. In fact, these parents believe that if they tell their children how great and worthy they are, they will become conceited. These parents also discourage their children's innate sense of self-esteem and sense of self by stating that one should NEVER praise themselves and/or think highly of themselves. They contend that other people should praise them and if they do not, then something is wrong with them, not the other people.
These are the parents who are often unsupportive of their children. If their children are bullied, it is something that they did. According to these parents, probably their child has a characteristic which makes them noticeable to the bully. There are some parents who contend that no child is picked on unless he/she deserves it, pure and simple. In fact, these parents BLAME their bullied child for "instigating" the bully. One mother (whom I knew in my childhood) actually punished her daughter because she was constantly picked on by another classmate. This mother felt that her daughter was weak and ineffectual for being bullied.
There are parents who either do not and/or refuse to understand their children who possess diametrically different characteristics than they do. Instead of accepting their children's divergent characteristics, these parents often view such characteristics as an affront to them. These parents believe that their children should be exactly like them. Such children are regarded as being prodigal and the black sheep.
There are some parents who are so anxious to make such children conform that they take their children to psychologists and psychiatrists with that purpose in mind. Wayne W. Dyer, Ph.D. in one of his lectures remarked that while he had a practice in Long Island, many parents went to him, asking him how to make their children more compliant and more like them. Dr. Dyer stated that he was nonplussed about this, adding that there is nothing wrong with differences between parents and children.
Many parents feel quite threatened if their children exhibit differing characteristics because they want all of their family members to have the same consensus. These parents are mired into a certain familial paradigm whether it is socioeconomic, religious, racial, educational, and/or political paradigm that things are to be a certain way and never to deviate from this paradigm. Any child that exhibits a different paradigm is often criticized, ostracized, and/or scapegoated in order to be confirm with their particular familial groupthink consensus.
There are actually parents who are bullies to their children. To these parents, children are an extension of them and their job as parents are to exercise their power. Bully parents view parenthood as an exercise of domination and power, not as guidance to their children. To these parents, a child's self-esteem is a nonissue. These parents are not loathe to use naked power to browbeat their children to adhere to their paradigm.
The bully parent sees nothing wrong with using harsh words and language to get their children to achieve and be successful. This parents contend that what they are doing to their children is for their own betterment. They further believe that the real world is harsh and they are only preparing their children for this world by their harsh words. If their child is affected and is hurt, so what and/or so be it! Their motto to their child is to toughen up!
There was one father that I knew who called his daughter stupid, clumsy, and inept each time she made a mistake. This father did not achieve his life goals and constantly pushed his daughter to achieve what he did not. This daughter, of course, had low self-esteem, even though she was a straight A student. This father never once congratulated his daughter for her stellar academic achievements; however, if she missed a mark, he would harshly berate her.
This was the same father who stated that his daughter never possessed any sought of initiative. He wondered why she did not have any sense of being a self-starter. Of course, the daughter is afraid of failing because if she does fail, instead of being encouraged to try again-she is always berated by the father.
This daughter was not only berated by the father, the mother also denigrated her for making errors. The mother stated to her that smart people never make mistakes. Besides this, the mother consistently informs her daughter that she is not smart although she was a straight A student because she was always the third in her elementary, junior high, and high school classes. In college, the daughter's self-esteem was so shaken that she was a B+ student much to her parents' dismay. When this daughter informed her parents that she wanted to be an executive, she was told that she was not smart enough to be one. So this daughter although she has a Ph.D. in sociology, works as an administrative clerical assistant, a job far below her prodigious intellectual potential.
There are parents who judge their children's ability by the mistakes they make. These children are constantly reminded by their parents for the mistakes they make. Instead of realizing that mistakes are part of life, these parents view mistakes as mortal transgressions. These parents refuse to consider and/or believe that their children has grown and improved from their mistakes. According to them, their children will always be failures no matter what they attempt and how they improve.
For example, there was a neighbor whose teenage daughter got terminated from a job. The daughter, of course, was crushed at this because this was her first job. Well, the father, an instructor, constantly brought up how she was a failure and will never obtain a future job because of the termination. The daughter became so distressed that she was fearful of getting a job for 4 years until an uncle interceded in her behalf. The uncle informed her that being terminated from a job is not the end of the world and she was not a failure like her father said. Until this day, her father rehashed the point of her being terminated from the first job although she is now a highly successful entrepreneur.
Yes, there are parents who do not believe in letting go regarding making mistakes. They act as if they are judges in that regard. They are the ones who informs their children not to try a certain task because a mistake was made regarding that task in the past. They are the ones who tell their children that once a mistake is made, they are utter failures in addition to their chances being finished and/or their life and prospects being ruined. Instead of forgiving(if necessary) their children and letting them proceed in life, these parents are mired in the past and intend to drag their children into this past. These parents are creating a purgatorial environment for their children which the past rule the future.
Of course, children who endure such egregious parenting have low or nonexistent self-esteem. Children are vulnerable and look to their parents for reinforcement. If they do not receive positive reinforcement from the parental figure and only negative ones, he/she is bound to have low or no self-esteem.
Many parents who berate and denigrate their children often wonder why their children do not possess the prerequisite initiative and self-confidence. There is an old saying that children learn what they are taught. There are some children who are quite diffident because of the constant verbal abuse and nonacceptance by their parents. There are parents who want their children to be perfect replicas of them and that anything less is totally insufficient. In order to make their children into their likeness and to be as near perfect as possible, to these parents, there are no means too egregious and harsh to employ regarding their children.
To conclude, there are parents who believe that their children are worthy of and in themselves and that no outside achievement and/or failure is an indicator of their worth. Their children know that such parents will always be their support system. These children often have unmitigated confidence which will serve them well in life.
Then there are parents who staunchly believe that their children's accomplishments and/or failures ARE a reflection of their innate abilities. These parents believe that the premise that their children are worthy of and in themselves to be an empty and futile premise. These parents have strict parameters regarding success/winner and failure/loser. In fact, these parents believe that their children are either winners and/or losers-nothing more and nothing less.
These are the parents who often consider their children complete and utter failures if they dare miss a mark whether it is a test score, sporting event, spelling bee, and/or related events. They usually implement a severe penalty for failure which make their children quite risk aversive. Oftentimes, these parents often use harsh language and/or words to make their children more successful. These parents maintain that it is necessary to use harsh means in order to get their children into line and become winners in life.
These parents often fail to realize that considering their children to be winners if they do good and failures if they make mistakes, have a deleterious effect on their self-esteem. Children raised under such circumstances only judge their self-worth upon outer accomplishments, not upon their innate worthiness. A child's worthiness should never be solely dependent upon outer accomplishments but should be an inherent part of his/her being.
© 2012 Grace Marguerite Williams