Parenting: Roadblocks to Self-Respect
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Parenting: Roadblocks to Self-Respect

Parents with low self-esteem particularly have a compulsive need to find fault with everything a child does. Soon the child feels that it is impossible to please this parent or to measure up to expectations. If the child receives additional censure and condemnation at school from teachers and peers, the blow is even more devastating.
            child self-respect - healthy parenting

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Most feelings of inadequacy can be traced to unfortunate childhood experiences. Parents are frequently unaware of the effect of their words and actions, yet it all either builds or destroys self-worth.

A critical parent arouses in his child feelings of rejection. "You stupid idiot. Can't you see that screw doesn't go there? Anyone with any brains at all could work that out!" Yelling, screaming and constant criticism tell a child that you do not love him or care about his feelings.

Parents with low self-esteem particularly have a compulsive need to find fault with everything a child does. Soon the child feels that it is impossible to please this parent or to measure up to expectations. If the child receives additional censure and condemnation at school from teachers and peers, the blow is even more devastating. Please note: feelings of unacceptance do not always have to be verbalized to be experienced. A lack of appreciation or recognition speaks as loudly to a child as if it were verbally announced. Whether spoken or unspoken criticism is by far the most common and destructive cause of low self-esteem.

An adult's domineering or bossy attitude implies to the child that he isn't capable of completing an assigned task unless his parent is there to supervise. A parent spends much time in telling a child what to do, when, and how to do it. Authoritarian parents weaken self-worth. A child who is constantly told what to do develops few inner controls and lacks faith in his own abilities to carry out tasks by himself. A child needs training and guidance, but not in an overbearing manner.

Over-protective or excessive sheltering can also make a child feel rejected, because he never has an opportunity to make decisions for himself. During the very early years of a child's life, you can control his environment. But from the age of 3 or so he begins interacting with others - neighbors, your friend's child and schoolmates. It may tear your insides out to have your child laughed at, called names or ignored. Your first reaction may be to hold him close - shielding, defending and smothering him. But such an approach would only inhibit your child's progress. His emotional growth will be strengthened by learning to cope with small problems. A mother who fights all the neighborhood battles in order to protect her "precious" from the cruel world inhibits his progress towards a positive self-image. Such an over-protective parent is also likely to tackle any teacher who tries to discipline her little darling. Or perhaps the over-protective parent attempts to show everyone how much he loves his child by spending much time with him. Parents are advised to spend more time with a child, yet it is not quantity but quality time that is important. I know a father who spends hours with his boys on projects and games and on the surface looks like the epitome of devotion, but his comments sound something like this: "Stop dawdling over your turn, John. Hurry up." "You're not holding that drill right, Tom. How many times have I told you to hold it like this?" "I wish you'd watch your brother more closely when he bats. You've got to learn to get your whole body into the swing." "You botched up this wax job. I'll have to do it all over again. Watch me this time. When you do something, learn to do it right the first time." In essence, this father is telling his sons that they are not competent, and the more time the boys spend with him, the less adequate and less loved they feel.

Still other parents show rejection through lack of interest. In effect, they send the message: "Don't bother me with your troubles. I've got problems on my own. Hurry and grow up and get out of here." Some of the most crippling effects arise from parents who don't have time or who have been emotionally handicapped themselves by unloving relationships.

Furthermore, our attitudes of acceptance or rejection vary along with our moods. If we feel happy with ourselves, we can tolerate a lot of misbehavior from our child. However, when we've had a tough day, are dead tired, feel ill, or are unhappy with ourselves, our "acceptance quotient" will dip to a very low level.

Some parents are more accepting and loving than others by virtue of their emotional make-up. Since they like themselves, they possess an inner security. Other parents are unaccepting by nature, and they often nurture rigid notions about right and wrong.

Our accepting and rejecting attitudes also depend on where we are and who is watching - the old double standard. Most of us tend to be less accepting at a friend's home, in a restaurant, at church - anywhere our child's public behavior reflects back on us. And when friends visit our homes, we may get upset over manners that we would accept at other times.

Many of us fall innocently into some of these traps. We love our children deeply, we care for them, and we’d even give our lives for them. And yet in the day-to-day struggle for existence some of our love gets lost. The key is the ability to accept the child at all times, while perhaps not accepting everything he does. Parents should differentiate himself if they want him to build a positive self-image. Statistics indicate that a child cements a principle in the mind far more easily through repetition in song than merely by rote memorization.

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Comments (1)

Being a good parent isn't always easy but it's something that every parent and grand parent has to become. Another well written article on an essential topic Levy.

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