We all want our kids to go into life with positive self-esteem and a strong sense of self-worth.  So, we motivate them, offer them support and encouragement and tell them how wonderful they are.  Yet, one of the greatest emotional epidemics affecting millions of children today is that they struggle with low self-esteem because they have an inner belief that “I’m not enough.”

The inner pain that this belief causes is immense. It affects absolutely everything in the child’s life.  Every day, I see children and teens who are hurting emotionally, academically and physically because they cannot cope with the inner feeling that they can never be enough for their parents, their teachers, their friends and sometimes, even, that they are just not enough for this world.

What strikes me is that all these children have such loving parents.  And still the child is hurting inside!  Still the child has so little self-worth.  Why?  It seems that with the best intentions, parents may be sending children the unintentional message that who they are is not quite enough.  Of course, this is not the message that as parents we intend to be sending, but it is often, the message that the child is hearing. And the more we encourage and pressure them to be better, do better, behave better, be smarter, try harder, the more they feel and believe that, “Who I am is not enough.”

Sad little girl

The 3 mistakes that parents unknowingly make that cause low self-esteem

Mistake #1

We want our kids to succeed so badly that we spend a disproportionate amount of time talking to them about what isn’t working and far less time speaking about all the things that ARE working, and all the wonderful things they are, and do.  We might become preachy, giving long, repeated lectures about how they could improve, sending the subtle, or not so subtle, message that they are not enough.

Mistake #2

We try to fix our kids, instead of first fixing ourselves. We may not realize that we are pushing our kids beyond what is good for them, because of some unfinished emotional business inside of ourselves.  Perhaps, as a child WE too felt as though we are not enough and still feel that way as a parent.

Mistake #3

We think that if we tell them often how amazing they are, our kids will eventually believe it and develop a strong self-esteem. Trying to convince them that they are worthy does not work. In fact, it often aggravates them and causes them to withdraw from us or get angry with us.

Sad boy looking up

How do you know when you are pushing too hard and unintentionally causing your kids to feel “not good enough?”

You will see some or many of these signs:

  • Become angry, resentful, defiant, withdrawn; have meltdowns, temper tantrums.
  • Say things to put themselves down. They may even use the words, “I am not good enough.”
  • Have extremely high expectations of themselves.
  • Judge themselves harshly – be very hard on themselves.
  • Be afraid to try new things for fear of failing.
  • Become perfectionistic as a way of trying to make sure that they are good enough.
  • Develop stress-related physical symptoms such as headaches, gut problems, eczema and asthma among many other possibilities.

Confident Child

5 steps of action that will build your child’s “I am SO enough” belief

1) If your kids have several of these signs, please take it as a message that you could be pushing them too hard. Be careful not to think that these symptoms are just a phase they will grow out of.  It is not a phase. There is a reason why your child has low self-esteem, is super-critical of himself, or is perfectionistic and this needs to be dealt with.

2)  Be sure not to blame yourself as a parent.  Feeling guilt will only give you stress, and stressed parents create stressed children. Let yourself know that you have always parented the best way you knew how, AND THEN commit to making some necessary healing changes to your parenting style.

3) Ask yourself, “Am I perhaps pushing too hard because I want my child to perform in ways that will make ME feel good – because I don’t feel enough myself.  And if this is the case, work on building your own sense of self-worth.

4) Start having what I call, ‘Healing Conversations,’ using the 5-1 rule.  This means that on any given day your child hears five positive messages from you to one negative one.  Identify all the wonderful characteristics your kids display and speak about this to them.  Let them know that you see these characteristics and this is what makes them the special person they are.

The reason for the 5-1 rule is that when you speak about five positives to one negative the child’s brain begins to encode a new belief “I am SO Enough.” Try this and you will be amazed by the transformation in yourself, as well as your children. You will begin to see your kids through less judgmental eyes; you will enjoy the wonder of who they are; your stress will decrease, and your kids will become calmer and happier.

5) Subscribe to my YouTube Channel and Facebook page where you will learn lots of parenting tools for building your child’s self-esteem