My son is feeling more and more negative about himself. No one ever wants to play with him and it's painful to hear him say such negative things. What do I say to him when he talks like that? It seems like talking positively can make it worse.
Moms & dads, more than anyone else can promote their youngster's self-esteem. It isn't a particularly difficult thing to do. If fact, most moms & dads do it without even realizing that their words and actions have great impact on how their youngster or teenager feels about himself. Here are some suggestions to keep in mind.
When you feel good about your youngster, mention it to him. Moms & dads are often quick to express negative feelings to kids but somehow don't get around to describing positive feelings. A youngster doesn't know when you are feeling good about him and he needs to hear you tell him that you like having him in the family. Kids remember positive statements we say to them. They store them up and "replay" these statements to themselves. Practice giving your youngster words of encouragement throughout each day.
Be generous with praise. Use what is called descriptive praise to let your youngster know when they are doing something well. You must of course become in the habit of looking for situations in which your youngster is doing a good job or displaying a talent. When your youngster completes a task or chore you could say, "I really like the way you straightened your room. You found a place for every thing and put each thing in its place." When you observe them showing a talent you might say, "That last piece you played was great. You really have a lot of musical talent." Don't be afraid to give praise often even in front of family or friends. Also, use praise to point out positive character traits. For instance, "You are a very kind person." Or, "I like the way you stick with things you do even when it seems hard to do." You can even praise a youngster for something he did not do such as "I really liked how you accepted my answer of 'no' and didn't lose your temper."
Teach your youngster to practice making positive self-statements. Self-talk is very important in everything we do. Psychologists have found that negative self-talk is behind depression and anxiety. What we think determines how we feel and how we feel determines how we behave. Therefore, it is important to teach kids to be positive about how they "talk to themselves." Some examples of useful self-talk are: "I can get this problem, if I just keep trying." "It's OK if our team lost today. We all tried our best and you can't win them all." "It makes me feel good to help others even if the person doesn't notice or thank me."
Avoid criticism that takes the form of ridicule or shame. Sometimes it is necessary to criticize a youngster's actions, and it is appropriate that moms & dads do so. When, however the criticism is directed to the youngster as a person it can easily deteriorate into ridicule or shame. It is important to learn to use "I statements" rather than "You statements" when giving criticism. For instance say, "I would like you to keep your clothes in the proper place in your closet or drawers not lying all over your room;" rather than saying "Why are you such a lazy slob? Can't you take care of anything?"
Teach your youngster about decision-making and to recognize when he has made a good decision. Kids make decisions all the time but often are not aware that they are doing so. There are a number of ways moms & dads can help kids improve their ability to consciously make wise decisions. Kids make decisions all the time but often are not aware that they are doing so. There are a number of ways moms & dads can help kids improve their ability to consciously make wise decisions.
1. Allow the youngster to choose one of the solutions only after fully considering the consequences. The best solution will be one that solves the problem and simultaneously makes the youngster feel good about himself.
2. Brainstorm the possible solutions. Usually there is more than one solution or choice to a given dilemma, and the parent can make an important contribution by pointing out this fact and by suggesting alternatives if the youngster has none.
3. Help the youngster clarify the problem that is creating the need for a decision. Ask him questions that pinpoint how he sees, hears, and feels about a situation and what may need to be changed.
4. Later join the youngster in evaluating the results of that particular solution. Did it work out well? Or did it fail? if so, why? Reviewing the tactics will equip the youngster to make a better decision the next time around.
Develop a positive approach to providing structure for your youngster. All kids and teens need to accept responsibility for their behavior. They should learn self-discipline. To help kids learn self-discipline, the parent needs to adopt the role of coach/teacher rather than that of disciplinarian and punisher. Learn the "Three Fs" of positive parenting. (Discipline should be fair, firm and friendly).
Ten additional steps you can take to help your youngster develop a positive self-image:
1. Encourage your kids to ask for what they want assertively, pointing out that there is no guarantee that they will get it. Reinforce them for asking and avoid anticipating their desires.
2. Encourage your kids to behave toward themselves the way they'd like their friends to behave toward them.
3. Encourage your kids to develop hobbies and interests which give them pleasure and which they can pursue independently.
4. Help kids learn to focus on their strengths by pointing out to them all the things they can do.
5. Help your kids develop "tease tolerance" by pointing out that some teasing can't hurt. Help kids learn to cope with teasing by ignoring it while using positive self-talk such as "names can never hurt me," "teases have no power over me," and "if I can resist this tease, then I'm building emotional muscle."
6. Help your kids think in terms of alternative options and possibilities rather than depending upon one option for satisfaction. A youngster who has only one friend and loses that friend is friendless. However, a youngster who has many friends and loses one, still has many. This same principle holds true in many different areas. Whenever you think there is only one thing which can satisfy you, you limit your potential for being satisfied! The more you help your kids realize that there are many options in every situation, the more you increase their potential for satisfaction.
7. Laugh with your kids and encourage them to laugh at themselves. People who take themselves very seriously are undoubtedly decreasing their enjoyment in life. A good sense of humor and the ability to make light of life are important ingredients for increasing one's overall enjoyment.
8. Let kids know they create and are responsible for any feeling they experience. Likewise, they are not responsible for others' feelings. Avoid blaming kids for how you feel.
9. Let kids settle their own disputes between siblings and friends alike.
10. Teach kids to change their demands to preferences. Point out to kids that there is no reason they must get everything they want and that they need not feel angry either. Encourage them to work against anger by setting a good example and by reinforcing them when they display appropriate irritation rather than anger.
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