It may not have been too long ago, but we all know that growing up is tough, right? Kids are very much vulnerable to feelings of insecurity (we’ve all been there), especially since they’re still trying to figure out who they are, what they love, and what they can be good at. And it doesn’t help that this feeling of insecurity also comes with jealousy or the tendency to feel inferior to one’s peers.
Children need a lot of love and guidance so they can understand what they’re feeling, why they’re feeling it, and how they can address it. But what exactly can you say to your kids to help quell their feelings of not being good enough? We did our research and found out what to say and what not to say to your kids when they’re feeling insecure. Read about it below!
Overpraising means making false or exaggerated statements, which may not always be reflective of your child’s abilities or how they themselves feel about what they can do. Although statements like “You’re going to be the next Olympic gold medalist!” or “No one is as good as you!” sound positive, they shift focus to how great performances and outcomes should be, instead of keeping it on the process. When your kids hear too much praise too often, they could develop a fear of failure and rejection and eventually even a loss of interest in the things your kids love.
Of course, giving compliments is not a bad thing. But it should be done wisely and sincerely. So start by praising your child’s effort and improvement, which can be more realistic and motivational. Saying something like ““I noticed that you’ve gotten better at doing your Math homework!” or “I know you worked really hard on that project. Great job!” is a great way to acknowledge their efforts and give your kids a sense of accomplishment. This way, they’ll learn that hard work will help them grow and achieve.
Openly comparing your kid to other kids, like their siblings or friends, will only send negative signals, triggering jealousy and worsening their insecurities. On the other hand, praising your kid for being better than other people will only motivate them to do well as long as they remain ahead of the “competition.” In either situation, making mistakes (which is completely normal) could bring your kid to lose motivation.
Always remember that each kid is different and grows at their own pace, but it doesn’t make them any more superior or inferior to others. Some kids may just need a little extra push or more time to learn about a new topic or task. Encouraging them for their current achievements is a good way to go! So acknowledge the things you already know they do well and give them a helpful push as they work to improve on new goals–no matter how small.
Whether it’s holding a cup, reading, or doing homework by themselves, there will always be new things for your kid to learn as they grow. But, if you berate your kids for something they don’t know how to do well just yet, they’ll only feel bad. So to help your kids build confidence and positive self-esteem, take on the role of both model and teacher.
Show them how to do the task, help them through it, and then give them a chance to try it out and learn on their own. This way, your kids will also get a moment to be proud of themselves for trying to overcome new challenges. (“Trying” is the key word here.) And when you show your kids that you’re happy with their efforts, they’ll be more motivated to keep learning and do better (which is what matters most, after all).
Rather than dismissing and invalidating your kid’s emotions, know that they’re feeling that way for a reason. Try to be more sensitive to why you’re kid might feel afraid, uncomfortable, or upset. Identifying your child’s emotions and helping them understand what they’re feeling could help them calm down and think more clearly.
For example, if your child is scared of going to school on the first day, you can manage their insecurities and fears by saying “I know you’re nervous. We all feel that way in situations like this. It’s okay.” You can also offer some suggestions about what to do based on your own experiences, by saying something like “When I’m nervous, I take three deep breaths. Want to try that with me?”
When dealing with a child’s insecurities, we must remember to have patience, to help them look at the bright side, and to acknowledge what they’re feeling. This may be quite a process, but with your love and guidance, we know your kids will grow up happy, mom!