By Carol Surya, author, psychologist, game developer and workshop facilitator. Her practical parenting book, ParentMagic – Raising Kids stems from experience gained over the last 20 years working with children and their parents worldwide. You will find her company, Raising Kids Positively on Jozikids and Kznkids
It’s surprising how negative we are about ourselves. At dinner parties, the gym, even on social media – we’re often so self-critical. We berate ourselves when we’re not coping well with daily stressors, blaming ourselves when we’re impatient or get too angry and judging every bit of ‘performance’ in this tricky parenting journey. Considering that our kids are learning a lot about self-esteem by watching us, it makes sense then to change these patterns, to watch our words about ourselves and to give ourselves permission to improve how we feel about ourselves. Because we are their main teacher, when we feel happy and self-content, we set a great example for them to follow. When your children notices that you feel good about yourself and treat yourself with respect, it teaches them to like and care for themselves too.
Tips for building your self-esteem
- recognize your achievements – tell your kids what you’re good at (e.g. “Hey guys, I cooked a great supper tonight”) and keep finding ways to recognize what you are doing well
- avoid criticizing yourself – try to speak positively about yourself (e.g. “Exercise is good for me, even when I’m lazy, so here I go!”)
- practice regular self-care – take care of your health, set aside some time each week for fun things that you really enjoy (e.g. read a book, learn a new skill, go for a walk or have a relaxing bath)
- spend time with friends – who are positive and support you, rather than those that drain your energy and are constantly critical or negative
- replace guilt feelings and perfectionism with ‘good enough’ – whenever we feel guilty that we’re not performing well it takes it’s toll on our self-esteem. Learn to tell yourself that you are “good enough” (especially when you’re feeling guilty for taking time for much needed self care)
Without intending it, there are many things that we do and say about ourselves that are influencing our kids. At the same time, there are many daily “building-up moments” which you can use to help improve how you feel and talk about yourself, which can make a great difference to them.
Mothers often put their needs last, feeling selfish if they invest time or energy in themselves. Sadly, exactly the opposite is true. Research shows that mothers who don’t take care of themselves (i.e. no self-care or stress management) suffer far more emotional and physical symptoms of stress, becoming tired, irritable and more critical of their children.
Remember there are tons of fun ways to care for yourself that will make you less stressed, improve your self-esteem and well-being, and make you a better parent! Once you start feeling the benefits of taking good care of yourself, your self-esteem improves and you’ll be even more motivated to build your kids’ self-esteem.
Go ahead and make your new motto : “when I am feeling good it helps my kids to feel good”. By investing in feeling good, everyone wins!