What are you reflecting back to your kids?

Feb 12, 2024

Have you ever stopped to think about what you’re reflecting back to your kids?  In my past few articles I’ve been talking about self-esteem and how developing a healthy self-esteem helps kids become more confident and better equipped to handle the ups and downs in life.  I shared where to start when helping kids build self-esteem and three things to start and stop doing to help kids build self-esteem.

But there is another factor to helping kids build healthy self-esteem that I haven’t discussed yet. It’s just as important and can play a major factor in how kids grow up to see themselves.

As parents and caregivers, we have lots of opinions and thoughts about how things should be for our kids and how our kids should be, and we can think that there is a problem when reality doesn’t match our vision of how it should be.  And when we think it’s a problem, our kids can start to believe that it’s a problem and think that something is wrong with them.

I tend to see this happen with kids who struggle with impulse control or frustration tolerance.  They tend to do or say things they didn’t mean to, and then get reprimanded for it.  It wasn’t their intention and they didn’t do it on purpose, it’s just that they don’t have those skills because that part of their brain isn’t developed yet — but they can still be thought of as a “problem” child or “the difficult one”.

We also have lots of thoughts about the traits and characteristics of our kids and what we see as positive or negative.  We think they are facts and how our kids just “are”, not realizing that it could be programmed behavior based on what they are consistently hearing and our thoughts and beliefs about them.

This can happen with families that struggle with anxiety.  Parents tend to worry when their kids experience anxiety.  They see it as a problem and can start to see their child as an “anxious kid”.  Instead of anxiety being a feeling that comes and goes, it becomes an identity.

Kids develop many of their thoughts and feelings about themselves based on how the other people in their lives see them — so my question is what are you reflecting back to your child?

Imagine that you are standing in front of a mirror looking at yourself.  Realize that the mirror for you is neutral.  You are the one who gets to decide what you think about your reflection.  Did you know that? You can choose to think that you look fabulous that day, or you can choose to think that you’re having an ugly day and focus on all your flaws. The mirror doesn’t tell you that you’re looking a little chubby in those pants, that’s your own thought.  The mirror itself is completely neutral.

But now I want to bring awareness to the fact that as parents and caregivers, we are our kid’s mirrors — they look to us to help them figure out what to think and believe about themselves.  We reflect our opinions, thoughts, and beliefs back to them, and we are typically NOT neutral.  

This week, I encourage you to reflect on how you want your child to think about themselves — and then take a look at what you’re reflecting back to them.

If you want to know more about how you can help build and foster healthy self-esteem in your kids, please join us in the Confident Parenting Club this month!  We’re doing a deep dive on building self-esteem and resilience, strategies for when your kids fail at something, how to combat negative self-talk and help your kids tame the self-talk monster, and what to do and say when your kids compare themselves to other kids and find themselves coming up short. Click here to check out the Club!

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