Raising Kids with High Self-Esteem
A Special Message to Parents…
We’ve spent the last week or so exploring ways to build healthier self-esteem. Now I’d like to continue the series with a special message to parents. Because if your kids don’t have a healthy self-esteem, they won’t be able to manifest all the prosperity they could be capable of.
Please stop fucking up your kids. Because they’re ruining the world for the rest of us.
Yes I get that they’re precious, unique little snowflakes. But stop giving them participation trophies. Stop protecting them from every little setback in life.
They don’t need to protest speakers at their university that they find offensive or threatening. Tell them to just not buy a goddamned ticket. Stop telling them that they are amazing at things they are actually dreadful at.
You’re not building healthy self-esteem by enabling these habits. You’re making them neurotic, insecure and entitled.
Love them enough to tell them the truth, coming from a place of love. Love them enough to let them fail at some things. Love them enough to learn who they really are, and be happy with that person.
For your kids to grow up prosperous and not entitled, they have to feel a sense of self worth. They have to love themselves. And to do that, they first have to like themselves. So a couple of basic things to start with:
Don’t withhold your love and make it conditional on doing things that please you. (Like playing the sport you wish you would have been good at, or choosing the career you really wanted to do.) Love them just because you love them. Unconditionally.
Don’t hover over them like a helicopter. Let them explore and find their way. Allow them to fall off a bike a couple times, skin their knee, and experience some setbacks. If you protect them from all harm, they will never be prepared for the actual adversity they will experience in the world.
Don’t question their sexuality. If they tell you that they are gay, bi, non-binary, or the opposite gender you think they are – believe them. They know this intuitively on a soulful introspective level no one outside them can understand. Don’t scare them with your Stone Age sky god religious pronouncements, suggest they are defective, or try to “fix” them. Just because you may have been infected with erroneous information about sexuality from organized religion, doesn’t mean you have to perpetuate it. (Learn the science and the facts.) Love them as they are. Become the shield that protects them from a cruel world as they figure things out.
Don’t think you’re being their friend and acting cool by telling them expressions like, “my little dummy,” or giving them nicknames like gordito or fatso. Show them that Barack Obama has big ears, Julia Roberts has a big nose, Tom Cruise has dyslexia, and the beauty of humanity is we each have our idiosyncrasies. Those are our strengths not our flaws, and they don’t have to stop us from living a happy, harmonious and prosperous life.
Don’t compare them unfavorably to their siblings in areas like grades, sports, or special talents. Celebrate the special gifts that each child possesses, and help them develop their unique strengths.
Don’t spank them. The data is in on this and it’s undisputable. Spanking is harmful to children and can cause long term effects. (And please don’t argue the point because your dad tanned your ass with the belt, or your abuela welded a mean chancleta. Look how fucked up you turned out.)
Help them make better diet and exercise choices. Don’t jump from baby food to happy meals. Don’t allow them to become a sugar junkie. Feed them fruits and vegetables. Children should perspire and get dirty, see sunshine and breath fresh air.
Start a structured process to teach them financial literacy. Allow them to learn the pleasure of earning money and free enterprise. Stop doling out an allowance and create incomes for doing housework and other chores. Teach your children to save money. By the time they are fifteen, start teaching them to invest for the future. Money management skills and financial security will have a dramatic impact on their self-esteem later in life.
Help your child develop a voracious curiosity. Every time they question you, celebrate that, don’t shut it down. Every holiday season and birthday, be mindful of providing some gifts like science kits, math puzzles, microscopes, telescopes, and other intellectual development toys and games.
Give them the gift of travel. Let them meet people who speak diverse languages, have different color skin and culture. Foreign exchange programs are one of the most mind-expanding experiences a child can ever have. They will learn tolerance, patience and diversity, all of which helps self-esteem. If your budget doesn’t yet allow this, do it through NatGeo, the BBC and YouTube.
Introduce them to the gift of nature. Encourage them to study plants, geology, and animals. Or weather, astronomy, or oceanography.
The secret is not keeping them away from smart phones, tablets and video games. The secret is encouraging them to use technology, but facilitating how to utilize it to gain knowledge, develop wisdom, and prepare for the future.
If they want to be a rapper, poet, dancer, or some other vocation that you fear won’t allow them to financially provide for themselves, don’t shut them down. They really might be the next Travis Wall, Peter Lik, or Lang Lang. And if they don’t breakout to critical acclaim or financial freedom – but they are happier dancing and driving a scooter, than being an accountant and driving a Lexus – become their number one fan.
Start them doing affirmations early. Five is not too young. Eight is not too young to practice visualizations. And if you have your ten- or 12-year-old create a Dream Board, they’ll be 15 years ahead of the curve.
Teach them that there are consequences for their actions. Make them take responsibility for the things they say and do. (Or don’t do.) Holding them accountable develops personal responsibility which is a huge factor in healthy self-esteem.
Finally, remember this. You have the greatest privilege a human can ever experience: the opportunity to raise a child. That sacred privilege comes with the greatest responsibility. And that responsibility is not to raise them to become you, or even your vision of who they should become. Your privilege/responsibility is to facilitate a process that allows them to grow into the highest possible version of themselves.
Ain’t it great!