Home / Family Articles / Ways to stop your child becoming self critical

Ways to stop your child becoming self critical

Ways to stop your child becoming self critical

Written by:

Children start receiving messages about not being good enough from a very early age. Most of the advertising on television gives messages either overtly or subliminally that you are not fully acceptable unless you have this gadget, that image or those designer clothes. At a certain age, which seems to be getting younger and younger, the peer group picks up the baton and declares what is and isn’t cool, treating fellow youngsters according to these in-gang out-gang rules

Some Kid’s are more sensitive than others

Some kids seem to have a more naturally robust sense of self and come through these pressures relatively unscarred, with a clear sense of themselves and how they operate in life. For others, who are maybe more sensitive, navigating these waters is potentially very difficult. They can graduate from the experience with quite a wounded sense of self and a bashing to their self-esteem.

What are the signs?

So what are the signs to look out for and what can you put in place to counteract any risk of self-criticism getting out of hand? The main indicator of lowering confidence and developing self-criticism can be summarised generally as a fear of taking part. This might play out as a child becoming withdrawn from conversations, or refusing to go to an activity that they used to enjoy or similarly not wanting to spend time with friends that they normally hang out with. They might be able to express very rational reasons for their decisions and behaviours, but if the change continues over a long time it might be helpful as a parent to delve in slightly deeper.

Are they self-critical?

Ways to stop your child becoming self criticalRather than psychoanalyse your child with probing questions, try paying attention to the ways in which they speak about themselves. Notice if they put themselves down, either subtly or plainly. It might be really clear like a child saying ‘I’m stupid’, or it might be expressed a little more covertly such as worrying about something after the event.

If you pick up comments or behaviours like these, find a gentle way to give your child a chance to explore what they are expressing a little more. Something like, ‘I wonder what makes you say that you are stupid’ is a non-invasive invitation for them to reflect on what they’ve said, giving you a bit more information about the backdrop to their feelings.

What can parents do to help?

If they are able to share a bit more about what is going on, you can then help them to see things in a different way. In psychology there is a skill called ‘normalising’. This is where a person is helped to understand the feelings that they have in response to a situation are actually normal, not a sign of them being stupid or a failure. If you can help your child to identify how they felt in the moment or the event, whether it was scoring less in a test, not being chosen for a team or something else, you can then affirm their feeling and they will be much less likely to turn it against themselves.

Express your own feelings

As a parent it can also help to model emotional openness and to share some of your feelings with your children. This will give them permission to express themselves rather than bottle things up to fester. Find ways to lightly remind them that we are all learning all of the time in life, even though taking risks can feel scary; nothing is gained if we stop doing so.





About Jenny Smith

About Jenny Smith

Jenny Smith is a freelance writer and facilitator specialising in mental health, well-being and ecotherapy. She writes for National Mind and The Working Parent and facilitates training in the Work that Reconnects and Ecotherapy. She is inspired by nature, gardening, love and non-duality teachings

View all posts by