As parents, we hope our child will be confident and successful. However, even the most well-meaning parents inadvertently and unwittingly instill the self-defeating mindset of self-doubt onto their child/children. This toxic legacy is a big block to a child”s success – both professionally and personally.
What is Self-Doubt
Self-doubt is a lack of confidence in yourself and your abilities.
When we are so lacking in confidence of our skillset, we are wracked with confusion and indecisiveness. We are unable to decide what action to take. Furthermore, our constant need for outside validation or someone to do things for us makes us easy targets for predators and abusive people.
Any new situation is enough to send us into panic mode. Doubting ourselves keeps us stuck in situations that are bad for us. We are unable to decide on a career, job, relationship, etc.
Sometimes even making basic everyday choices causes us crippling anxiety.. Do I look good in this yellow dress, or black or red? Moreover, even when we make a choice or minds are overwhelmed with doubts – was it the correct one?
Our mind is a constant churning of ‘What ifs and this fear keep us paralyzed, unable to take action.
One day you wake up and realize life has gone by because self-doubt robbed you of clear confident thinking and decisive action.
Nonetheless, a certain degree of self-doubt is good, it serves as a cautionary stop button. However, persistent fear and self-doubt can negatively affect your life.
Origins of Self-Doubt
Well, like most good and bad personality attributes, self-doubt stems during childhood. Parents play a critical role in their child’s developing psyche which later defines their adult behavior. That feeling of confidence in one’s capabilities is instilled through nurturing and positive relational experiences. It is a gradual process of building a child’s self-esteem that happens over the span of his/her life. It requires mindful and attuned parenting – being aware of what we do or say. These are usually micro, multi-layered serve and return interactions that gradually shape the brain of a child – confident or filled with self-doubt,
Want to raise confident kids, eliminate these parenting behaviors that inadvertently instill self-doubt in a child’s mind.
1) Not Loving Enough
Every human being needs to be loved, understood and accepted for who they are. According to Alan Sroufe, a developmental psychologist, the parent-child attachment is very important for the development of a baby’s emotion regulation and exploration.
When a child is certain of the availability and responsiveness of his caregiver, he feels more confident to explore and take chances. Not loving and accepting your child unconditionally is a sure way to create an insecure human being.
2) Bully Parenting Tactics
Avoid physical or emotional manipulation to mold your child’s behavior. Parents who act like bullies and use coercion, aggression or violent emotional outbursts create unsure kids with low self-esteem.
This feeling of inadequacy makes them unable to stand up for themselves or do the things they want to do. Their childhood fear of violence keeps them stuck in bad situations. They are filled with hopelessness afraid of taking steps to change their life.
3) Forcing Your Child To Do Something
Avoid forcing your child to do something he dislikes, he will end up resenting you and hating his life. Instead, expose your child to different activities and give him the space to pursue his own natural interest.
When children are forced to adhere to strict parental dictates, it creates an ongoing conflict within them, they don’t learn autonomy and how to make choices. Even in adulthood, their behavior is controlled by their parental inner critic instead of doing what they truly want to. Their self-doubt hinders them from choosing what is best for their well-being and happiness.
4) Shaming Your Child
Shaming unwittingly creates deep feelings of badness within a child.
When your child does something wrong focus on the child’s behavior say ‘What you have done is not right’ instead of ‘You are a bad boy.’ Calling a child bad is like stamping him with your verdict for life.
Not feeling good enough encodes our brain with feelings of being a flawed human. He is plagued with self-doubt in every relationship he has, whether with his work colleagues or romantic partners.
5) Comparison With Other Kids
Avoid making comparisons, your child is a unique being, different from anyone else. Don’t expect him to be like his academically better sibling or become a great footballer like the Jones kid next door. Giving your child the message that ‘he is not good enough’ is a sure way to plant the seed of self-doubt.
Comparing destroys self-esteem, relationships, and authenticity.
6) Having a No Failure Policy
Failing is part of life. However, most parents want their child to be always at the top of his game. Always wining. It is an insecure parent whose fragile self-esteem hangs on a child’s always come first. Even a small setback is seen by these over nit-picking parents as a failure, which they sadly drum into their vulnerable kid’s minds. The traumatized child is so afraid that any examination or challenge makes him doubt his abilities. It also makes him place his value on outside praise and validation.
7) Helicopter, Lawnmowers, Tiger Parents
These 3 types of parents don’t allow their child to garner the skills needed to navigate adulthood. The helicopter type of parent hovers around the child, constantly doing tasks for the child. The child never learns how to independently do things.
While the Lawnmower kind of parents is there ever vigilant to clear out any kind of real or perceived hindrance to their darling, delicate baby’s life. Poor child has no idea of the real world. And oh, he has to face it someday, dear mommy is not going to be there forever.
The Tiger moms, are so demanding and controlling that they won’t let their child have his own thoughts or desires. What Mom and Dad want you to do, you do? There is no choice.
In adulthood, he does not know who he truly is, neither does he know how to live his life. Confusion and self-doubt assail him when the parental navigator has grown old or died. The adult child is clueless and sorely lacking in confidence
8) Not Validating Their Feelings
Feelings matter. When we ignore, repress or shame our kids for their emotions they are not going to be able to develop the skills to overcome or handle that emotion.
Respecting and acknowledging your child’s feelings goes a long way in making them feel valued. Feeling valued is the key to self-confidence.
When we learn to see a problem from our child’s point of view we acknowledge their innate sense of worthiness. They are valuable human beings.
According to Dr. Claudia Gold being truly heard and acknowledged changes a child’s brain and puts them on the path of emotional maturity..
9) Talking Down
How we talk WITH our kids shapes how they think of themselves. Most parents order and demand blind obedience. They the parents are superior and the child is inferior. Only the parents” way is the right way. Twenty years later we have a child in an adult body wracked with self-doubt.
Parent-child interactions powerfully shape a child’s brain and mold his personality. HOW we talk WITH our kids is as important as ‘what we say to them.’
Whatif a poem by Shel Silverstein comically but aptly surmises what happens in our heads when we are filled with Self-Doubt
Raising Confident Kids – Be a Lighthouse
Parenting is like walking on a tightrope, a balance of love, guidance, respect, and tolerance. In his book Raising Kids to Thrive, Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, states that parents should be lighthouses for their children, visible from the shoreline as a stable light or beacon.
Confidence comes from that inherent feeling that one is capable of dealing with life’s many challenges.
This is the best gift a parent can give a child. The feeling of competence – that I can tackle that. Having the courage of our convictions without fear of failure holding us back is the path to success and happiness.
It is up to us parents to not bequeath that devastating legacy of self-doubt on our children.
Image Source:: Pixabay
How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish
General Theory of Love – Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini & Richard Lannon
Love 2.0: Finding Happiness and Health in Moments of Connection – Barbara Fredrickson