Saturday, May 14, 2016

Shame and doubt

An important part of developing self-esteem is not saying or doing things that will cause your children to feel shame or doubt. Parents who make their children feel shame or doubt about trying to do something on their own are more likely to struggle with independent tasks and can learn learned helplessness. Things a parent may say to a child to cause shame or doubt are, "You're not old enough for that swing yet, you're not old enough to try the monkey bars, etc." These statements come from parents telling their children they're not old enough to do whatever task the parent has decided they're not old enough to do and therefore capable of.

A different way to phrase or handle a situation when a child wants to do an activity they may not be developmentally ready for yet, is first of all to keep the activities age appropriate. However, this can be difficult when the activities surrounding the child may not always be age appropriate. For example, if a parent takes a child to the park and they want to do the monkey bars, instead of telling the child they can't do it, help them do it instead. A parent puts the child on the monkey bars and tells the child to hold on, then the parent can either try having the child do the  monkey bars as they "fly" the child from bar to bar or a parent can teach the child how to actually do the monkey bars by holding onto them. The parent can hold onto the child's body and then instruct the child. For example, the parent can say, "Reach your right arm to the second bar, now do your left arm."

More than likely the child will not be able to reach the bars because their arms won't be long enough which is why a parent can "fly" the child from one bar to the next. The child is going to see that they can't do it and stop and ask to be put down and go do another activity because they're going to see for themselves it's an activity they can't do yet unless a game is made out of it like "lets fly from bar to bar."

The example of the monkey bars is an example of when a child finds a way to do an activity using the parents help. If the child is stubborn and doesn't want help, usually one of two things need to be done. Either the child is going to in fact see for themselves they can't accomplish what they're trying to do and give up until they're older and want to try again, or the parent may have to say, "Look, this isn't something you can do yet, let's come over here and do this instead," and deal with the emotion of anger or frustration that the child is experiencing because they can't do a task yet that they want to be able to do.

An activity like learning the monkey bars can teach a child learned helplessness because if a parent isn't letting their children try tasks on their own, the child will learn learned helplessness. Any time a parent tells a child they can't do something and to let someone else do it for them, the parent is teaching learned helplessness. If the adults in children's lives don't allow the child to learn how to do things on their own and be independent, the child will feel shame and eventually doubt their abilities to carry out any activity because they've been taught they're incapable and need adults to do everything for them. The feelings of shame and doubt cause the development of self-esteem to be negative not positive.

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