As parents, we want to support and encourage our children, especially when they are nervous or anxious. However, sometimes our attempts to comfort them can have unintended negative consequences. A woman recently shared her experiences of hearing negative comments from her parents about others in front of her and how it affected their self-esteem and confidence.
Second Hand Nervousness
The woman, who we’ll call Anne, began telling her story. “Last week I went to my sons piano recital and I could sense myself being nervous on his behalf. I think he was a bit nervous too. I wasn’t sure how he would do compared to the other kids.”
“After the first couple of students had performed it was pretty obvious that most kids were not piano protégés but just normal kids,” Anne said. “I was about to turn to my son and say something about how bad the other kids were in an attempt to calm his nerves when I had a massive flashback.”
Anne recalls, “I just remembered being a kid sitting next to my mom at a school concert and how she would put down the other kids. All of a sudden I understood why she had done that. She wanted me to feel better about my performance. But I also remember being a little kid and feeling the ball of nerves growing the more my mom would negatively comment on others. In the end I felt frozen and like all the other adults in the room would judge me and criticize me once I got on stage.”
Life-long Low Self Esteem
“All my life I have been afraid of speaking in front of others and generally suffered from lower self esteem. I believe my mom had the best intentions but I think hearing her speak poorly about others may have been a contributing cause,” Anne said.
Praising Others’ Effort
“In the end I caught myself, turned to my son, and said ‘See, everyone is doing their best,'” Anne said.
The Importance of Positivity
Other parents applauded Anne’s actions. A parent said, “Fostering a general attitude of positivity and respect towards all players is going to make your son more at ease than put-downs and negativity. I would even go further and find things to compliment about each player even if they are having a hard time.” By focusing on positive aspects and encouraging a respectful attitude towards others, children can feel more confident and comfortable in their own abilities.
The Lasting Impact
One parent shared a similar experience she had, “I hate singing in public now because I was scared people would laugh like that if it was bad, even though I can sing.” Negative comments can have a lasting impact on a child’s self-esteem and confidence, even into adulthood.
Learning from Failure
Another parent shared, “One of the most valuable things my daughter has experienced is watching her coach take fall, after fall, after fall, before finally nailing a new skill.” By showing children that failure is a natural part of the learning process and that persistence and hard work can lead to success, they can develop a growth mindset and a more positive attitude towards themselves and others.
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