Being self-critical is natural and can help you improve. But too much of negative self-talk is unhealthy and is a cause for concern. What will you do if you find your child being too hard on herself?
By Amrita Gracias
'I’m not good enough', 'I can’t do this', 'I won’t be able to do it', 'I’m terrible at this '— as a parent, you must have heard your child express such thoughts.
Yes, it is normal for children to feel frustrated and disappointed when they are unable to do something. But, if you hear your child frequently make such negative statements, it's time to sit up and take notice. Your child is most likely overly self-critical.
It is natural for children to indulge in negative self-talk, occasionally. But how will you know if your child is overly self-critical?
“A self-critical child is a sad, unhappy person whose mind is filled with negative thoughts about himself. He doesn’t think much of himself, yet seeks to be a perfect person. He says things like ‘I knew I wasn’t good enough’ or ‘Others are better than me'. He is also quick to criticise himself and engages in negative self-talk.” Arundhati Swamy, Counsellor, Head Parent-Engagement Programmes, ParentCircle
So, it is possible that a child who is always hard on himself nurtures feelings of disappointment and defeat.
When parents have high expectations from their child and she is unable to live up to them, she can end up feeling that she isn’t good enough. The child struggles to cope with the feelings that arise as a result. Which means, the child ends up becoming highly judgemental and self-critical.
Also, when parents set the bar too high for themselves or are hard on themselves, they tend to pass on that quality to their children as well. Children of such parents may also feel that they need to succeed all the time, which is an unrealistically high expectation.
There are cases, however, when a child might even resort to self-criticism to seek attention or to manipulate others. At the same time, this attitude could simply indicate that a child lacks grit or resilience.
“Negative self-talk prevents a child’s confidence from improving. He prefers to give up rather than work hard and is afraid of making mistakes,” says Arundhati Swamy. “Poor self-image makes him an easy target for bullies and the lack of self-belief deters him from making use of opportunities. He becomes anxious about performance and evaluation. The low feelings can later develop into depression and anxiety,” she explains.
The self-critical child is driven to perform better, every time. This can be constructive but it can also be harmful, if taken to extremes. So, it is important that you help your child understand the fine line between eagerness to succeed and striving for perfection. Instead, be supportive and help him realise his strengths so that he is not always so self-critical. Remember, a balanced approach is the healthiest way to grow.
Read this teacher-mother's tale about how she developed self-confidence in her children.
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