In recent years, awareness about children suffering from feelings of depression, anxiety, hopelessness, low self-esteem and so on has been growing. As a result, nowadays, most parents watch out for signs and symptoms of these disorders in their children, and seek help if they suspect that something is amiss. However, while all the major psychiatric disorders have received tremendous attention, inferiority complex in children has somehow escaped the scrutiny it deserves. It is essential for parents to first of all be able to identify the signs and symptoms of inferiority complex in their children.
Signs and symptoms of inferiority complex
- Not mingling with peers
- Not enthusiastic about participating in extra-curricular activities or sports
- Exhibiting feelings of self-pity
- Avoiding eye contact and walking about with slouched shoulders
- Indulging in self-blame whenever something goes wrong
How inferiority complex can affect children
This feeling can affect the way a child, especially how a primary schooler or a preteen, perceives himself and his relationships with those around him. If left undiagnosed and untreated, the implications of inferiority complex can be many. For example, social withdrawal or isolation, low morale and self-worth, hopelessness, submissiveness and a compromising attitude. It can even make an individual plunge to the very depths of despair leading to suicidal thoughts and attempts.
With such an impact that inferiority complex can have, it is time for us to learn to prevent a child from experiencing this feeling as well as helping her recover from it. We should focus more on this issue in children during their primary school and preteen years (6–12).
What parents should do
1. Do not compare and criticise: Parents should appreciate their child’s achievements (no matter how small they may be), and motivate and encourage him to learn and improve his skills to do better. This would lead to the child developing a healthy sense of self-esteem and increased level of confidence. However, many parents don’t understand this fact. They get into the habit of comparing their child with his peers and passing adverse comments whenever their child falters. Some children are unable to cope with such parental attitudes of excessive expectations and rejection. As a result, over a period, they gradually start believing in the fact that they are ‘inferior to others’.
2. Focus on the child’s interests and capabilities: Observe your child or interact with her to try and understand her interests and capabilities. For example, if your child shows an interest in music and has an aptitude for it, provide her with the opportunity and encouragement to train and develop that skill. Remember, no child is good at everything. While some are good at doing a lot of things in a better way, others are only capable of faring better in a few.
3. Build a loving and trustworthy relationship: Children are not capable of sorting some issues on their own or fixing a few of their problems. So, they need the help of their parents to deal with such things. However, to get parental help, a child should apprise his parents of the issues that are plaguing his mind and making him feel uncomfortable. This is possible only in a parent–child relationship that is filled with love and based on trust. Mistreatment of a child by his parents creates a sense of distrust and wariness in the child’s mind about the parents’ attitude. Such a child lacks the courage to confide in his parents. As a result, many of his problems, which may be making him feel inadequate, would go unaddressed and ultimately give rise to feelings of inferiority complex.
4. Teach your child to think in a positive way: Spend some time with your child every day. During these times, share your thoughts with him and seek his opinion, or seek his help in doing something, or help him with something he finds difficult to do. Tell him how much you appreciate the way he does things and praise his efforts. Communicating positively with your child would increase his self-awareness and boost his self-confidence, which are keys to thinking in a positive way. In her article, ‘Negativity and Your Child’s Brain: How to Help Kids Stay Positive’, published on Roots of Action (March 2015), author Marilyn Price-Mitchell, PhD, says, “Unfortunately, children’s inner voices are particularly negative, usually driven by doubt, fear, and shame.” She further says, “Think about how many times children and teens hear the word ‘no’ or experience negativity in their families or classrooms. This exposure to negativism is like second-hand smoke. According to neuroscientists, it produces stress chemicals in the brain. When combined with a child’s natural negative inner voice, this bundle of negativity can lead to poor mental health.”
Activities to help children overcome inferiority complex
- Encouraging group activities, like studying with peers
- Physical activity and outdoor play, preferably with other children
- Engaging the child in a conversation or in activities with family members
- Prompting the child to make eye contact while interacting and walking with an erect posture
- Preventing the child from blaming himself for failures and encouraging him to analyse the reasons for the same
‘No one can make you feel inferior without your consent’ – Eleanor Roosevelt
Let our children understand this. Inferiority complex stems from within us – it is all to do with the mind. Encourage them to pat their own backs for what they are rather than hang their heads in shame for what they aren’t.
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