A step-by-step guide to better self-esteem for us and our kids.
“What the heck is my problem?!” I snapped, as I chucked my salt-instead-of-sugar cookie dough in the garbage. “I’m such an idiot. I just can’t do anything right.” I threw the dirty utensils in the sink and speed cleaned the kitchen.
A few hours later, I heard my daughter shout from the other room, “What is WRONG with me? Why do I always do everything wrong?”
I ran to stop her from berating herself and found her with her elbows on the table, fingertips pressed against her temples. Paper shreds all over the floor.
We talked about how to ask for help and not give up, then I helped her finish her project.
The rest of the day, I wondered where she got this, because I never talked to her like that. While I scrubbed my hair in the shower that night, it hit me!
I never talked to her like that. But I talked to myself like that. The messed-up-recipe flooded back to me. Along with a grilled cheese I flipped onto the floor, a sewing project I made inside-out, and all the other times I messed up and scolded myself. I tried to be nice to other people, but I was a jerk to myself.
And my daughter learned it from me.
What is Self-Esteem, Really?
We emphasize the golden rule: treat others how you want to them to treat you. But it’s even harder to treat ourselves how we want others to treat us. We need to respect and love others, and respect and love ourselves.
Self-esteem doesn’t mean you think you’re the best mom. That you know everything about everything. That you can’t accept help from others.
It means that you value yourself as much as you value others. Not more. Not less.
You evaluate your strengths and weaknesses to improve where you need to. You may not be the best, but you can accept help from others to become better. You treat yourself and others with dignity and respect.
So let’s resolve to work on our self-esteem. For our sake and for our kids’ sakes. We need to take action to love ourselves as people- not to think we are the best and greatest at everything- but to show ourselves the same respect we try to show others.
The next time a I put salt in my recipe instead of sugar, I’ll try to laugh it off and throw it in the garbage a little more gently. I won’t rave about my weaknesses, but I’ll brush it off and try again. Here are some important ways to cultivate healthy self-esteem and avoid being a total jerk.
How to Cultivate Healthy Self Esteem
Ask for help
- Ask questions when you need advice. You’re not the only one who has information worth knowing. Realize that other people might know things you don’t know. Other people may have already learned what you need to know. Learn from their trial and error, so that you can avoid the same error.
- Ask for help. You don’t have to do everything yourself. Ask your kids to pick up, or your husband to do the dishes. They can’t read your mind, so ask for help when you need it. It’s not a weakness, it’s a strength.
- Learn about behavior issues. Keep up on developmentally appropriate and inappropriate behaviors. Your child won’t be perfect! Remember to keep an eye out for issues and problems, so you can take care of them sooner rather than later.
Learn to love yourself
- Appreciate the good in yourself. No one’s perfect, but don’t dwell on the bad. Find the positive in every situation.
- Compliment yourself and your kids. Find opportunities to say positive things and point out strengths.
Step off the pedestal
- Treat your kids like people. That’s what they are. They have emotions, feelings, and knowledge that are all separate from you. They are not you. They have different needs.
- Let your kids make choices. Use appropriate opportunities to let your kids choose. They can choose the blue plate or the red plate. They can choose to have a ponytail or a braid. They can’t choose to have candy for breakfast.
- Graciously accept grocery store comments. “Yes, my hands are full.” Literally, full. I’m carrying a baby and a sleeping toddler, and leading my chatting 4 year old by the hand. So instead of being snide, smile and accept the friendly conversation starter.
- Don’t present only your perfect side to Social Media. Bragging is still bragging, even on Facebook.
Forgive yourself and your kids
- Let it go. You make mistakes. Everyone does. Apologize, move on, and attempt to do better in the future.
- Forgive your kids. Don’t expect them to be perfect. Let them try again. And again. Don’t make their lives miserable as pay-back for anything they’ve done. Use consequences to help them improve, but don’t use them as revenge.
- Let your kids make mistakes. Give them some independence to problem-solve on their own. Help them fix their mistakes and don’t berate them. Teach them to learn from their mistakes and not beat themselves up.
How to avoid being a total jerk
Don’t turn a blind eye
- Own up to your faults. You have to acknowledge faults to improve. There is no improvement without healthy self-evaluation.
- Don’t ignore your kids’ faults. Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away. Correcting your kids and helping them improve is a lot of work, but it’s worth it.
Don’t put yourself and your kids down
- Avoid negative self-talk. Your thoughts become your words, and eventually they come out of your kids’ mouths. It doesn’t feel good.
- Don’t compare your kids to anyone else. When your child struggles, encourage him to improve. “Why can’t you be good and listen, like Andrew?” doesn’t encourage. “You almost got it, I love how hard you’re trying!” does.
- Don’t compliment by comparing either. “You’re prettier than all the other girls” teaches your daughter to measure her beauty by looking at others. Try a specific compliment, like “Your hair looks beautiful in those braids” instead.
- Don’t put your kids down. Try to be kind and build your kids up instead of being nasty and putting them down.
Don’t be bossy just because you’re the boss
- Don’t let power go to your head. Use your parenting power to help your kids grow and be safe. Never boss them in things that don’t matter just because they have to listen to you and you like it. Avoid the urge to “control” your kids for no good reason.
- Let others contribute. Listen to your kids when they’re talking to you. When appropriate, let them make decisions and take turns having some control.
Don’t hold grudges
- Forgive yourself. Beating yourself up for past mistakes doesn’t help you move forward. Let it go and try to improve next time.
- Forgive your kids. Know your kids’ weaknesses so you can build them up when they need it the most. But don’t use those weaknesses to tear them down when they are most vulnerable.
Take the Challenge
Reading through this list of do’s and don’ts gives us new resolve to work on our self-esteem. But without a plan, it’s not likely to stick in our brains once we finish reading this post.
So let’s make a plan. Join me in a Self-Esteem Challenge! This challenge uses concrete steps and reminders to grow in healthy self-esteem for our good and the good of our kids.
Step 1: Prepare and learn.
Reread the post and figure out what you struggle with the most. Print out the materials. Hang the main reminder on the fridge. Hang the small ones around the house, wherever you know problems are more likely to happen. I’m putting one of mine over my garbage can.
Step 2: Start fresh every day
Wake up and prepare to work on your self-esteem. Treat each day as a new day, no matter what yesterday was like. Read the printable on the fridge and think of concrete ways to improve today.
Step 3: Pause and remind yourself throughout the day
Throughout the day, look at your reminders and try to win the small battles. If you fall, it’s ok. Apologize and move on.
Step 4: Look back every night
Every night, take a minute to look back at your day. Be thankful for all the good moments! If you had conflicts with your kids, spend some extra time with them. Give them your full attention. Listen to their stories and laugh at their jokes. Read them a book, rub their back. Do something to make them feel a little extra loved.
Step 5: Evaluate yourself weekly
After each week, use the self-evaluation printable to look back on your week. Check off where you excelled and where you fell short. Write your progress to see how far you’ve come and help you grow even more!
I’m super pumped! Click on the preview below to print your materials and start the Self-Esteem Challenge with me! Let’s become better Momsters for our sweet little monsters.