Affecting a Child’s Self-Confidence

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Right.. so anyone who truly knows me can tell you I’m not the most confident person in the world.  I’ve never had the best self-esteem or belief in myself growing up and this has carried over into my adult life.

It definitely doesn’t make life easy when you’re too timid to go for the things you want in life, cause some little part of you is always there whispering ‘What makes you think you deserve that?’.

OK, maybe that’s a bit extreme, but I think you know what I mean.

Anyway, I read this News Article on Yahoo this morning and it got me thinking about a child’s self-esteem.  And how parents and teachers can radically affect it in a variety of ways.

In this article, a Grade 3 student received a ‘catastrophe’ aware for the most excuses for not having her homework done.  Quite literally a negative award that was announced in front of her classmates, which prompted them to laugh at her.

Gotta love public humiliation in the school system..

However I can only imagine how embarrassed that kid is now that her mother has made the news about a silly negative award.. and it makes me wonder which would have the more negative impact on this child.

Growing up I was never popular or the kid everyone wanted to hang out with.  Sure, I had friends I’d play with at recess or after school at times, but I was never top on the party invite list.  In fact there were more than a few occasions where a ‘friend’ from school was having a party of some sort and I wasn’t invited.

Hell, that happens even now as an adult.  Always so much fun reading on Facebook how much fun a group of ‘friends’ are having here or there… Of course they’re not truly friends if you’re being purposely excluded.

But how did this happen?  I can only speculate of course, but I personally think it’s a combination of negativity from both my parents and my teachers growing up.. of a sort.

When I was in primary school, I admit I was a little smarty-pants.  I got good grades in every subject and I strived to be the best, especially at math and languages.  However, I got picked on for being smart and trying to be an overall good kid.. and not just from the other students.

I actually had a teacher who nicknamed me ‘Smarty-Marty’ when I was 6 or 7, and she used it again when I had her for a teacher at a different school when I was 12.  She was never encouraging, but had more of a ‘oh what a surprise, he got another good mark’ type of attitude.  If I remember correctly, I vaguely recall an incident where she actually made fun of me in front of the other students for being good at something (probably math).. and this was when I was 12 when kids are just starting to become aware of social stature and such.

How is publicly humiliating a child being a good teacher?  It’s not.

The effect of this?  Overtime I think I subconsciously stopped trying to achieve as much, became more of an average student for a lot of secondary school and into college.. which in the end has affected my ability to get a decent job/career and make a life for myself.

Then again, sometimes parents don’t realise how their comments can also affect a child. The most casual, seemingly innocent comment can cause scars on a child’s psyche.

I didn’t have a great childhood at all.  There are some stuff both my younger sister and I have blocked out (nothing horrible, we weren’t abused or anything), and there are things I remember that she doesn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I love my parents… now, but I didn’t when I was growing up.

I was always the odd one out, being the only boy in the family .. and I was regularly being compared to a brother that had never existed.  My dad and his first wife had had a son who’d died a few months after he was born, and my dad had created this fantasy in his mind as to what that son would be like grown up.

That’s right, I was found lacking compared to an idealised version of what my dad thought he would have been like.

Admittedly I don’t think he knew what he was saying or how it would affect me, but I remember growing up actually hating and feeling resentful towards this brother who hadn’t lived.  I felt like I couldn’t live up to this perfect fantasy brother, so why should I try as I’d only be a let down in the end.

How healthy is that?  It’s not.

To me, parents and teachers are meant to be encouraging with children.  I don’t mean boost up their self-esteem so much that they’re cocky or doomed to fail as adults because they’re overly confident.  And they most definitely shouldn’t be comparing them to their siblings, real or otherwise.

Instead they should be helping the kids be the best person they can be and do their best at everything they try.. while letting them just be a kid.  No pressure, no preconceived notions of how things will go (especially when they’re competing in something).

If only we could go back and live things over again knowing what we know now.

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