Help your children to build healthy self concepts

by Sonya Yeh Spencer

Research shows that adults who make self-to-self comparisons often are more successful and experience less personal stress than those who are driven by comparisons to others – like an Olympic performer, striving for their personal best.

Comparing yourself to others is natural for all of us, but it is only helpful if we are inspired by other’s achievements and strive to realise our potential. When comparing with others, it creates a sense of “I can never do it” or in some cases “shame” or negative self-image; the comparison is impacting on our self-esteem.

Self-other comparison is one of the major causes of low self-esteem. When children or adults compare themselves with others, they often experience emotional ups and downs more often. Their self worth is tied to whether they are better than the person they are comparing to. It is common knowledge that low self-esteem is the cause of many problems in life, both psychologically and physically. For both adults and children, low self-esteem and associated stress often causes behavioural problems including suicide, violence and abuse of others.

It makes good sense to help children learn how to do self-self comparison to build healthy self-esteem and concepts; in fact it is our responsibility to do so.

But it does not mean that parents or caregivers should go to the extreme to exaggerate their children’s achievement and build an overly inflated self image.

The best thing is to teach them self-self comparison in a way that teaches them to have pride and to appreciate their own progress over time. It also helps them to learn how to self-evaluate, monitor and make changes to be better. The following is a process created using NLP tools and concepts.

Self-Other to Self-Self Comparisons:
1. Acknowledge your child’s opinion or observation.
If you child comes home and says to you “I don’t want to play piano anymore, others are all better than I am”. Acknowledge what your child is expressing by saying “So, you think everyone is better than you at playing piano, right?” By agreeing you are creating rapport and your child will feel that they have been heard.
This is the foundation for building understanding and you will find it much easier to work with your child when there is this deeper rapport.

  1. Identify Your Child’s Evidence
    You can now ask “how do you know that?” This helps your child to think through their own logic and evaluate their thinking.
    In our example you could say “What tells you that everyone else is better than you at playing piano?”

  2. Make success a function of behaviour
    When children think that others are better than they are, they do not have the insight to see that the success does not happen overnight. Instead, they think that others magically do it better and therefore a better person and more worthy then they are. It is important to point out the behaviour that will generate success.
    So, back to our example, after you ask the how question, your child might reply with “like Sally, she only played 3 notes wrong, I had lots”.
    To point out the behaviour that will generate success you could say “Wow, Sally must practice a lot”.
    By pointing out something that your child had not thought of before, you are helping them to re-evaluate and draw a different conclusion that may leave their self image intact.

  3. Change to self/self comparison
    “Sally is much better than she used to be, isn’t she?” “I can see that you are much better than you used to be, too”
    By saying the above, you are redirecting your child’s attention to focus on their own progress and suggesting to them the reason why Sally is now better than she used to be is because she practiced more. Therefore, if your child wants to be better at playing piano, she needs to practice more. To practice or not is within their own control, therefore you are also helping them to understand the elements that are within their control to improve their current situation.
    Understanding the factors that one has control over in life is one of the most important factors to creating a healthy and successful life.

Further reading: “Successful Parenting” by Connirae Andreas, PH.D. NLP Trainer

©Blue-Sky Transformation, 2008


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