Why You Should ‘Big Yourself Up’ In Front Of Your Children

Why You Should ‘Big Yourself Up’ In Front Of Your Children

Why should you ‘big yourself up’ for your children? I asked my son this question recently and he said:

‘Because they are the only ones who will believe you.’

Ha Ha very funny, but that was not actually what I was thinking. A nice thought though isn’t it, that your children will always have faith in you.

Back to the question though: As a parent why is it a good idea to sing your own praises in front of your child, isn’t that teaching them to be a bit boastful?

No, I don’t think so, and it can be a very useful habit to get into, as speaking positively about yourself in front of your children can be a good way for you to support their self- esteem.

Many parents worry about their child’s self- esteem. It’s natural to worry if your child has a habit of putting themselves down, maybe saying they are ‘rubbish’ even though you tell them they are not. Or you may have a child who won’t try new things because they might fail. One parent I know became frustrated because her younger son refused to learn to ride the bike he had been bought for his birthday. He had seen his older brother having fun on his ‘big boys’ bike, and wanted to be like him, but when it came down to it he knew it wasn’t going to be easy, and just could not summon up the courage to try. The fear of failure can be strong.

There’s no getting away from it though, it’s tough out there for kids these days. When they leave the cosy, protective world of home and pre-school or nursery, there are huge challenges. Not only do they have to learn so many new things formally, but there is all the learning that goes on in the playground, where making and breaking up with friends, finding new friends, and knowing what to do and how to handle it when things are not going well, are all necessary skills which no one really teaches you. Self- esteem can be very fragile, and having the resilience to bounce back after a set- back, or to keep trying even though it is difficult, or to get up when you have been knocked down, are big asks of all of us really, adults and children alike.

So what can you do to nurture your child’s self- esteem?

There is plenty of advice out there: Make sure your child spends plenty of quality time with an adult who listens and really cares, give praise and encouragement, allow for mistakes to be made, have reasonable expectations, encourage independence, teach problem-solving skills, and set your child up to succeed at least some of the time. These are all very beneficial, but the importance of modelling good self-esteem so that your child can see it first hand, is often not given enough emphasis.

You are a very important role model for your child. Children absorb so much from watching others. If they see a parent putting themselves down or brushing away praise or being very self- critical, that is likely to become the behaviour that they adopt. If you do this frequently you may be inadvertently ‘teaching’ your child that thinking and speaking well of yourself is not a good thing to do. 

So big yourself up instead. Talk about your successes, however small, and tell your children what you have done that you are proud of. If you have had a go at something, maybe been to a job interview, tried to learn something new, or done something you have found challenging, talk about what went well, and don’t focus on what did not go so well.

For example instead of saying: ‘Some of the questions the interviewer asked were really hard to understand, and I kept having to ask him to repeat things. I felt like such an idiot,’ say something like: ‘There were a few questions I did not really understand, but when that happened I asked the interviewer to repeat the question for me, and gave the best answer I could.’ Or: ‘I thought singing would be easy, but now I realise my voice is rubbish, I must have sounded so croaky compared to the other people in the group.’ Say: ‘Well that was more of a challenge than I thought it would be, but I’m going to go again, it will be fun to see if I can get the hang of it.’

This may be easy for some people but it certainly doesn’t come naturally to everyone. As children we are often taught not to boast or show off. Talking about ourselves constantly, and all the amazing things we have done can be a bit of a turn off to others. So there is a fine line here. But there is a difference between someone who likes to show off all the time and to give the impression that they are better than everyone else, and someone who is quietly confident in themselves and does not shy away from saying so. If you pay someone like this a compliment, they will not shrug it off and say ‘Oh it was nothing,’ but will accept your approval and thank you for it.

If your child is finding something difficult think how it would feel to hear them say ‘It’s so hard, but I think I can work out a way to do it, I’m just going to keep trying.’

Where does a ‘can do’ attitude like this come from?

Some of it at least will be down to you.

Life is full of challenges and disappointments, and to be able to ride through the turbulent times and come out the other side without being swallowed up, is easier if you have good, strong healthy self -esteem and an intrinsic faith in yourself.

The seeds for this are sown in childhood.


About the Author: Jane Rogers

Jane Rogers is founder of The Cambridge Parent Coach. She is experienced in running a number of highly regarded parenting courses, and writes and runs her own workshops for parents. Jane is passionate about Positive Parenting and her aim is to share the ethos and ideas of this style of parenting in a way that is simple to understand, and easy to put into practice. Jane’s two parent workbooks: ‘How to Encourage Good Behaviour so You Can Enjoy You Children’ and ‘How to Use Positive Discipline to Improve Your Child’s Behaviour’ are available on Amazon

3 Comments

Dana Livingston

I really enjoyed this article. I have two sons and I have been trying to be more positive. I never thought that building up myself would help them. It seems like a win-win, we both are positive. Thanks for sharing 🙂

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Ann

What an excellent article. The fine line is so true. Sometimes I find that some children have an excess of self esteem but I think a lot of it is bluff. They absorb so much through the example set for them by their parents, positive affirmation between husband wife is essential..

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Big feelings, and the big behaviour that comes from big feelings, are a sign of a distressed nervous system. Think of this like a burning building. The behaviour is the smoke. The fire is a distressed nervous system. It’s so tempting to respond directly to the behaviour (the smoke), but by doing this, we ignore the fire. Their behaviour and feelings in that moment are a call for support - for us to help that distressed brain and body find the way home. 

The most powerful language for any nervous system is another nervous system. They will catch our distress (as we will catch theirs) but they will also catch our calm. It can be tempting to move them to independence on this too quickly, but it just doesn’t work this way. Children can only learn to self-regulate with lots (and lots and lots) of experience co-regulating. 

This isn’t something that can be taught. It’s something that has to be experienced over and over. It’s like so many things - driving a car, playing the piano - we can talk all we want about ‘how’ but it’s not until we ‘do’ over and over that we get better at it. 

Self-regulation works the same way. It’s not until children have repeated experiences with an adult bringing them back to calm, that they develop the neural pathways to come back to calm on their own. 

An important part of this is making sure we are guiding that nervous system with tender, gentle hands and a steady heart. This is where our own self-regulation becomes important. Our nervous systems speak to each other every moment of every day. When our children or teens are distressed, we will start to feel that distress. It becomes a loop. We feel what they feel, they feel what we feel. Our own capacity to self-regulate is the circuit breaker. 

This can be so tough, but it can happen in microbreaks. A few strong steady breaths can calm our own nervous system, which we can then use to calm theirs. Breathe, and be with. It’s that simple, but so tough to do some days. When they come back to calm, then have those transformational chats - What happened? What can make it easier next time?

Who you are in the moment will always be more important than what you do.
How we are with them, when they are their everyday selves and when they aren’t so adorable, will build their view of three things: the world, its people, and themselves. This will then inform how they respond to the world and how they build their very important space in it. 

Will it be a loving, warm, open-hearted space with lots of doors for them to throw open to the people and experiences that are right for them? Or will it be a space with solid, too high walls that close out too many of the people and experiences that would nourish them.

They will learn from what we do with them and to them, for better or worse. We don’t teach them that the world is safe for them to reach into - we show them. We don’t teach them to be kind, respectful, and compassionate. We show them. We don’t teach them that they matter, and that other people matter, and that their voices and their opinions matter. We show them. We don’t teach them that they are little joy mongers who light up the world. We show them. 

But we have to be radically kind with ourselves too. None of this is about perfection. Parenting is hard, and days will be hard, and on too many of those days we’ll be hard too. That’s okay. We’ll say things we shouldn’t say and do things we shouldn’t do. We’re human too. Let’s not put pressure on our kiddos to be perfect by pretending that we are. As long as we repair the ruptures as soon as we can, and bathe them in love and the warmth of us as much as we can, they will be okay.

This also isn’t about not having boundaries. We need to be the guardians of their world and show them where the edges are. But in the guarding of those boundaries we can be strong and loving, strong and gentle. We can love them, and redirect their behaviour.

It’s when we own our stuff(ups) and when we let them see us fall and rise with strength, integrity, and compassion, and when we hold them gently through the mess of it all, that they learn about humility, and vulnerability, and the importance of holding bruised hearts with tender hands. It’s not about perfection, it’s about consistency, and honesty, and the way we respond to them the most.♥️

#parenting #mindfulparenting
Anxiety and courage always exist together. It can be no other way. Anxiety is a call to courage. It means you're about to do something brave, so when there is one the other will be there too. Their courage might feel so small and be whisper quiet, but it will always be there and always ready to show up when they need it to.
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But courage doesn’t always feel like courage, and it won't always show itself as a readiness. Instead, it might show as a rising - from fear, from uncertainty, from anger. None of these mean an absence of courage. They are the making of space, and the opportunity for courage to rise.
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When the noise from anxiety is loud and obtuse, we’ll have to gently add our voices to usher their courage into the light. We can do this speaking of it and to it, and by shifting the focus from their anxiety to their brave. The one we focus on is ultimately what will become powerful. It will be the one we energise. Anxiety will already have their focus, so we’ll need to make sure their courage has ours.
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But we have to speak to their fear as well, in a way that makes space for it to be held and soothed, with strength. Their fear has an important job to do - to recruit the support of someone who can help them feel safe. Only when their fear has been heard will it rest and make way for their brave.
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What does this look like? Tell them their stories of brave, but acknowledge the fear that made it tough. Stories help them process their emotional experiences in a safe way. It brings word to the feelings and helps those big feelings make sense and find containment. ‘You were really worried about that exam weren’t you. You couldn’t get to sleep the night before. It was tough going to school but you got up, you got dressed, you ... and you did it. Then you ...’
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In the moment, speak to their brave by first acknowledging their need to flee (or fight), then tell them what you know to be true - ‘This feels scary for you doesn’t it. I know you want to run. It makes so much sense that you would want to do that. I also know you can do hard things. My darling, I know it with everything in me.’
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#positiveparenting #parenting #childanxiety #anxietyinchildren #mindfulpare
Separation anxiety has an important job to do - it’s designed to keep children safe by driving them to stay close to their important adults. Gosh it can feel brutal sometimes though.

Whenever there is separation from an attachment person there will be anxiety unless there are two things: attachment with another trusted, loving adult; and a felt sense of you holding on, even when you aren't beside them. Putting these in place will help soften anxiety.

As long as children are are in the loving care of a trusted adult, there's no need to avoid separation. We'll need to remind ourselves of this so we can hold on to ourselves when our own anxiety is rising in response to theirs. 

If separation is the problem, connection has to be the solution. The connection can be with any loving adult, but it's more than an adult being present. It needs an adult who, through their strong, warm, loving presence, shows the child their abundant intention to care for that child, and their joy in doing so. This can be helped along by showing that you trust the adult to love that child big in our absence. 'I know [important adult] loves you and is going to take such good care of you.'

To help your young one feel held on to by you, even in absence, let them know you'll be thinking of them and can't wait to see them. Bolster this by giving them something of yours to hold while you're gone - a scarf, a note - anything that will be felt as 'you'.

They know you are the one who makes sure their world is safe, so they’ll be looking to you for signs of safety: 'Do you think we'll be okay if we aren't together?' First, validate: 'You really want to stay with me, don't you. I wish I could stay with you too! It's hard being away from your special people isn't it.' Then, be their brave. Let it be big enough to wrap around them so they can rest in the safety and strength of it: 'I know you can do this, love. We can do hard things can't we.'

Part of growing up brave is learning that the presence of anxiety doesn't always mean something is wrong. Sometimes it means they are on the edge of brave - and being away from you for a while counts as brave.
Even the most loving, emotionally available adult might feel frustration, anger, helplessness or distress in response to a child’s big feelings. This is how it’s meant to work. 

Their distress (fight/flight) will raise distress in us. The purpose is to move us to protect or support or them, but of course it doesn’t always work this way. When their big feelings recruit ours it can drive us more to fight (anger, blame), or to flee (avoid, ignore, separate them from us) which can steal our capacity to support them. It will happen to all of us from time to time. 

Kids and teens can’t learn to manage big feelings on their own until they’ve done it plenty of times with a calm, loving adult. This is where co-regulation comes in. It helps build the vital neural pathways between big feelings and calm. They can’t build those pathways on their own. 

It’s like driving a car. We can tell them how to drive as much as we like, but ‘talking about’ won’t mean they’re ready to hit the road by themselves. Instead we sit with them in the front seat for hours, driving ‘with’ until they can do it on their own. Feelings are the same. We feel ‘with’, over and over, until they can do it on their own. 

What can help is pausing for a moment to see the behaviour for what it is - a call for support. It’s NOT bad behaviour or bad parenting. It’s not that.

Our own feelings can give us a clue to what our children are feeling. It’s a normal, healthy, adaptive way for them to share an emotional load they weren’t meant to carry on their own. Self-regulation makes space for us to hold those feelings with them until those big feelings ease. 

Self-regulation can happen in micro moments. First, see the feelings or behaviour for what it is - a call for support. Then breathe. This will calm your nervous system, so you can calm theirs. In the same way we will catch their distress, they will also catch ours - but they can also catch our calm. Breathe, validate, and be ‘with’. And you don’t need to do more than that.

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