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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Anxiety is a sign that the brain has registered threat and is mobilising the body to get to safety. One of the ways it does this is by organising the body for movement - to fight the danger or flee the danger. 

If there is no need or no opportunity for movement, that fight or flight fuel will still be looking for expression. This can come out as wriggly, fidgety, hyperactive behaviour. This is why any of us might pace or struggle to sit still when we’re anxious. 

If kids or teens are bouncing around, wriggling in their chairs, or having trouble sitting still, it could be anxiety. Remember with anxiety, it’s not about what is actually safe but about what the brain perceives. New or challenging work, doing something unfamiliar, too much going on, a tired or hungry body, anything that comes with any chance of judgement, failure, humiliation can all throw the brain into fight or flight.

When this happens, the body might feel busy, activated, restless. This in itself can drive even more anxiety in kids or teens. Any of us can struggle when we don’t feel comfortable in our own bodies. 

Anxiety is energy with nowhere to go. To move through anxiety, give the energy somewhere to go - a fast walk, a run, a whole-body shake, hula hooping, kicking a ball - any movement that spends the energy will help bring the brain and body back to calm.♥️
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#parenting #anxietyinkids #childanxiety #parenting #parent
This is not bad behaviour. It’s big behaviour a from a brain that has registered threat and is working hard to feel safe again. 

‘Threat’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what the brain perceives. The brain can perceive threat when there is any chance missing out on or messing up something important, anything that feels unfamiliar, hard, or challenging, feeling misunderstood, thinking you might be angry or disappointed with them, being separated from you, being hungry or tired, anything that pushes against their sensory needs - so many things. 

During anxiety, the amygdala in the brain is switched to high volume, so other big feelings will be too. This might look like tears, sadness, or anger. 

Big feelings have a good reason for being there. The amygdala has the very important job of keeping us safe, and it does this beautifully, but not always with grace. One of the ways the amygdala keeps us safe is by calling on big feelings to recruit social support. When big feelings happen, people notice. They might not always notice the way we want to be noticed, but we are noticed. This increases our chances of safety. 

Of course, kids and teens still need our guidance and leadership and the conversations that grow them, but not during the emotional storm. They just won’t hear you anyway because their brain is too busy trying to get back to safety. In that moment, they don’t want to be fixed or ‘grown’. They want to feel seen, safe and heard. 

During the storm, preserve your connection with them as much as you can. You might not always be able to do this, and that’s okay. None of this is about perfection. If you have a rupture, repair it as soon as you can. Then, when their brains and bodies come back to calm, this is the time for the conversations that will grow them. 

Rather than, ‘What consequences do they need to do better?’, shift to, ‘What support do they need to do better?’ The greatest support will come from you in a way they can receive: ‘What happened?’ ‘What can you do differently next time?’ ‘You’re the most wonderful kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen. How can you put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
Big behaviour is a sign of a nervous system in distress. Before anything, that vulnerable nervous system needs to be brought back home to felt safety. 

This will happen most powerfully with relationship and connection. Breathe and be with. Let them know you get it. This can happen with words or nonverbals. It’s about feeling what they feel, but staying regulated.

If they want space, give them space but stay in emotional proximity, ‘Ok I’m just going to stay over here. I’m right here if you need.’

If they’re using spicy words to make sure there is no confusion about how they feel about you right now, flag the behaviour, then make your intent clear, ‘I know how upset you are and I want to understand more about what’s happening for you. I’m not going to do this while you’re speaking to me like this. You can still be mad, but you need to be respectful. I’m here for you.’

Think of how you would respond if a friend was telling you about something that upset her. You wouldn’t tell her to calm down, or try to fix her (she’s not broken), or talk to her about her behaviour. You would just be there. You would ‘drop an anchor’ and steady those rough seas around her until she feels okay enough again. Along the way you would be doing things that let her know your intent to support her. You’d do this with you facial expressions, your voice, your body, your posture. You’d feel her feels, and she’d feel you ‘getting her’. It’s about letting her know that you understand what she’s feeling, even if you don’t understand why (or agree with why). 

It’s the same for our children. As their important big people, they also need leadership. The time for this is after the storm has passed, when their brains and bodies feel safe and calm. Because of your relationship, connection and their felt sense of safety, you will have access to their ‘thinking brain’. This is the time for those meaningful conversations: 
- ‘What happened?’
- ‘What did I do that helped/ didn’t help?’
- ‘What can you do differently next time?’
- ‘You’re a great kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen, but here we are. What can you do to put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
As children grow, and especially by adolescence, we have the illusion of control but whether or not we have any real influence will be up to them. The temptation to control our children will always come from a place of love. Fear will likely have a heavy hand in there too. When they fall, we’ll feel it. Sometimes it will feel like an ache in our core. Sometimes it will feel like failure or guilt, or anger. We might wish we could have stopped them, pushed a little harder, warned a little bigger, stood a little closer. We’re parents and we’re human and it’s what this parenting thing does. It makes fear and anxiety billow around us like lost smoke, too easily.

Remember, they want you to be proud of them, and they want to do the right thing. When they feel your curiosity over judgement, and the safety of you over shame, it will be easier for them to open up to you. Nobody will guide them better than you because nobody will care more about where they land. They know this, but the magic happens when they also know that you are safe and that you will hold them, their needs, their opinions and feelings with strong, gentle, loving hands, no matter what.♥️
Anger is the ‘fight’ part of the fight or flight response. It has important work to do. Anger never exists on its own. It exists to hold other more vulnerable emotions in a way that feels safer. It’s sometimes feels easier, safer, more acceptable, stronger to feel the ‘big’ that comes with anger, than the vulnerability that comes with anxiety, sadness, loneliness. This isn’t deliberate. It’s just another way our bodies and brains try to keep us safe. 

The problem isn’t the anger. The problem is the behaviour that can come with the anger. Let there be no limits on thoughts and feelings, only behaviour. When children are angry, as long as they are safe and others are safe, we don’t need to fix their anger. They aren’t broken. Instead, drop the anchor: as much as you can - and this won’t always be easy - be a calm, steadying, loving presence to help bring their nervous systems back home to calm. 

Then, when they are truly calm, and with love and leadership, have the conversations that will grow them - 
- What happened? 
- What can you do differently next time?
- You’re a really great kid. I know you didn’t want this to happen but here we are. How can you make things right. Would you like some ideas? Do you need some help with that?
- What did I do that helped? What did I do that didn’t help? Is there something that might feel more helpful next time?

When their behaviour falls short of ‘adorable’, rather than asking ‘What consequences they need to do better?’ let the question be, ‘What support do they need to do better.’ Often, the biggest support will be a conversation with you, and that will be enough.♥️
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#parenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparenting #anxietyinkids

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