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 shows up to check that you’re okay, not to tell you that you’re not. It’s your brain’s way of saying, ‘Not sure - there might be some trouble here, but there might not be, but just in case you should be ready for it if it comes, which it might not – but just in case you’d better be ready to run or fight – but it might be totally fine.’ Brains can be so confusing sometimes! 

You have a brain that is strong, healthy and hardworking. It’s magnificent and it’s doing a brilliant job of doing exactly what brains are meant to do – keep you alive. 

Your brain is fabulous, but it needs you to be the boss. Here’s how. When you feel anxious, ask yourself two questions:

- ‘Do I feel like this because I’m in danger or because there’s something brave or important I need to do?’

- Then, ‘Is this a time for me to be safe (sometimes it might be) or is this a time for me to be brave?

And remember, you will always have ‘brave’ in you, and anxiety doesn’t change that a bit.♥️

#positiveparenting #mindfulparenting #parenting #childanxiety #heywarrior #heywarriorbook
The temptation to fix their big feelings can be seismic. Often this is connected to needing to ease our own discomfort at their discomfort, which is so very normal.

Big feelings in them are meant to raise (sometimes big) feelings in us. This is all a healthy part of the attachment system. It happens to mobilise us to respond to their distress, or to protect them if their distress is in response to danger.

Emotion is energy in motion. We don’t want to bury it, stop it, smother it, and we don’t need to fix it. What we need to do is make a safe passage for it to move through them. 

Think of emotion like a river. Our job is to hold the ground strong and steady at the banks so the river can move safely, without bursting the banks.

However hard that river is racing, they need to know we can be with the river (the emotion), be with them, and handle it. This might feel or look like you aren’t doing anything, but actually it’s everything.

The safety that comes from you being the strong, steady presence that can lovingly contain their big feelings will let the emotional energy move through them and bring the brain back to calm.

Eventually, when they have lots of experience of us doing this with them, they will learn to do it for themselves, but that will take time and experience. The experience happens every time you hold them steady through their feelings. 

This doesn’t mean ignoring big behaviour. For them, this can feel too much like bursting through the banks, which won’t feel safe. Sometimes you might need to recall the boundary and let them know where the edges are, while at the same time letting them see that you can handle the big of the feeling. Its about loving and leading all at once. ‘It’s okay to be angry. It’s not okay to use those words at me.’

Ultimately, big feelings are a call for support. Sometimes support looks like breathing and being with. Sometimes it looks like showing them you can hold the boundary, even when they feel like they’re about to burst through it. And if they’re using spicy words to get us to back off, it might look like respecting their need for space but staying in reaching distance, ‘Ok, I’m right here whenever you need.’♥️
We all need certain things to feel safe enough to put ourselves into the world. Kids with anxiety have magic in them, every one of them, but until they have a felt sense of safety, it will often stay hidden.

‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what they feel. At school, they might have the safest, most loving teacher in the safest, most loving school. This doesn’t mean they will feel enough relational safety straight away that will make it easier for them to do hard things. They can still do those hard things, but those things are going to feel bigger for a while. This is where they’ll need us and their other anchor adult to be patient, gentle, and persistent.

Children aren’t meant to feel safe with and take the lead from every adult. It’s not the adult’s role that makes the difference, but their relationship with the child.

Children are no different to us. Just because an adult tells them they’ll be okay, it doesn’t mean they’ll feel it or believe it. What they need is to be given time to actually experience the person as being safe, supportive and ready to catch them.

Relationship is key. The need for safety through relationship isn’t an ‘anxiety thing’. It’s a ‘human thing’. When we feel closer to the people around us, we can rise above the mountains in our way. When we feel someone really caring about us, we’re more likely to open up to their influence
and learn from them.

But we have to be patient. Even for teachers with big hearts and who undertand the importance of attachment relationships, it can take time.

Any adult at school can play an important part in helping a child feel safe – as long as that adult is loving, warm, and willing to do the work to connect with that child. It might be the librarian, the counsellor, the office person, a teacher aide. It doesn’t matter who, as long as it is someone who can be available for that child at dropoff or when feelings get big during the day and do little check-ins along the way.

A teacher, or any important adult can make a lasting difference by asking, ‘How do I build my relationship with this child so s/he trusts me when I say, ‘I’ve got you, and I know you can do this.’♥️
There is a beautiful ‘everythingness’ in all of us. The key to living well is being able to live flexibly and more deliberately between our edges.

So often though, the ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’ we inhale in childhood and as we grow, lead us to abandon some of those precious, needed parts of us. ‘Don’t be angry/ selfish/ shy/ rude. She’s not a maths person.’ ‘Don’t argue.’ Ugh.

Let’s make sure our children don’t cancel parts of themselves. They are everything, but not always all at once. They can be anxious and brave. Strong and soft. Angry and calm. Big and small. Generous and self-ish. Some things they will find hard, and they can do hard things. None of these are wrong ways to be. What trips us up is rigidity, and only ever responding from one side of who we can be.

We all have extremes or parts we favour. This is what makes up the beautiful, complex, individuality of us. We don’t need to change this, but the more we can open our children to the possibility in them, the more options they will have in responding to challenges, the everyday, people, and the world. 

We can do this by validating their ‘is’ without needing them to be different for a while in the moment, and also speaking to the other parts of them when we can. 

‘Yes maths is hard, and I know you can do hard things. How can I help?’

‘I can see how anxious you feel. That’s so okay. I also know you have brave in you.’

‘I love your ‘big’ and the way you make us laugh. You light up the room.’ And then at other times: ‘It can be hard being in a room with new people can’t it. It’s okay to be quiet. I could see you taking it all in.’

‘It’s okay to want space from people. Sometimes you just want your things and yourself for yourself, hey. I feel like that sometimes too. I love the way you know when you need this.’ And then at other times, ‘You looked like you loved being with your friends today. I loved watching you share.’

The are everything, but not all at once. Our job is to help them live flexibly and more deliberately between the full range of who they are and who they can be: anxious/brave; kind/self-ish; focussed inward/outward; angry/calm. This will take time, and there is no hurry.♥️

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