I’m putting together an online course to help children boost their self-confidence and I’m currently working on a section about ‘Self-Love’. It’s been on my mind a lot, and its so important, I thought I’d share some helpful tools for parents, to help their children.
Before I summarize the tips below (at the bottom) I think its’ important to understand that when you don’t love yourself you can make yourself miserable. I don’t think confidence is really possible without some form or self love, self love is about accepting who you are – the good and the bad. Its about knowing that none of us are perfect; without self-love, you could spend the rest of your life comparing yourself to others, and/or giving yourself a hard time.
I was coaching a teenager last year, a 16 year old male, who was very very hard on himself. He was beating himself up in his head, over and over, for everything he had done wrong. He thought that his attitude came from rugby, he thought he needed to be hard on himself because he wanted to be the best, and anything less wasn’t good enough. He told me that he would get shouted at for making mistakes during a match, and then in his head, he’d repeat it… having a go at himself, telling himself ‘that was a stupid mistake’, ‘you idiot’ etc.
I explained that he could re-wire his thoughts, and that instead of having a go at himself, he can use his thoughts to take action and motivate himself to drive forward and be the best he can be. He had also fallen out with a close friend and was torturing himself over it. Here are some examples of how to change your thinking.
Example 1 : Sports
You’ve made a mistake during a match – instead of beating yourself up and dwelling on it and making yourself feel bad, you take action; you say ‘What can I do to make sure I don’t make that mistake again…’, practice more, go over that move in your head over and over, with the right outcome, learning from the mistake.
Example 2 : Relationships
You’ve unintentionally upset a friend who is not talking to you now. You feel awful every time you think about it, its driving you mad and making you feel so bad about yourself. You’ve really hurt this person you care about. You’re beating yourself up, when you never intended to hurt them. So you take action, write them a letter or go knock on their door, have a chat, apologize and explain. Do what you can to make it right, and even if they don’t accept what you say, you’ve tried your best and it wasn’t intentional. You remind yourself you’re a good person, everyone makes mistake. You try to learn something from the situation.
This young guy, also told me that he constantly compares himself to others, all the time, in his head. I know this is a huge part of the teenage years. Your peers are your whole world at that age. I taught him the ACT technique which is notice it (or catch the thought), name it (In this case ‘Comparing’) and neutralize it (let it go, don’t get caught up in it, don’t hold onto the comparison and let the conversation continue in your head).
My own 2 girls age 7 and 8 recently admitted to me that they ‘give out’ to themselves in their heads. When I asked my girls individually when it happens; the 7 year old said ‘When I know I’ve done something wrong or you’ve given out to me’ typically I think its when she’s been mean to her brother or sister, the guilt sets in and she usually ends up in tears. I told her to listen to her inner self, her deep down inside voice – it knows what the right thing is to do.. and if you do the wrong thing, say sorry quickly, and do your best make it better. Most importantly learn from the mistake and don’t do it again. One step further would be to stop and listen to that deep down voice, before you do the wrong thing. We’ll see how it goes….
My 8 year old admitted to me; ‘when I can’t do something, I say to myself ‘you’re stupid’ or ‘you can’t do it’ or ‘you’re no good at that’. We talked about catching these thoughts and naming them. Saying to yourself ‘Oh look what I’m thinking, I’m being hard on myself’. And then letting them go.. and changing these thoughts to be more like what your best friend would say. Something like ‘I can do it’, ‘its okay, keep trying’.
So here are my top tips to teach our Kids and Teens self-love:
- Saying I love me; Saying ‘I love me’ or ‘I love myself’ regularly either quietly or out loud in front of the mirror if possible.
- Being kind to yourself – in your head imagine that voice (which can be mean) – can also be like your best friend. Make sure you listen to the best friend, kind voice which is encouraging and helpful.
- Angel to help – For young kids you can say that the best friend, kind voice comes from the invisible angel on your right hand shoulder, who is kind and loving, and the nasty voice comes from the rascal of a devil on the left. (I say ‘rascal’ so they are not frightened, I say he tricks you to believe things that may not be true). You try to get them to listen more to the angel who wants them to be happy. And lower the volume on that rascal of the devil and not listen to him.
- Motivate – You can use that voice to motivate yourself too – ‘I can do it’. ‘Keep going’, ‘I’m doing great’ ‘I’m nearly done’ etc.
- Guilt – This is for Parents and Children: If you have done something that you feel guilty about, take action, don’t dwell on it. Take the action that deep down inside you know you should take, and then move on. Let the thoughts go. If you keep thinking of it, catch your thoughts and name them ‘Oh look I’m feeling guilty again’ and let it pass, try to separate yourself from them.
- Comparisons – obviously we are all unique and special. However, there are 6 billion people in the world there will probably always be people who are better than us at things, or have more stuff than us, or be taller, slimmer, better looking… whatever it is. To love yourself and accept yourself for who you are is saying ‘I know I’m not perfect, I know I don’t have everything I want, but I’m okay with that.’
- Role Model – As parents if we want our children to be like this, (not comparing themselves and not wanting everything) we really have to be like this ourselves. They are a smaller version of us – we mold them! To find peace is to know that you can live without being perfect and without getting everything you want. I might not look the way I’d like to, or have all that my heart desires but I am at peace with it. I can live with not being perfect. I can keep trying to be the best person I can, to be honest, open, friendly, kind, listen to myself, follow my own dreams, speak up when I feel it’s right – and allow my inner beauty to shine through.
- Authentic self – Show them they don’t have to pretend to be someone they’re not. Your closest relationships will be with the people who accept you, for you. Ultimately those who allow their true authentic self to shine through – are the most attractive people we know, the ones we want to be around. No matter what they look like or what they have. And research shows the happiest people in the world are those with close meaningful relationships where they can be themselves. Being authentic is when what you say, what you think and what you do are all the same…
- Own Opinion – Finally teach your child or teen; that their own opinion of them self, is the most important opinion in the world. No one else’s opinion is as important. Make sure that opinion is a good one. Focus on all the good things. You can always rely on yourself, to pick yourself up and say encouraging things. But it takes practice, so keep at it.
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Caoimhe O’Grady Tegart
Child and Teen Life Coach
The Confidence Clinic