Many of us do, without realizing it, of course.
We're trying to be helpful, to be supportive...but then it backfires.
1. They communicate in a way that teaches external motivation. For example, when they use generic praise such as "good job” (which teaches kids external motivation/to please others).
Instead parents can: use encouragement which focuses on effort such as “I’m proud of how hard you tried,” (which teaches kids internal motivation / self-acceptance).
2. They do things for their kids instead of allowing kids to do for themselves. This starts as early as toddlerhood and preschool years. When kids could be making a peanut butter sandwich with the parent (even though it takes longer and makes a mess) and the parent is always doing for them, they learn they are passive participants in life. Moving onto school-age when parents nag their kids about their homework or even do their homework for them, which robs them of the data they need to know they can do it themselves. Likewise, into college where the most extreme examples include having someone else write their child’s essay or even worse, as we’ve seen, lying and cheating to get their kids into designer colleges instead of accepting their kids’ natural placement.
Instead parents can: provide many opportunities for kids to do things themselves, whenever possible, it’s more often the case that it’s much better for a child to do almost everything on their own, assuming it doesn’t impede with their safety and it’s age appropriate.
3. They say unflattering things about themselves in front of their children. Children internalize negative talk that parents have about themselves. For example, when a mother looks in the mirror and complains about how she’s overweight or doesn’t like her chin, and the child is told that he looks like his mother this becomes internalized in the child.
4. They allow media messages to infiltrate their home. Beauty or workout magazines tell almost all children (especially teens and pre-teens) that they are not good enough as they are. Commercials on YouTube or pop up ads are designed to make us feel bad about ourselves so we will buy their product and kids are much more susceptible to this than we adults.
Instead parents can: leave their magazines at the office; pay to not have ads on YouTube (easy to do); and monitor media closely.
5. Lastly, one of the most important ways for parents to teach their child self-acceptance is to work on their own self-acceptance. When a parent slips and says something negative about themselves in front of their child, as soon as a parent realizes they did this, they can tell their child that they are working on loving themselves better and this was an example of negative thinking they are working to change.