22 Ways To Ruin Your Child's Confidence
Updated: Nov 28, 2022
(Avoid these common pitfalls and your kids will thrive...seriously!)
**Do you prefer to listen to this in audio form? If so, tap here**
One day Alex Hormozi released a podcast episode titled, “The 28 Ways To Stay Poor.”
The title immediately caught my attention.
“Why would someone want to learn how to remain poor?” I thought.
Well, turns out people want to learn how to remain poor for the same reasons people want to learn what not to do when working to accomplish a goal.
This way of thinking provides insights into why something would fail, which allows you to see the pitfalls and avoid them.
So I took that way of thinking and applied it to children's confidence.
What are some guaranteed ways to ruin your child's self-esteem?
If we are aware of these we likely will not fall into them… Right?
Only one way to find out:
Make them blatantly obvious by pointing them out.
With that said, what are the 22 ways to ruin your child's confidence?
1.) Tell Them To “Toughen Up” Every Time They Cry
Contrary to what you’ve been told, crying is not a sign of weakness.
According to recent studies… it's a sign of being human (there really is no study, it's just common sense.)
However, if you make somebody feel weak for crying, that can lead to a long-term fear of feeling their emotions. Why? Because they could be criticized if they do so.
This fear of feeling emotions creates deep insecurity in oneself because a fear to feel your emotions is a fear of being yourself.
Think about it, have you ever had trouble being your authentic self around other people?
If so, were you also criticized, laughed at, or punished for crying growing up?
One follows the other.
Building habits of “holding it in” and “being tough” amid intense emotional experiences will naturally result in a feeling of “insecurity” or lack of safety.
2.) Punish Them For Being Curious
As many of you know, I am not a parent, but I have been around enough children in my life to know they are some exponentially curious individuals.
They like to put dirt in their mouth, jump off of counters (or worse, a roof like me!), make loud noises, ask endless questions and just do some overall weird stuff, right?
It's natural, and many times we get punished for these kinds of things growing up.
For example, as a hypnotherapist, I once had a client revisit a childhood memory during a timeline therapy session and she had just gotten in trouble for asking a question.
She asked where her mother was, and then was met with “Kids don’t question adults."
This created a fear of asking, or being curious.
This then leads to the suppression of energy overall because you shut off the natural curiosity and expression that you were born with.
This again creates insecurities around being yourself, which is the opposite of confidence.
3.) Tell Them You Love Them “Because” They Did Something Great
Another common pitfall is attaching your love for your child to conditions.
Many parents unknowingly communicate this all of the time.
For example, you’re child get’s a good grade and you show them praise and even say things like, “You’re so smart, that’s why I love you.” To a child that can mean, “If I am not smart my mom will not love me.”
This naturally leads to a feeling of “not being good enough,” which as I’m sure you can agree, has a real damper on your confidence.
Tell your child you love them all of the time. Regardless of their results.
They are not their results. They are human beings who are worthy and loved by their nature, and we must communicate that to them.
The above example would be better if it went like this: “Amazing job! You’re so smart and I love you, and just know that even if you didn’t get a good grade, I would still love you.”
This small change can massively enrich their sense of confidence in themselves.
Let’s imagine they didn’t get a good grade though, how would you communicate that? It could be something like this: “It’s okay, you’re still so smart and you’ll do better next time, and I love you no matter what.”
Small adjustments, big differences
4.) Don’t Show Up To Their Important Events
Plays, sports games, graduations, talent shows, art displays, and other things like these mean the world to your children.
When I was a little boy I always looked in the crowd until I saw my mom's face, and I wasn’t “okay” until I did see her.
Some children look in the crowd for their parents but never see them, which can be heartbreaking to a child who depends so much on their parents for survival.
Not being present in your child’s life, especially during these big events, can result in them feeling like they are not important. These feelings of “not being important enough for my mom or dad's attention” can greatly impact a child's development.
In fact, according to a study done in 2016, children who lack a strong parental presence perform worse in nearly every area of life, especially in careers.
5.) Never Ask For Their Opinions On Things
Considering your child’s thoughts and feelings about everything is important, and allowing them to express them around certain decisions when appropriate can be extremely empowering for a child.
So when you never consider them, you disempower them, and this affects their sense of self-worth and value.
It makes them feel like what they have to say doesn't matter, which can lead to social anxiety, depression, and things like bullying as they grow up.
This is because a need goes unmet. We all have six key human needs and one of them is the need to feel significant, and when it goes unmet we tend to act out in order to meet it.
6.) Show Little Love, Warmth, And Affection To Them
Another way to ruin your child’s confidence is to show little to no love, warmth, and affection to them.
One of the deepest needs of a human is to feel loved. Being loved makes us feel safe.
This is why sometimes just picking your child up and hugging them can stop them from crying.
When a child does not have love or affection for long periods of time they grow up with a physical feeling of not feeling safe, which increases their chances of developing alexithymia, a condition described as having problems expressing and understanding emotions.
This also means physical touch. According to family therapist Clair Mellenthin, physical affection improves the brain development of a child as they grow in their early years.
7.) Focus On Pointing Out Things They Do “Wrong”
What better way to make your child feel insecure other than to point out every single thing they do “wrong” and criticize them for it?
According to an article written by Jari Roomer, we receive millions of bits of information per second, and to process all of it we have to filter it using our Reticular Activating System (RAS.)
And our RAS becomes the “lens” that we see life through, and we strengthen our RAS with our focus.
Therefore if you spend all of your time focused on what is “wrong” with your child and what needs to be fixed then you will train them to focus on fixing themselves.
Then they begin seeing the world through the lenses of “Something is wrong with me.”
Invariably leading to a huge downfall in their confidence and self-esteem.
Train their RAS for “I am good enough" and everything will change for them because it's how reality works.
8.) Force Them To Be Like “You.”
This tends to be one of those “hard truths” for a lot of parents.
With a little twist on Khalil Gibrans' lyrics, “They [your children] come through you, not for you.”
Better yet, they are not you.
They are unique individuals, bursts of energy that happen to come through you, like a beautiful song leaving a flute.
You cannot play beautiful music when you clog the holes in a flute. In the same way, you cannot raise confident children when you don’t allow them to be themselves and create their unique experiences.
Making them feel wrong for liking the things they do, thinking for them, and telling them how to live their life inevitably leads to them feeling wrong or guilty for having their desires -- which can only break down one’s confidence.
Your children aren't born to be a replica of your own wishes and desires.
You gave them wings, now let them use them.
9.) Be More Absent Than Present In Their Life
I hinted at this already with #4, but not being present in your child’s life has a real effect on their confidence.
Not being around to watch them, care for them, or pay attention to them will rob them of any real feelings of significance, making them feel insecure.
According to an article from Parents.com, children who grow up with an adult in their life to be present grow up to be more self-reliant and resilient, and resilience and self-confidence go hand and hand.
10.) Punish Them For Making Mistakes
Confident children try new things and have no trouble making attempts at acquiring new skills and taking on bigger opportunities.
Why? Because there is confidence there that no matter what, “I’ll be okay.”
When a child is hesitant, it can be a result of being punished for making mistakes to the point where they are so afraid to try new things because they are afraid they’d be met with punishment.
This naturally lowers their confidence and trust in themselves and their ability to bounce back and figure things out.
“Normalize failure,” I say, and celebrate the effort of discovering how to figure things out.
A worthy endeavor.
11.) Tell Them They Aren’t Good Enough And/Or They Are Stupid
This one seems obvious, but as a hypnotherapist that has used timeline therapy to help hundreds of people overcome insecurities, I’ve seen it countless numbers of times:
Kids being verbally abused by their parents and being called names like stupid, dumb, idiot, worthless, and much worse.
As children’s brains develop, they tend to accept just about any suggestion and take everything personally.
If you blatantly belittle your child then you are adding to their insecurities and taking away from their confidence.
Don’t project your stuff onto them. Because yes, all of the negative perceptions you have about your kids are only projections of yourself.
Show and communicate love always, even if you don't agree with their decisions.
12.) Tell Them “I Wish You Were More Like (XYZ)”
Comparing your children to others, even their sibling is a huge factor in them growing up insecure.
Comparison, as you know, leads to a feeling of “not being good enough,” and the need to be someone else.
The best thing you can do for them is to acknowledge their uniqueness and allow them to be who they are.
Saying things like, “I wish you were more like (xyz),” "Why can’t you be like your brother?” “Next time do it how your sister did it,” are all ways to make your child feel like they aren’t good enough just as they are, which is far from true.
13.) Don't Keep Your Promises To Them
Let’s be honest, sometimes our plans just don’t work out.
You may promise your children that you’re going to the park on Saturday only for it to rain all weekend, or you may promise them that you’ll be there to pick them up after school but have to stay late for work -- it happens.
But consistently and religiously failing to keep your promises to your children leads to them feeling they don’t matter or are not important enough to be prioritized and like their feelings don’t matter.
Keeping your word with your children doesn’t only strengthen their trust in you, but it strengthens their confidence in themselves because when they see that someone keeps their words to them, they feel a sense of significance, which is a core human need.
14.) Make Every Decision For Them
We all have our own minds for a reason -- to think for ourselves.
This means we can make our own decisions and take on our own responsibilities.
No kid is incapable of making their own decisions.
I know you have to make some decisions for them for some time, but you don't have to make every single one of them.
Whenever you do this you disempower them whether you know it or not.
When children have a sense of independence and responsibility it makes them feel empowered, and their brains release dopamine, serotonin endorphins, and oxytocin.
All of these chemicals are also correlated with leading to feelings of confidence, specifically serotonin, which is even known as the “confident chemical."
If you don't allow your children the expression of independent thought you will rob them of this experience.
15.) Always Try To Keep Them Safe And Protected From “Danger.”
No matter how good the intention, shielding your child from every possible danger will only lead to them being insecure.
First and foremost all of your fear is directly felt by your child due to mirror neurons, and this "trains" them to feel that way as well.
A child who grows up around chaotic nervous systems will develop a chaotic nervous system as well.
Secondly, you telepathically transfer over the belief that they are not safe and can’t protect themselves.
Which will, as you guessed it, lead to them feeling insecure.
Encourage your children to explore, let them fail, and let them fall and get scratched. It’s a part of the human experience.
All of this builds mental and emotional resilience.
Living for safety creates an insecure life because it stems from a belief that you aren’t safe, to begin with.
Remember this, secure people don't walk around trying to protect themselves from the world.
16.) Demonstrate Insecure Behaviors Yourself
As mentioned above, we have these things called “Mirror neurons,” in our brains.
These mirror neurons cause us to model those around us, which is how every child learns their first behaviors and mental models.
We observe our environment and learn directly from the person who is caring for us and those whom we spend a lot of time with.
If your child sees you act timidly, shy, and too scared to go after what they want then the child learns that too.
On the other end, if a child watches their parents express and model confident behavior, the child will learn that.
And we know there is a lot of pressure as parents to always show up perfect, which is why we show kids how to build confidence through emotional intelligence and regulation inside Zamio.
Just know, that every emotion you feel as a parent will have an impact on your child, therefore learning how to self-regulate and remain secure is a key to raising confident children.
17.) Limit Your Social Interactions With Them
Another way to make your child feel insecure and like they aren’t good enough is to not talk and communicate with them a lot.
Just sitting there with them is not enough.
Talk with them, spark conversations and get into back-and-forth dialogue.
This helps them feel significant, which as we already know is a huge component of what it takes to be confident.
If you want them to feel like they aren’t important enough to talk to then be sure you’re always scrolling on your phone or doing something else when you’re around them.
18.) Set Little Or No Expectations For Their Behavior
Our children are not born to be “obedient” -- they are born to be explorers, but this does not mean you don’t set expectations for them.
Not setting any realistic and positive expectations for them makes a child feel like they are good enough to expect great things out of.
Simple things like, “I expect great things from you because I know you are great” can have a huge boost in the way a child feels about themselves because it changes the way they see themselves.
When you expect your child to be and do their best they will confident enough to be and do their best.
The image you hold of them will show up in how you treat them, so see them the best and expect great things.
19.) Keep “Love” Out Of The Picture When You Discipline Them
It is possible to discipline somebody with love.
For example, if they do something unacceptable you can help them learn a better response rather than punishing them with trouble.
But if all you do is punish them when it comes to discipline then you will begin creating patterns of them not feeling safe.
Safety is crucial for confidence.
When you feel safe, you go for the life you want, and when you don’t, well you don’t.
Discipline your children and do it with love.
I even wrote an entire blog article showing you how to do this without being a pushover,
20.) Fight And Argue In Front Of Them
Again, safety is the most important factor when it comes to raising children who feel secure in themselves, but it’s hard to feel safe and secure in a home filled with tension.
I remember the exact moment my mom left my dad. It was a huge fight and at that moment, at three years old, I felt so scared and unsafe.
I carried the feeling of not being safe for over twenty years from that point.
This isn’t an isolated event either, according to an article written by Melissa M. Stiles, M.D., children who witness domestic violence develop prolonged feelings of not being safe or secure.
21.) Hide Your Struggles & Failures From Them
As a parent, you are someone you’re children look up to for just about everything.
And when you are dishonest with them and hide your struggles and failure, you can put on this facade that may seem innocent, but energetically it affects your children and trains them to fear failure.
If you fear it, so will they until and if they learn to change that belief that failing is something to be ashamed about.
Sharing your struggles and failures with children and being okay about them teaches them that it’s okay to struggle and fail, which naturally leads to a deep conviction of security, and strengthens resilience.
22.) Do Any Of The Things On This List
And of course, if you do anything on this list then you are SURE to ruin your child’s confidence.
And I mean everything you do has a direct impact on your child's feelings towards the world and themselves.
You play a great role in their development and have a direct influence on their confidence whether you know it or not.
Now that you’re equipped with this, you can begin doing everything opposite of what’s on this list and you’ll be well on your way to raising super-confident children with high self-esteem.
And if you want your child to have all of the skills to feel secure, confident, and courageous in everything they do then check out this gamified program that they'll be sure to love.
Aside from that, remember that your child(ren) needs you to show up as powerfully as you possibly can, so this comes from doing the work on yourself, too.
I'm curious, what's one thing you will start doing differently as a result of reading this blog? I'd love to know, leave a reply below 👇