I Told My Kid He Needs to Love Himself
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Ok, so parenting has a lot of tough moments. Some parents have more of those moments than others. But what do you say when your kid asks you, “Why would anyone want to be friends with me? I’m not good enough. I’m not smart enough. I’m not good at anything.” Some people would have started listing off their child’s best qualities, but parents are always their children’s biggest fans.
Instead, I said, “I don’t know, why would anyone want to be friends with you?” Before you jump down my throat or judge me, wait for the rest. I followed it up with, “Why are you friends with your friends? Why does any human have a relationship with another human being? It’s not because they’re sports pros or mathematicians. Not because they’re a virtuoso or really great at chemistry. The reason why you’re friends with someone is because you have things in common. You click. There’s an unspoken bond. We can’t even explain it sometimes.”
“But… before anyone can love you, you have to love yourself.”
Parenting Advice on Being Good Enough
At that moment, my heart was breaking. Why did my son define himself by what he was or wasn’t good at? Why did he think that he wasn’t “good enough?” Why did he define himself by grades and his mastery of academics? Was this something I did? Sure, I wanted him to do well, but I don’t think I ever associated the mastery of tasks with being worthy of love.
So then, how did this happen?
I was his cheerleader and his confidant. I supported him when he needed it and was a motivator when things were tough. Still, he felt this way.
Did I fail as a parent?
What is Good Enough?
I had to start the discussion. Let’s talk about what “good enough” is. It’s a fantastic question. I don’t think there’s a definition. I find it impossible to say that someone is unworthy of love and friendship. If I don’t like someone, it doesn’t mean they should be ostracized from society.
So then, does “good enough” vary per friend group? Is there such a thing? Maybe not. People don’t get into relationships based on another’s accomplishments. At least not people who want caring relationships.
Self-Esteem and Self-Love
Self-esteem and self-love are often the butts of jokes, but why? Perhaps because it’s such a sensitive subject. Most people have deficits in both of those areas. These two qualities are so vital for happiness, but they are rarely emphasized.
More importantly, these qualities foster good relationships and make you a fantastic friend. A self-deprecating joke now and again can be funny, but no one feels good when someone is always down on themselves. It’s hard to watch; no one who cares about you wants you to feel that way.
Stop Living to Please Others
As I sat down on his bed, I told him he needed to stop living to please others. When you love yourself, the rest will follow. It won’t matter how happy others are if you’re doing things that don’t make you happy or stress you out. You’ll never enjoy it. Don’t mistake being “special” for being happy, either.
Parenting is Complicated
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but parenting is complicated. How do you become a good parent? How do you mold happy, confident, loving children? Using positive parenting helps, but you soon realize the world raises your children too.
When my son was diagnosed with depression about 6 years ago, I was shocked. He didn’t seem depressed. He just seemed like a regular kid. But then, I started to realize that a lot of regular kids are depressed.
Parents often think that their child couldn’t be depressed or that kids don’t get depressed. It’s simply not true. Anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses don’t just affect adults.
Keep an Open Dialogue
My best advice? Do your best, and keep an open dialogue. No one is perfect, but your kids should feel like they can talk to you about anything. And truly, I mean anything from sexuality to anxiety and depression to experimenting with drugs.
Your kids need to feel like you hear them and support them. They need a judgment-free zone to be who they are and explore. They need to mess up, figure it out, change their minds, and choose for themselves. Standing back and watching is hard, but they’ll come to you.
My kids tell me so many things because they feel safe telling me. We talk about KPOP, drugs, relationships, and student loans; you name it. My daughter is an over-sharer, but I stay quiet and listen. I get to know and learn so much about my children every day. I’m glad they include me.
Offer Help and Empower Them
Listening is good, but sometimes you have to offer help and empower your children too. That means taking things seriously when they do and teaching them to advocate for themselves.
Know when to ask, “Do you want to talk to someone” or “Would you like to see a doctor?” Offer resources for whatever their concern may be. Over the years, I’ve offered tutors, days home from school, therapists, a sweet indulgence, or whatever may have been appropriate.
I may feel like a bad mom some days, but my kids silently remind me of what I did right every day.
If you or someone you know are having thoughts of suicide or is in distress or crisis, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 998.