Your child's self-esteem will suffer if you don't tame your negativity.

The Effects of Negative Reinforcements on Self-Esteem

by Melissa Willets

Every parent has to say the word "no" to a child. After all, this little word has a big impact on keeping kids safe and teaching them right from wrong. But as Dr. Sears points out on, a parenting plan structured solely around negative reinforcements has another negative effect: low self-esteem. Just think about how you feel when your boss at work constantly shoots down your ideas. The good news is that you can shape the way you interact with your children to actually bolster their confidence, improve their chances of demonstrating good behavior and of growing up happy and well-adjusted.

Expect the Best

Let your child know that you expect him to be good and that you believe he can be. These positive messages will do wonders to boost self-confidence while achieving your desired result: a well-behaved child. Dr. Sears reminds parents that a child's self-esteem has a lot to do with his ability to behave. Say, for example, your child is playing with his food rather than eating in a restaurant. Tell him to finish his dinner in a firm voice with an expression that says, "I am not mad at you, but I need you to behave." Your demeanor should effectively communicate to your child what is expected of him without shaming him. On the other hand, angrily scolding for toying with his meal may elicit feelings of embarrassment. Resentment could follow, which equals the creation of a bigger scene than you bargained for.

Weigh Your Words

In addition to how you say things, it also matters what you say. As noted on, using belittling words in speaking to your child can damage self-esteem. Suppose your child is singing a song over and over again as loudly as he can. "You are so annoying!" is an example of a statement that could hurt your child and likely won't inspire him to change the behavior that is bugging you. Instead, ask something like, "Can I hear another song?" Alternately, distract your dear one with an activity or tell him he has to stop once you've counted to ten.

Praise Good Behavior

If your little one hits her brother, obviously you will reprimand her. But don't forget to recognize good behavior as well, reminds So if your daughter cleans up her toys without being asked, say "I really appreciate what you've done." By balancing positive reinforcements with effective discipline, you are helping to hone your child's self-confidence. After all, if you only point out what she is doing wrong, your child may wonder if she ever does anything right. Clearly this kind of self-doubt is detrimental in building self-esteem.

Model Positivity

Kids look to their parents as examples of not only how to behave but how they should feel about themselves, according to Dr. Sears. For instance, if you sit at the dinner table and call yourself fat, your child may grow up thinking she should feel bad about her body too. On the flip side, showing that you feel good about yourself has a positive effect on your child. Make sure she sees you exercise and hears you say good things about yourself, like, "Mommy did a great job at work today!" From how you treat your spouse to how you interact with random people at the market, you have the opportunity to reinforce positive messages to your munchkin. By doing so, be assured you are helping to pump up your pewee's self-worth.

About the Author

Melissa Willets has been writing about parenting, pregnancy and "all things mom" since 2009. She has contributed to many websites, including and

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