You’re beautiful, my sister is beautiful, my brother is handsome, and I’m ugly…No, parent wants to hear their child utter such words. But this beautiful morning my 7-year-old son did.
I was taken aback by his statement. Why would he say such a thing? Who had told him he was ugly?
As a mom, my brain went on high alert.
How do I fix this? How do I convince him that he is not ugly?! Better yet, what child do I need to yell at for saying such a thing to my child?!
So I asked him,” Why do you think you’re ugly?”.
“Well mom my teeth are crooked and my face looks weird”, he said.
“Your face isn’t weird. You’ve got two eyes, a nose, a mouth, and two ears. And everybody’s teeth are crooked at this age. ” I replied.
It’s easy, for an adult, to tell a child not to worry about what other people think. Even though most adults are constantly worried about the same thing.
Sadly, we live in a world that constantly puts pressure on adults and children to be like someone else.
Yes, we are becoming more accepting of different body types, and skin tones, but at the same time still promoting an ideal of physical perfection.
When was the last time you’ve seen a model with acne or movie star with crooked teeth? (That wasn’t part of their character).
Perfect skin. Perfect hair. Everyone needs to have a boyfriend/girlfriend or some unrequited love.
Whether we realize it or not, our children feel the pressure to conform just as much as we do.
In a previous conversation my son told me he didn’t want to be alone.
He needed friends and a girlfriend.
I’m thinking to myself,” Where is he getting these ideas?”
I for one am not a fan of kids having boyfriends/girlfriends in elementary school.
Crushes, sure. But being in a committed relationship at 7 or 8. No, thank you. Let’s just be kids and have innocent fun.
But at the age of 7, he is already wrestling with the ideas of loneliness and what the ideal boy looks like.
And as far as he’s concerned it doesn’t look like him.
I don’t even remember being concerned with those things at that age. I don’t even think I started to really like boys until I was 10/11.
As you can see I jumped head first into this conversation. I will admit that there are plenty of things I should have done differently.
Here are my top 5 tips on what NOT to do when your child says they’re ugly or expresses any other kind of negative self talk for that matter:
1. Instantly Correct Their Negative Self-Talk
I think this is probably the hardest part for parents. Nobody, wants to hear their child talk negatively about themselves. Our first instinct is to jump in and reassure them that their negative perceptions are wrong.
However, this is the wrong way to solve this problem. Instantly, correcting their negative self talk sends a message to your child that how they feel is wrong and their perceptions of themselves (whether you believe it’s true or not) are not valid.
2. Take Over the Conversation
The instant my son shared his feelings with me, I began to take over the conversation. Telling him what he was and what he wasn’t. Providing justification why my opinion was right and he was wrong.
This is hard to do, but as parents sometimes we just need to keep our mouth shut. Instead of trying to talk, we should focus more on trying to listen.
Ask your child open ended questions about why they feel or think that way. Let them do the talking for a change.
3. Downplay Their Feelings
As grown up’s we know that children can and do overreact to things. However, that is not a valid reason to brush off or downplay what they are feeling.
In a time where more kids are committing suicide because of bullying and feeling isolated, we as parent’s can’t ignore out children’s emotions.
Children usually don’t come to their parents or adults about bullying and other harmful situations because they think that we will just brush them off or tell them to toughen up.
I know I have been guilty of this with my son, but I’m trying to do better.
4. Refuse To Share Your Own Stories
When your kids are small they believe that their parents are superheroes and most teenagers believe that their parents have never struggled with anything.
After you’ve listened and validated your child’s feelings, then it’s time to share your own stories. Our kids need to know that grown up’s struggle with or have struggled with the same issues that they face.
Low self-esteem was something I struggled with as a child and even as an adult I still struggle with it sometimes.
As I grew older I became more accepting of who I was and my body image. I could have shared my story with him, but I didn’t. I should have.
5. Forget To Lift Them Up
Now is the time to tell your child what you think of them and how you feel about them. Remind them of how great and awesome you think they are.
If you are a Christian provide your child with Biblically based affirmations.
My son decided to give his life to Christ when he was about 5.
As Christians, our self-worth and our self-esteem should be based on Christ not on the world’s standards.
…I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.Psalms 139:14
I reminded my son, of Psalms 139:14,”… I am fearfully and wonderfully made…”.
God has made each and every one of us unique. We are like a piece of art made by the almighty creator.
Some people will think it’s beautiful and some just won’t get it. But to God, we are beautiful. We are his masterpiece. The work of his hands.
As a parent, it’s hard to see your child struggling with these issues, but the best thing we can do is be there for our children.
Oh, and don’t forget to give them a big hug and a kiss ( if they’ll let you).
I would love to hear what other parents have to say about this issue. I have 3 more kids that I’m sure I’ll have to go through this with. So any advice is welcome.
If you can think of more tips or things that I could have done differently. Please share them in the comments below.
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Until Next Time,
The Crafty Afro