By: Shannon Ralph
“I’ll never be good enough,” Sophie says as she frowns at the musical notes on the page. “I’m just stupid.”
These are words that can cut straight to the heart of any parent. Words that feel like a punch in the stomach, and can instantly take your breath away. No parent wants their child to feel stupid. To feel inferior. To feel like anything less than the amazing little people we know them to be.
My eight-year-old daughter recently started taking piano lessons. By recently, I mean that she has had all of three lessons. And already she is ready to give us. She tells me daily that she can’t do it. That it is too hard, despite her teacher’s accolades about how quickly she seems to be picking it up. If she hits one wrong note when practicing, she is ready to throw in the towel. To call it quits.
Unfortunately, piano lessons are not the only arena in which Sophie is so incredibly hard on herself. Though all of the kids at school like her, she says, “I have no friends.” Though she gets near-perfect grades, she says, “I’m stupid.” Though she is every bit as bright as her twin brother, she says, “I’ll never be as smart as Nicky.” And though she plays beautifully for an eight-year-old child who has had a total of 1½ hours of piano instruction, she says, “I’ll never be good at this.”
“Never” has become her mantra, and those are heart-wrenching words to hear from a young child.
Children like Sophie struggle with a lethal combination of low self-esteem and perfectionism. They hold themselves to a standard that is unrealistic and unattainable, and they punish themselves when they fall short. These kids see temporary set-backs as permanent conditions. As completely intolerable conditions, and, as a result, they become pessimistic. Sullen, even. They cannot or will not believe that a situation will improve. These feelings can make it very difficult for children to deal with challenges and problems that arise as they grow and develop. The only way out, in their eyes, is to quit. To quit Girl Scouts. To quit gymnastics. To quit piano.
So what is a parent to do?
According to Kidshealth.org, there are several ways that parents can help to foster healthy self-esteem in their children:
As parents, we have a huge impact our children’s self-esteem. As they say in Marvel comics, “With great power comes great responsibility.” By using our influence in the right way, we can foster self-confidence in our children and help them grow into capable, resilient adults.
As for Sophie’s future as a concert pianist, well…that’s still up in the air.
Photo Credit: Steven Depolo
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Originally published on The Seattle Lesbian
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