How to Help a Child Who is Acting Out Because of a Negative Self Image

When a child is acting out or showing oppositional behavior there may be so many reasons it seems inexplicable.  Consider the fact  there are literally hundreds of opportunities for a child to misinterpret life in a way that overcomes his / her self-image and continues to haunt the child through life unless there is an intervention of some kind.

A common example of such a misinterpretation can be when parents get divorced.  What happened was the adults fell out of love or realized they wanted to separate.  In the child’s mind it may look like this – if I had only been a better person and did a better job cleaning my room, or picking up my toys, mom and dad wouldn’t have fought so much and would still be together.  The child may imagine, in his own mind, that he is bad and people leave him because of this.

Another example of this faulty reasoning might be an episode where the parents drop off the child with a relative for an uncomfortable (for the child) amount of time.  Perhaps the parents feel they need a vacation or might need to tend to some business matter, and decide it would be easier for the child to be minded by a sitter.  The child may conceive his parents don’t love him and people want to get rid of him.  With this sort of tendency toward faulty interpretation, there are too many opportunities for the child to attach a negative meaning to the situation which begins a downward spiral of self-esteem issues.

The process of diminished self-esteem does not stop at such an initial decision regarding the child’s value.  The child, armed with the belief that he is not good enough, now scans for additional situations that may serve as more evidence to reinforce this initial thought of being flawed.  Here is where the child reinforces this idea of unworthiness by further interpreting life events to prove the fact that he is defective and therefore unwanted.

After years of accumulating such evidence, a child’s self-image deteriorates further with every episode.  Before long, there is no doubt in the child’s mind there is something wrong with him.  After all, he has created a self-fulfilling prophesy to cement this belief.

As a parent, it is imperative you recognize the underlying reasons for your child’s acting out.  The examples given above are just some, and it is up to you, the parent, to try to trace back the causes.  If you are unable, get professional help or have the school counselor help address the issues.

You can do much to support your child and help him to feel positively about himself.  You can re-direct your child’s self-image.  You can continually reinforce the concept that no one is perfect, and all one can do, is do their best.  You can be a source of unconditional love, supporting the child at every opportunity, and encouraging him to see himself as worthy of abundance, love, and trust.  You can make sure your child understands that you, as the parent, might not always agree with your child’s behavior.  However, you can continually reinforce that everyone makes mistakes, and life is a process of learning and growing.  Children need to understand that just because they’ve make a mistake, and you as parent don’t approve of the behavior, it does not affect your love for your child.  You can use your own personal examples of difficulties and how you surmounted them.  No matter what mistakes the child makes, he or she must realize they are always inherently good, lovable, and worthy.  That is your most important job!

Please watch for weekly blogs and if you have an issue you’d like addressed, I’ll try to respond in upcoming blogs or the newsletter.


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