"A father's contribution to his children is primarily a measure of how much he adores their mother. "

The Self Esteem Monster

Question

It seems lately I'm constantly trying to undo the last 10 years worth of damage that I've created. I take full responsibility for that but the question is always how. My daughters 12 and 9 have received over the top praise for the littlest thing these past years so as to preserve their self esteem. Now I'm constantly bombarded with questions like "Isn't my piano playing fantastic?" "Don't I look beautiful?" "Isn't my poem amazing?". If they don't receive the proper amount of high praise (in their opinion) the meltdown starts. I've read quite a few of John's books and am trying to tone down the attention. How do I give them some constructive criticism without crushing their creativity?

Answer

Thank you for your question. The answer is simple, make the consequences for the melt downs aka temper tantrums so egregious they will use their own reasoning to change. This will not be a quick fix because your daughters have been taught to interact in this manner. I might even tell them moving forward, I will respond to only one of their praise seeking questions each day. Describe to them their behavior you have noticed in the past when they do not get the response they desire and how you will address it.

Most important for you will be to stop making yourself in charge of their self esteem and position yourself as a parent leader. Gain an understanding of how your focus on this issue has allowed your 12 year old to resort to temper tantrums when she does not get her way and believe that this is not helping her to grow into a responsible adult. The correction time will probably be longer than you want, however, I can guarantee you that the results will help all of you develop a more solid sense of who you are.

Gretchen Slover, Psy.D., LMFT
drgretchenslover@gmail.com

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