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Top 7 Ways for Building Up Your Child When You Feel Like a Parent Who is Always Saying No

Top 7 Ways for Building Up Your Child When You Feel Like a Parent Who is Always Saying No

My husband and I took our two-year-old twin boys and four-year-old daughter on vacation to two National parks in Colorado with friends this past week. We drove from the Dallas, TX area and during the day long journey. I realized I was saying “stop that”, “no”, and “don’t touch that” all day long. By the time we arrived at the first National Park, I was feeling like a crummy parent who only had negative responses for my kids that entire day. Having a PhD in psychology, I knew I could do a whole lot better. I needed to return to my tried and true methods of building up my children. Doing so, not only will help my children to not feel defeated, but also will help them to build positive self worth.

Many parents often feel bad for having to say “no” to their children all day long. You can begin to feel like your negative responses are making your child feel defeated. No good parent wants their child to feel defeated or grow up with low self esteem. We, as parents, can help our children to develop positive self esteem starting from the moment they are born. Below are my top 7 tips for building up your child, so they can develop positive self esteem and self worth.

1. Provide Positive Feedback That Is Legitimate

Children need positive affirmations. These affirmations need to be legitimate. Sometimes, parents have a tendency to praise their children with affirmations that aren’t legitimate. Making generalized statements such as “you are the most beautiful girl in the world” or “you are the smartest kid in the world” are not legitimate.

Kids are smart. Eventually your child will realize there are more beautiful and smarter kids in the world, or even right next door. When you say these sort of generalized statements, although well meaning, they become nebulous and make you out to be a liar. Kids need affirmations that are personalized to them and aren’t exaggerations or flat out lies.

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2. Criticize The Behavior, Not the Child

“You are a bad kid” is a terrible thing to say to any child. You may feel that they are acting like a bad kid because of their behavior, but they themselves are not “bad”. Telling them they are bad is like putting a stamp on them as a person that cannot be changed. Behavior can be changed though. Which is why parents need to focus on words and criticisms that are aimed at a specific behavior rather than the child.

Be specific about what behavior needs changing and talk about it immediately when it happens, not hours later. But again, be sure your message is that the behavior is undesirable and not them as a person.

3. Give Them Chores and Responsibilities

Children will feel good about themselves when they are able to complete chores and tasks. Feeling that they have responsibilities they can accomplish helps them gain positive self esteem. They find that they are worth something to the people around them when they can help. Don’t rob your children of this opportunity to build positive self worth by doing everything for them.

Small children can start taking out garbage, putting away toys, making beds, and more. The sooner you start giving them daily responsibilities, the better off they will be. They gain confidence when they are able to complete tasks, so allow them to do this and create opportunity for this by assigning chores and duties to your child.

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4. Praise and Thank Your Child for A Job Well Done

When children complete tasks and chores, be sure to thank them for contributing to the household. Recognize their worth in the family and their ability to contribute. The message you send to your child when you say “thank you for taking out the garbage” is that they are appreciated. They internalize praise, so be sure to verbalize it when their behavior is good.

Parents sometimes get so focused on the negative behaviors and spend so much time trying to correct the negative that they forgot to recognize the positive behaviors that are happening. Making an effort to take notice of the positive behaviors and verbalize it to your child will have lasting positive effects.

When you have a particular day that the child is acting out continually and your are correcting their behaviors incessantly, then you should stop and change the course. Look for something, anything positive, and offer your child some praise or positive message. Doing so, may help to change the course of the day and the behavior of the child.

Kids want attention. When they aren’t getting any positive attention they will often act out to get attention. Why? Because negative attention is better than no attention at all. Providing positive messages can help to actually curb negative behavior.

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5. Spend Quality and Quantity Time with Your Child

Kids need to feel loved in order to have good self worth. If they feel like they are not loved, they can begin to feel like there is something about them that makes them unlovable. Show your children you love them by spending time with them. When you are with them, show them affection and tell them you love them unconditionally. When you fail to spend enough time with your child they can think it is because you don’t love them and don’t want to spend time with them.

Childhood is short and you don’t have the opportunity for do-overs. Take the time to spend quality and quantity time with your child because they won’t be a child for long. Doing so, sends the message to them that you love them and they are worthy of being loved.

6. Don’t Compare Them To Others

“Katie does such a good job getting her chores done when I ask, why can’t you be like Katie”. Ouch. Not a nice thing to say to a child. Comparing a child to others is hurtful and it also makes them resent the other child. This is often why there is sibling rivalry and dissension in a home. Resist the temptation to compare the child to others.

If you need a basis for comparison, use the child’s own behavior as comparison. An example would be- “you did such a great job getting your chores all completed last week, let’s try to work on doing that again this week”. Be sure to use a tone that is encouraging and not disheartening to the child. Sarcastic statements and condescending tones do not help to make your child feel loved. Use statements, words, and tones that affirm and build up your child.

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7. Help Them See The Good in Themselves

This tip is the most important and yet is often the most overlooked by parents. Self esteem comes from ones self. Nobody can give someone else self esteem, as self esteem is how a person feels about themselves. In order for children to have good self esteem, they need to see themselves as good and worthy. Parents can help their child recognize what is good about themselves by facilitating conversations on the topic.

Starting conversations with “what do you like doing?” and “what do you think you are good at doing?” and “what do you think you did well at school today?”. Help them to see that they were born as a unique individual with talents, abilities, and gifts that make them special and wonderful. If you are Christians like our family, you can let them know that they are good because they are God’s creation.

The Lasting Effects…

Building up a child is a way of helping them see the goodness and positive attributes that they possess. It is a way of helping them recognize that they are unique and special because they were born with gifts and the abilities to do certain things well in life.

A parent can help their child discover these gifts and abilities as they grow up. Helping them develop their own positive self esteem is a wonderful gift that can last for a lifetime and change the course of their life forever. Self esteem gives them the gift of confidence in who they are so they can eventually go out and take on the world.

More by this author

Dr. Magdalena Battles

A Doctor of Psychology with specialties include children, family relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault

Signs of Depression in Children (And How to Help Them to Overcome It) 15 Ways to Practice Positive Self-Talk for Success Why Self-Compassion Is More Important Than Self-Esteem How to Cope with Negativity When Disasters Happen 7 Reasons Why You Should Find a Life Coach to Reach Your Full Potential

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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

Signs of Depression in Children (And How to Help Them to Overcome It)

Signs of Depression in Children (And How to Help Them to Overcome It)

Children, just like adults, can be depressed. Sometimes seemingly normal children with no major life issues can become depressed. It is the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes clinical depression to occur. There are specific signs that you should recognize in your child if they are depressed. Getting them help and treatment is crucial to their mental wellness.

In this article, we will look into the signs of depression in children and how parents can help them to overcome it.

Signs of depression in children

The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder) is the widely accepted instruction guide that professionals utilize for diagnosing mental disorders. The DSM characterizes a Major Depressive Episode as depressed behaviors that consistently last for two weeks or longer. Therefore, if your child has been “down in the dumps”, feeling hopeless or having sadness for more than two weeks, it should be cause for concern and investigated.

Below are signs of depression according to the DSM manual. The individual must have at least five of these behaviors present for a period of two weeks or longer to be officially diagnosed as having MDD (Major Depressive Disorder). Below is a summary/generalization from the DSM manual:

  • Feelings of deep sadness or depressed mood that last most of the day (for two weeks or more). For children they can present as irritable rather than sad.
  • Diminished interest in activities (again majority of the day or all the time).
  • Significant weight loss (not through dieting), or a decrease in appetite. In children, they fail to make expected weight gains while growing.
  • Difficulty sleeping (insomnia).
  • Either a slowing of psychomotor abilities/actions or an apparent agitation of these psychomotor abilities. This means that they either have moments that lack purpose and seem to be done because of agitation and tension or there is a significant slowness/retardation of their speech and physical actions.
  • Fatigue and loss of energy.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt every day.
  • Difficulty thinking, making decisions, or concentrating every day. This may be reflected in their grades.
  • Preoccupation with death and dying or suicidal thoughts.

Please note that if your child is suffering from the loss of a loved one and is processing through the stages of grief, it is normal to have these signs of depression. If they seem to be stuck in the depression stage, then it is time to pursue grief counseling to help them along in the grieving process.

However, if they are not suffering from a bereavement or a medical condition that would cause the above symptoms, then they should be taken to a professional for possible diagnosis and treatment of MDD (Major Depressive Disorder).

How to help your child with depression

Depression is not to be taken lightly. Especially if suicidal thoughts are present. The child’s feelings and emotions are real and must be taken seriously. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), suicide is the number two cause of death for individuals between the ages of 10 and 34.[1]

Professional help is recommended if you believe your child fits the criterion for MDD (Major Depressive Disorder). You can take your child to their paediatrician for an evaluation and referral. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, they may benefit from medication such as anti-depressants.

Most professionals do not dispense medication as the first remedy for depression. Instead therapy is the first line of defense against depression, with medication being paired with therapy if the therapy is not enough or the symptoms are severe enough.

Testing

There are assessment tools that professionals can utilize to help in properly determining whether your child is depressed. The three tools used in assessing depression in children are:

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  • The Children’s Depression Rating Scale (CDRS)
  • Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI)
  • Clinical Global Impression (CGI)

Taking your child to a professional mental health counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist can help ensure proper testing and assessment occurs.

Therapy

There are many types of therapy available today. It is important to find a professional that specializes in childhood depression and the treatment of such.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the leading therapy methods in treating childhood depression. For younger children, play therapy is useful in treating childhood depression as children are often able to better communicate through play than conversation alone.

What parents can do at home to help their depressed child

Besides seeking for professional help, there are a couple of things that parents can do at home to help their depressed child:

1. Talk with your child about their feelings in a compassionate and empathetic manner.

It can feel high pressure to sit face to face and ask your child about their feelings. However, going on a walk, playing a board game or playing alongside your child (chose whichever is age appropriate for your child) can allow them to relax and open up about their feelings.

Ask your child open ended questions that require more than a simple yes or no to engage in more meaningful conversations. Never judge while they are being open and honest with you because it will inevitably cause them to shut down and move away from being open with you.

It is okay to allow for periods of silence during the conversations because sometimes the child is processing their thoughts and emotions during your time together. You don’t have to fill the space and entire time with talking as silence at times is helpful.

2. Provide activities that help them relax and de-stress.

For smaller children, there are simple ways to help them relax.

Provide play opportunities that they find relaxing such as coloring, painting, working with Play-do or clay, or playing with sand and sand toys. Again, find activities that interest your child and are age appropriate are helpful in making them relaxed.

3. Limit screen time.

Technology is not helpful in making your child less depressed. It can often be an escape that keeps them from further opening up about their feelings and emotions.

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Limit time in front of the TV, laptop, smart phone, video games and tablets, etc. Any electronics that seem to prevent your child from face to face interactions should be limited. Ask Dr. Sears cites that researchers have found kids who have higher levels of screen time are at greater risk for anxiety and depression.[2]

Provide alternate activities to replace the screen time such as hiking, crafting, drawing, constructing, biking and playing outside, etc. Some children may be so dependent on their screen time as their source for entertainment that they may need you to participate in alternate activities alongside them in order to get engaged in the activities.

You can’t simply tell your child to go outside to play if they are suffering from depression, lack friends and are used to sitting down and playing video games each day after school. Go outside with your child and do a nature hike or take your child to a playground and have fun together to get them engaged in these alternate activities.

4. Promote outdoor time and physical activities.

Encourage your children to take part in activities that especially involve nature such as nature hikes. Do these activities with them to help them engage in the activities. Again this is an opportunity for open conversations to occur and quality time to take place.

5. Help your child when problems and difficult tasks arise.

Assist them by helping them break down the task into smaller and more manageable parts. Children with depression often have difficulty taking on large problems and tasks and find them overwhelming. Helping them by breaking down the task into smaller and more manageable tasks will assist in helping raise their confidence when the small tasks are mastered.

Small tasks mastered lead to bigger tasks being mastered over time. It is a process over time, patience and a willingness to work alongside your child. This does not mean doing the task or taking on the problem solely yourself. Many times all the child needs is for you to break down the larger task into smaller more manageable tasks and for you to patiently talk your child through the completion of these smaller tasks.

6. Help your child reduce life stress.

When children are depressed, they have greater difficulty handling life activities in general. Cut back on activities that cause stress to increase and look for ways to help reduce stress in your child’s life.

7. Foster a positive home atmosphere.

Reduce or eliminate negative attitudes, language and conversations. Also avoid raised voices, passive aggressive behaviors and any form of physical violence in the home.

Make your home a safe haven for your child instead of an atmosphere that is ever volatile (in words, emotions or physically). Make it a calm environment that makes your child feel safe and secure mentally, emotionally and physically.

8. Help your child see the positive in life situations.

Point out the positives in a situation rather than the negatives. Help them see the bright side of any situation.

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Be a model of seeing the positive in life by speaking words that are uplifting, encouraging and positive. Resist the temptation to voice negative thoughts that come to mind as your child can feed off your emotions and words.

9. Believe your child when they talk about how they are feeling.

Listen to them patiently and take their words seriously. Do not discount or minimize their feelings. Express empathy and compassion when they do open up about their feelings. Help them utilize “I feel” statements in expressing their emotions.

10. Keep watch for suicidal behaviors.

Such behaviors include your child/teen researching this topic online, them giving away their possessions and a preoccupation with death.

Seek professional help immediately with the presentation of suicidal behaviors or thoughts. Keep this number on hand and use it when in doubt: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Phone Number 1-800-273-8255.

11. Keep all prescriptions, alcohol, drugs and weapons locked and away from children and teens.

This is a given for all children, but even more imperative for children who are depressed as they have an increased likelihood to abuse drugs and alcohol. They also have an increased likelihood to attempt suicide. So keep weapons and tools such as ropes and knives that can used for suicide out of the child’s ability to use.

12. Spend quality one-on-one time with your child.

Make the time during your day, every day, to spend quality time with your child. You may have limited time and cannot provide an hour or more a day to dedicate to one-on-one time with your child, but you should provide a minimum of 20 minutes a day with your child spending quality one-on-one time together. Try the suggested activities listed in point #3.

13. Be an encouragement and supporter of your child.

Show love and not frustration or anger because of the situation and your child’s condition. Help keep your attitude positive so your child can also see the positive.

Provide daily words of affirmation that are not based on end results (such as a grade or a win) but instead praise the effort they put forth. If you praise the outcome, they will be disappointed when their efforts don’t pan out. If they are praised for their efforts regardless of the outcome, their confidence is built based upon something that they can control (the effort they put into things).

14. Help your child to live a healthy lifestyle.

Sleep is a very important factor in your child’s mood. Not getting enough sleep can cause an entire day to be upset. According to Sleep Aid Resource, children between the ages of 3 and 18 need between 8 and 12 hours of sleep each night:[3]

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    Ensure your child is eating a healthy and balanced diet, getting physical activity/exercise daily and plenty of sleep time.

    15. Help your child foster positive relationships and friendships with their peers.

    Set up play dates for your younger child and encourage older children to invite friends over to your home.

    16. Talk about bullying.

    It can be one of the causes of your child’s depression, so discuss their life outside of home and their interactions with their peers. Help them recognize bullying and discuss how to handle bullying properly.

    17. Help your child follow the treatment plan outlined by their doctor, counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist.

    Make sure you know the treatment plan that your child’s health care professional has outlined for child. This may include counseling session recommendations, medications and recommendations to follow through with in the home. Completing the plan will help provide optimal results for your child in the long run. A plan doesn’t work unless it is followed.

    18. Recognize that professional treatment takes time to show results.

    Don’t expect results for the first few weeks. It may take a month or longer, so be patient and understanding with your child.

    Depression in children is curable

    Depression in children can happen for a variety of reasons. It is quite treatable.

    Professional help is recommended if your child can possibly be diagnosed with a depressive episode. There are interventions that can be implemented in a professional setting, at home and at school. The key is having a plan of action to help your child.

    Ignoring the problem or hoping the depression will just go away is not a good plan. Treatment is imperative to curing depression in children.

    The first step is talking to your child’s paediatrician to get the ball rolling. He or she will refer you to specialists in your area that can help your child overcome and conquer their depression one day at a time. With you by their side, each step of the way you will get through it together and it is quite possible for your relationship with your child to be strengthened in the process as well. That can be your silver lining or positive outlook on the situation at hand.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] National Institute of Mental Health: Suicide
    [2] Ask Dr. Sears: It’s a Virtual World: Setting Practical Screen Time Limits
    [3] Sleep Aid Resource: Sleep Chart

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