Human beings share an innate drive to connect with others. We are evolutionarily “hardwired” to desire inclusion. In prehistoric times, the person who was expelled from the group was in great danger if they had to face a hostile world alone.
Since the consequences of that rejection were so extreme, our brains and behaviors have adapted to avoid the disapproval of others. the rest. In fact, a study conducted at the University of Michigan found that social rejection activates many of the same brain areas involved in physical pain, which explains why disapproval can hurt so much.
However, becoming dependent on the judgment of others and continually seeking their approval is also very damaging psychologically. Therefore, one of the main tasks of parents is to raise confident and independent children who do not feel the need to seek the approval of others at every step they take.
The consequences of seeking external approval
Receiving the approval of others is an enjoyable experience and children realize of it quickly. Receiving positive attention, being praised, and having your behaviors rewarded creates a sense of empowerment. We all feel good when others show us that they like us or affirm our ideas.
The Children, in particular, are very sensitive to the signals their parents send. By preschool age they are already able to perceive the approval and disapproval of their parents and adjust their behaviors to seek acceptance. The problem begins when children begin to believe that the love of their parents or people around them depends on that approval. Then they will begin to do everything possible to please others.
There is nothing wrong with trying to please others, but when that becomes the main reason for the behavior, especially at an early age, it is Children may go on an endless quest for approval throughout their lives. It’s like they’re inside a hamster wheel, doomed to seek approval from outside sources, when they should be looking within themselves for that validation.
The search for external validation takes away the child’s intrinsic motivation. The little one will stop doing things because they are really passionate and motivate him, he will do them because he knows that in this way he will be able to please others. Then he develops an extrinsic motivation.
At the same time, his fragile self-esteem will depend more and more on the opinions of others. When the child focuses on external approval, he will feel in the clouds when he gets it and will go down to hell when he is rejected. This dependence on external opinions will plunge you into a true emotional roller coaster in which your mood will fluctuate according to the level of acceptance you find.
In the long run, acting solely motivated by external approval means losing the connection with oneself. The child will wonder what others want, instead of wondering what he wants. You’ll look to others’ goals and objectives to try to fit in, forgetting to explore your true motivations or passions.
Five tips for raising self-confident children
1. Give your love unconditionally
Some parents, often without realizing it, condition their love on the good behavior, performance and achievements of their children. That transmits to children the idea that they are loved for what they do to please their parents, not for who they are. Thus the life of children can become a constant effort to win love. This confusion can be avoided if you make it clear to your children that you love them unconditionally and that your affection and attention do not depend on their achievements.
2. Let them make their decisions
As your children grow up, you should leave them a greater margin of autonomy so that they can make their own decisions. If you continually make decisions for them, you’ll be raising dependent and insecure children. So make sure your children have opportunities to decide from an early age, even small decisions. In this way they will develop confidence in their judgments. Your role is to take them by the hand and show them possible directions, letting them know that you are there to help them, but it is up to them to decide.
3. Make your child comfortable with rejection
Although parents have an innate tendency to protect their children, they cannot protect them throughout life. That is why it is important that from an early age children learn to lose and face rejection. When children live these experiences with their parents, they can understand that it is not such a big deal. At the end of the day, rejection and disapproval are just a form of feedback that you can use to improve and move forward. The key is to ensure that they do not develop a fear of rejection that becomes the fertile ground where the need for external approval grows.
4. Focus on the process, rather than the results
Results are important, no doubt about it, but many times the process we follow to achieve those results is more important. That’s why , parents should always praise the child’s effort, so that he understands that the essential thing is to give his best. When we focus on a specific result, which is often beyond our control because it depends on many factors, without realizing it, we end up giving a lot of weight to external factors. On the contrary, when we focus on what we can do and control, we are redirecting that locus of control towards us, which makes us more independent of the opinions of others. It’s important for your child to understand that dynamic as soon as possible.
5. Convey an optimistic outlook
Rejection and failure can hurt. When your child feels defeated and disappointed, help him to assume a more optimistic outlook. For example, if he falls behind his classmates in reading or multiplication tables, explain that we all learn at our own pace and tell him you’ll help him catch up. If he’s frustrated that he didn’t get the lead role in the children’s play, don’t say things like “you’re a star, other people don’t get it”. Instead, he validates his emotions and helps him come up with a plan to get what he wants. Say: “I see you’re disappointed. Those kinds of things happen. Let’s make a plan to increase the chances that next time you get that part. What do you think you can do to prepare yourself better?”.