Conditional validation makes children feel worthless
Children learn very early in life to live under pressure. They have to behave, learn fast, know the right answer, be the best, win, never fail, in other words they have to be perfect children.
School, as well as us, families, believe that we will nurture great qualities in our children and will help them become extraordinary individuals if we monitor them closely and correct their mistakes step by step.
Children learn from their first years of life that making errors will upset their parents and will make their teachers mark them down, and this is how they start doubting themselves and experiencing fear and anxiety.
This is how children learn that those around them love them and give them treats only when their behaviours are satisfactory to the adult world, which tells their little minds that they cannot be liked, loved and appreciated all the time.
This conditional validation brings a lot of tension in our children’s little souls and minds and makes the feel insecure, inadequate and, at times, worthless.
Growing up in this environment is not pleasant. It happened to me and most likely it happened to you as well.
I continue to meet mothers that talk passionately about the importance of school in their children’s development. I can sense their fear when they talk about low grades and missing out on knowledge.
Parents want the best for their children only that “the best” is a socially constructed concept. It can mean different things to different people and very often what we imagine is “best” for our child has little significance to their future life.
Children’s performance in school or other activities is not directly related to the happiness, health, wellbeing and the good life they can experience in their adult life.
I hear very often about the pressure parents put on their little children to excel in all subjects at school and succeed in all their other activities. We seem to forget that errors are natural and our children’s little minds get easily tired and distracted.
That fear is familiar to me. It relates to my own fears when I was waiting for my grades in school, but also with the fears and mistakes I made as a mother, raising my amazing 30 year old son throughout his school years.
Carrying the fear through the adults years
Our fear is passed onto the next generation at both conscious and unconscious level and becomes an integral part of who we are and how we function.
There is no surprise that most of us will continue to experience this fear through the adult years, when the competition becomes harder and the stakes are significantly raised.
Many people continue to live their lives feeling that internal fear, doubting they are good enough, allowing inherent failures to define them, and listening to the external voices that evaluated them all along.
That way of living is not pleasant. It can actually become very toxic for parents and their children as well.
Luckily, nowadays we can open our eyes to a new perspective as parents and learn to adjust our expectations to allow our children space for error, mistakes and imperfection, to reduce their fears and anxieties and facilitate mental wellbeing and happiness.
Self-exploration is always very useful and can shade some light on how we function and how we developed that way. Awareness can lead to understanding, and clarity can lead to change.
We can choose who we want to be and we can choose how we want to behave. We can surround our children with unconditional love, understanding and acceptance, and they will without doubt thank us one day.