Should I Tell My Child the Truth? Building Self-Compassion Through Honesty

Should I Tell My Child the Truth? Building Self-Compassion Through Honesty

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One important factor to building self-compassion is the ability to recognize life as imperfect for everyone, including us. We have an assumption that normal is perfect, leading us to feel like something bad has happened when we are imperfect. This can cause a lot of stress for our children and prevent them from taking ownership of their mistakes. Instead, they might blame others and externalize problems. Ownership is empowering and externalizing can make our children feel powerless to change their circumstances.

To help your child practice this important skill, start with honesty. Tell your child the truth gently. Give them honest, constructive feedback and avoid externalizing or sugar-coating their personal challenges. Help them think about what tools will help them succeed where they are struggling.

It can be hard for our children to come in second place, lose a big game or fail to meet their own expectations on a test. Protecting your child from disappointments by being dishonest, while making them feel better in the short term, doesn’t help them learn how to be honest with themselves, benefit from feedback and accept their imperfections. In fact, falsely pumping up their ego raises the pedestal for the next fall, a sure way to reduce self-compassion and make kids afraid to try. It also tells them indirectly that those shortcomings and weaknesses are not okay and should be hidden and lied about. This can lead children to cover up, externalize and avoid personal challenges instead of working through them with self-compassion.

Keep these principles in mind when sharing honest feedback with your child:

1. Be empathetic. Failure is difficult and kid’s coping skills are just developing.

2. Don’t externalize the issue.This disempowers your child to do something different next time.

3. Show your children that you love them unconditionally and are okay with their imperfections.

4. Help them recognize what they can and cannot control, i.e. their attitude versus the ref’s decision. We often waste most of our energy on the things we can’t control.

5. Give true, specific, process-oriented praise. Notice the skills that they have worked on that are improving. The outcome isn’t what they should be basing their self-worth on.

Welcome to Self-Compassion Month at the Umbrella Project!

Welcome to Self-Compassion Month at the Umbrella Project!

Thank you so much for being a part of the Umbrella Project and helping us improve wellbeing for everyone!

Each month, we focus on one piece of what makes a powerful umbrella of wellbeing skills. In December, we are adding Self-Compassion to our umbrella of wellbeing.

Do you often catch your child saying harsh things about themselves and their abilities or struggling to take ownership for their mistakes?

You won’t be surprised to hear that 75 percent of people treat others more kindly than they treat themselves. In fact, self-compassion is the umbrella skill that is the weakest piece in most umbrellas (children and adults alike). It’s also the piece that most adults report wishing they had learned earlier in their lives.

What is self-compassion?

Self-compassion is treating yourself like you would a good friend instead of offering harsh judgement to self-motivate. It’s understanding that our struggle and imperfections are a normal part of being a human instead of something bad.

When we are critical and mean to ourselves, it is like having our own personal bully following us around all the time. This critical voice reduces our self-confidence, making it harder for us to succeed. Instead, self-compassion helps us to be kind to ourselves and recognize that struggle is a normal part of life that everyone experiences. It allows us to accept difficult feelings instead of trying to suppress or getting swept away in them.

Self-compassion has so many benefits including improving our body image, our resilience to stigma, our desire to learn and our ability to take responsibility for our mistakes.

Focusing Your Parenting Energy

Focusing Your Parenting Energy

Does your child give up easily when things get tough?  They are likely just missing an important coping skill that can be easily built with the right focus.  Growth mindset, grit, purpose, self-compassion and other coping skills play a big role in whether your child will persevere in the face of challenges.


Curious which skill to focus on?  Book an umbrella assessment for your child with our founder Dr. Jen by filling out our Contact form here and find out where best to best apply your parenting energy.