LoveParenting: 5 Reasons to NOT Make Your Child Feel *Special* -Kids Self-Esteem, Unconditional Love

You want your children to feel good about themselves, right? In our culture (that worships the individual) being really special (/gifted/ talented) is a really good thing… right? I don’t think so. 

So here are 5 reasons NOT to make your child feel *special* and what to say instead.

What is your favorite of these alternative phrases? I’d love to hear in the comments below.


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We WANT to insulate them from the pain of the world.
We WANT to protect them from bullies and harsh words.
We WANT to compensate for when they fail. (*gag* that word is hard to say)
We WANT to bolster their self-esteem.
In a culture that worships the individual above all else, and that is obsessed with self-esteem, it’s no wonder that us parents are trying to make our children feel special. It’s no wonder that we’re trying to build up strong little egos that can face the “harsh world” out there. And it’s no wonder that we’ve received the message that feeling special = good. And better than everyone else = very good.

(By the way – what does “special” really mean anyway?)

I want to question these assumptions, based on everything I’ve learned about the failed self-esteem movement. Here are some issues we might check ourselves against. When children grow up being told they’re special, here are some things I’d be concerned about:

1. Isolation: When we feel like we are so special, we have alienated ourselves from those around us. Rather than viewing and celebrating the world’s diversity of genius, and the endless expressions of human life – we fixate on our own, superior, qualities. We don’t feel like part of a collective and we don’t recognize our own light in others (Namaste!) – instead, we set ourselves apart and are isolated.

2. Fixed Mindset: When we think we are unusually gifted and talented, we may just think we don’t need to strive for out-of-reach goals or to put in the hard work. As Carol Dweck teaches us: with this type of labeling we likely view ourselves (and the world) through a fixed mindset (I was born special and talented and I can’t do anything to change that) rather than a growth mindset (I can put in the effort and improve at anything). In fact, across every single discipline, it appears that consistent deliberate practice (learn more on this from Anders Ericson here) is the main contributor to success – even factoring in any prodigy tendencies (which I question even exist).

3. Entitlement: Growing up feeling special may lead us to imagine we deserve to get the job, the raise, the girl or get a break… just because of who we are. We’re special, right?

4. Fragility:…and what happens when we don’t special? What if we fail in our areas of supposed “talent”? When so much is at steak – losing our “specialness” label – we may crumble under the inevitable reality of setbacks, challenges, competition or mistakes. Does this mean we subtract from our self-worth because if we haven’t met our “specialness” quota we are no longer worthy? Does it mean we quit, rather than face the risk of failure?

5. Conditionality: Of all the risks of artificially bolstering up a child’s self-esteem with continuous labels like “special” or “talented” – this one perturbs me the most. I fear when we put our kids up on a pedestal – it’s natural for them to believe that they need to be extraordinary to earn love and praise. That our admiration and adoration for them is because of this “specialness”. That we love them for it.

NOW is the time for them to get frustrated.
NOW is the time to learn to follow instructions, collaborate and be a part of a group.
NOW is the time learn not to draw all the attention to yourselves and look to help others.
NOW is the time to focus on what you can give, not what you can take.
NOW is the time to learn you are just another human being on this planet.
NOW is the time to learn that you’ll win some, and lose some, and that’s OK.
NOW is the time to learn that you need to answer to your conscious and not to others ideas.
NOW is the time to “fail”, fall and make plenty of mistakes.
NOW is the time to simply be, without being evaluated, measured and compared.
NOW is the time for non-transactional love to flow between us.

What to say instead? See the list of ideas on HERE:

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