What mask do you ask your child to wear?

· Although children might frustrate us for not listening, they rarely fail to adopt our inner and outer critic. What they see us judging in ourselves and others, becomes the very thing they struggle to accept about themselves or others. Let me share with you how you can begin to relax yours and your child's inner critic ·

Jun, 13, 2023

The idea that we influence how our child meets the world, is perhaps not a foreign one. After all, as a responsible parent, we do see it as our job to teach our child to look people in the eye, be polite, say please and thank you and be grateful when someone gives them something.

But that we actually influence the social mask our child comes to wear throughout life – that might sound a little absurd.

But let me share with you how this works and why it is a game changer to become aware of this process so that we help our child be a little more self-accepting than perhaps we are of ourselves. After all, our kids do one thing well. They might not always listen to us but they rarely fail at adopting the tone of our inner voice.

Why is self-acceptance important?

Let’s start here first.
Because if there is one thing that we all want for our child it is – self-esteem. For them to grow up to feel okay as they are, not just for what they have achieved and all of the ways in which they’ve excelled, but also for their:




As parents we know how self-esteem is like the trunk of a big oak tree that helps us weather the crises we encounter in life, the no’s we get, the failures and the heart aches that await us – without concluding about ourselves that we are unlovable.

Low self-esteem is like a see saw;

The lower the self-esteem (acceptance) – the louder the inner critic

We learn early on in life what makes us ‘loveable’. What feels acceptable to the world and what our particular family values and ensured that we were accepted and got the care and attention we needed.

A baby is not aware of that. Unapologetically, babies communicate their needs –

  • more milk
  • sleep
  • a nappy change
  • interaction
  • less interaction

A baby is whole in this respect. It is showing up free to be both cute, demanding, loud, greedy, needy, sweet, angry and innocent.
A baby is in FULL integrity.

Fast forward, to the toddler stage and beyond when our parenting is less forgiving. Now our response to our child’s behaviours are less generous. Rather than accepting the feeling and perhaps setting a boundary – we communicate in various ways which of their character traits we like – and which ones we would like them to push down:

Desire and hunger for more – can now be labelled as greed
Excitement and joy – can now be deemed being too much
Not wanting to share is – can now be deemed selfishness
Sadness – can be labelled sulking or being moody

In conscious and unconscious ways we tell our child what they need to be in order to be liked and accepted and our child responds to our instructions by conforming.

Children are fast learners:

They soon learn:
If I’m nice, accommodating, selfless, helpful, strong, happy, kind and smiley…. (fill in the blank) – I will be accepted.

This becomes our child’s mask. The way they behave to be liked and in order to uphold this mask they learn to defend against the opposites of these qualities:

  • Unkind
  • Selfish
  • Unhelpful
  • Weak or sensitive
  • Sad

Just like we have got a mask that was borne out of our first family experiences, our child’s mask will be a reflection on what we approve of and what we judge. And if we wish to support our child to have better self-esteem, be less self-critical and judge others less – we do well to support them accept all their parts.

Shadow parts

Lots has been written about the shadow. And notably, Carl Jung, was the first to identify this part of the human psyche while the integrative coach, Debbie Ford is responsible for making this concept known to the masses.

I highly recommend you check out any of the late Debbie Ford’s shadow books on this topic. Because our growth and journey towards wholeness is found in our shadows. In the lost parts of our self. In the parts of us we were not allowed to be, in the parts of us that were at odds with our need for connection and belonging.

We can always start with ourselves – and get curious:
What might be my own mask (the qualities I show when I want to make a good impression)?

By asking yourself what the opposite of each quality is – you will see what your shadow is. The thing you are not allowed to be and the qualities you most dislike in others.

Perhaps the shadow quality is: SELFISHNESS

Then ask yourself;

  • When would I benefit from being selfish?
  • What would a little bit of selfishness afford me?
  • When have I been selfish?

Awareness is key. And a little courage.

But it is work worth doing – and it does not require anyone to be perfect. But when we can show up with the level of openness and curiosity we most likely begin to set our boundaries with our children using a little less shame:

Instead of:
“you always want” (Greedy)

You might instead say:
“I don’t want to give you that today” (neutral)

If this resonates, and you would like to learn more about this process or would like to know how parenting coaching can help you and your family – please don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can also book a free discovery call:

0788 0644 513

September 22, 2023

Louise Brooks

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