Can a kid be too good? The answer is yes. We are born to please those who love us and those who have power over us.  For some that comes to mean always being good, always being nice, not showing your nastier self, not showing your sad or despairing self.

This post is about the secrets some keep that create shame, hate or despair, it is also about how to help your child not keep such secrets.  Here is the sad tale by a teacher of a good kid who gave up on life.

The Suddenly Empty Chair

Self esteem is built on believing you meet your parents and your surrounding culture’s definition of goodness.  So it is natural to hide your nastier self.  Everyone has a sad, mad or shameful self kept hidden from others.  Every one. You, me, and your kids.  Well not toddlers, but all other kids.

Probably Hitler,  who was worshiped by many and who thought he should rule the world, probably had a part of him he kept hidden.  Moreover, my belief is that evil usually hides shameful thoughts about ourselves, turned into hatred of others.

Some, as the story above shows, turn those secrets into self murder. One of my former staff killed herself jumping out of a fifth floor window.  I sensed a sadness about her, but never, ever thought it would reach the point where she would kill herself.

Same for a number of others I have known personally who ended up murdering themselves. Our secret selves isolate us and fuel despair.  I am proud that when I directed crisis teams, we kept all we served safe—at least for the time we worked with them and months after.

I am sad that beginning in high school a number of friends ended up committing suicide.  We all shook our heads in disbelief.  For added proofs about hidden selves, think of those who “snap” and go on killing rampages of one sort or another. How often do those who know the person claim surprise or say ” The last person you would think could do something like this.”

Religions plays a part in creating hidden selves.  The Columbine High School killings  were fueled by the beliefs of the killers that they were past redemption, outside of the ability to be among the “good kids.”  Honor killings and suicide bombers on the other hand think when they kill they are assuring their path to heaven.  Complicated isn’t it.


I preach good manners and good manners matter.  Manners mean being kind and respecting others. I was once accused by a therapist of being “Excessively loyal.”  For me, not giving up means not giving up on relationships, so he was right.  Learning to be more self-protective was important for the Miss Goodie Two Shoes I was.

Again it is always a matter of balance.  Manners matter, but so does caring for yourself and keeping yourself safe from tyrants, madness in others, and bullies.  Which is one of the reasons my kids both took karate.  Even before that my husband taught them a few self defence manuevers.

Tip one: I suggest all parents take self-defense courses and make sure their children acquire the same skills. The best self-defense courses teach meditation and the importance of defense not aggression.

Tip two: As always know your child’s temperament. Shy children need encouragement to stand up for their rights; bold children need to be taught restraint.

Tip three: Encourage wrong doing as natural, but not good.  Punish the behavior, encourage the kid to listen to his inner good self and do better next time.

Tip four: Down play the media messages promoting promises anyone can do any thing they want if only they work hard enough.  Talent, hard work, and lots of luck are the ingrediants for any type of success.  Just saying of media stars “She was lucky as well as talented” helps.

Tip five: Down play winning; play up doing your best; enjoying the attempt. Whether your child wants to be one of baseball’s Most Valuable Major League Pitchers or the next American Idol, it is the journey and the joy of the journey that serves us best. Nice to win a gold medal, but hard to give up everything else to do so. And that is what talented wannabees have to do to even stand a chance and then luck remains a factor.

Tip six: Use media to discuss what matters.  Some of you will know that I cranked on against the movie How to Tame Your Dragon.  My complaint is that all the grown-ups in the movie were portrayed as dolts. After stewing a while, I asked the grand kid I watched it with, “Are all adults stupid, is your father as stupid as the ones in the movie.”  He gave his father an A+ for being smart.

Tip seven: Encourage starring in you life, which is something all can do if they know what really matters. Make sure your life reflects that what matters most is being fair and caring to ALL you meet.

Tip eight:  Make sure your child has others in his or her life who know what matters and who the child can confide in.  By the time a child hits the teen years, most Westernized youth will not talk freely to parents. That someone could be an aunt, an older sibling, a coach, a preacher, a teacher or even a therapist.  Shame is best defeated by being talked about.

Tip nine: Admit your own failures starting when your child is young.  You don’t have to make a big deal, out of your bad deeds, but shame is best defeated when talked about and your leading the way speaks loudly to your children.  Linking to a child’s struggle is best.   See your child is embarassed, turn the spot light on yourself. “I remember when I wanted to drop through the floor once” is a good way to start and best if you can laugh a bit at the you that felt so bad then.

Tip ten: Teach the value of saying you are sorry and making amends as a way to counter feeling guilty or ashamed.

In the long run as Eleanor Roosevelt said,  “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

Parents can help children stay strong when their thoughts, deeds, or another person wants to bring them down. Do your part and hope for some luck to help with the task.


Be kind to me; like this post, comment, or share it.  You will be helping me stay strong and maybe help some others as well.   Click here for my free Ebook: The 12 Daily Emotional Fitness Training Exercises.  They strengthen everyone.

IMAGE BY Point of Life


  1. Pingback: Building Self Confidence in Children: Secrets and Shame

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