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Inferiority Complex in Children

Primary inferiority complex occurs when a child begins to feel inferior due to their personal experiences. For example, a child who performs poorly in school may feel inferior to his classmates. This feeling is intensified by being humiliated by the teacher for having bad grades or being compared to siblings by the parents.

Most parents do their best to raise their children to be confident, happy and well adjusted. It therefore, comes as a surprise to many when their children become socially awkward and fail to thrive. What exactly is an inferiority complex?This is when a child considers him/herself to be either be intellectually, emotionally or physically inferior to other children. There are two types of inferiority complex:Primary inferiority complex occurs when a child begins to feel inferior due to their personal experiences. For example, a child who performs poorly in school may feel inferior to his classmates. This feeling is intensified by being humiliated by the teacher for having bad grades or being compared to siblings by the parents.

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Secondary inferiority complex occurs when a child starts feeling inferior based on experiences related to adults around him.For example, if a community looks down upon a child’s parents because they have a criminal past, the child might begin to have negative feelings about himself even though he has done nothing wrong.What causes it in a child?Parental factors: These are pivotal in the development of inferiority complex in children. This includes constant disapproval, criticism and negative comments from parents. Comparison to siblings tends to compound feelings of inferiority.Physical challenges: Children with speech, hearing or vision problems, physical disabilities or congenital defects, under or overweight children or those who are unusually short or tall for age may begin to view themselves as inferior to other children.Academic performance: Success in Kenyan children is often measured by their academic prowess. Children who do not perform well in school tend to consider themselves inferior to those who excel.Economic status of the family: Society wrongly places wealthy people on a pedestal and puts down those who are not well heeled.Unfortunately, this trickles down to our children and it is not unusual for children from poorer families to feel inferior to others.Gender: In some communities, a girl is considered inferior to a boy and sadly, the children are conditioned to believe that this is true.Cultural bias: Exposure to racism or religious bias can lead to inferiority complex in your child.Physical or mental illness: Children who are constantly unwell or are known to have mental health problems may develop a feeling of inferiority to their healthier companions.—Watch out for these signs and symptoms of inferiority complex within your child:— Child avoids mingling with friends and prefers to stay at home instead of going out and playing. —Child blames himself whenever something goes wrong. —Child avoids making eye contact with others. —Child avoids engaging in school activities which may lead to him/her being judged based on his performance.For example, he may not want to engage in competitive sports or music festivals. He will probably say things like ‘I am sure I wouldn’t have done well even if I tried’. —Child may exhibit feelings of self-pity or believe that he is either weak or unlucky. —Child may isolate himself during family social gatherings or he may avoid talking to guests.What happens when the condition in children is not addressed?Children with inferiority complex grow up to become adults with inferiority complex. These adults often struggle with under-performance at home and at work, feelings of hopelessness, social isolation, low self-worth, poor morale and a compromising/submissive attitude. In worst-case scenarios, it can be associated with depression and suicidal tendencies.What can parents do to deal with inferiority complex?- Avoid comparing your child to others (siblings or peers).- Do not criticise your child in public. If you feel that they have underperformed at something, sit down with them in private and chat with them about it.Suggest ways in which they can improve their performance instead of putting them down.- Praise your child for his/her achievements (no matter how small). This will motivate him to improve his skills.- Teach your child to remain positive and get rid of the fears and negativity that surrounds him.- Help your child to recognise his inner potential and talents: all children are born with hidden skills which need the help of a parent to nourish and develop them- Be patient with your child: Some children are slower at achieving milestones than others.- Build a solid, loving relationship with your child. They should be able to turn to you for help during any challenge they encounter without fear of criticism.- Encourage your child to engage in group activities, like studying and playing with their peers.- If your child constantly avoids eye contact, repeatedly prompt him to look at the person he is speaking to.- If your child is afraid about saying ‘something stupid’ in public, get him used to expressing himself by constantly engaging him in conversation during routine family interaction. Ask him for his opinion on issues relevant to him and encourage him to speak up.- Discourage your child from feeling sorry about himself (despite possible difficult circumstances). If your child has a speech or learning disability, engage the help of a professional to cope with it.- Child counselling: Seek the help of a counsellor or psychiatrist to help you. There are several child counsellors in the country.

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