Why Some Kids Become Adults With Poor Coping Skills and Addictions…And How to Make Sure Your Kids Grow Up Well-Adjusted and Happy

What do you usually say to your child when they mess up? How do you respond to your child when they want your attention when you’re in the middle of something?

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Do you get annoyed with your child? Disappointed that they did something so blatantly wrong? Angry that they didn’t listen the first time?

Maybe you say such things as…

Not now, I’m busy!

You can do better.

What’s wrong with you?

I can’t believe you did that!

Do these statements sound like something you say to your child sometimes?

Here’s why your answer to this question is so important:

Your child is constantly forming beliefs in their mind about what your words and actions MEAN. What they’re concluding affects how they feel about themselves.

Depending on HOW you respond, your child may either conclude that they’re capable and loved and that failures and mistakes are simply opportunities to learn…


they may conclude that there’s something wrong with them.

And if they conclude the latter, that could be the beginning of a lifetime of struggles when they grow up. Here’s why…

What Would You Conclude If You Were Constantly Criticized, Dismissed or Told You’re Wrong by the People You Love Most?

Think about it. What would you conclude if the most important person in your life regularly told you…

Not now, I’m busy!

You can do better.

What’s wrong with you?

I can’t believe you did that!

You’d probably start to think there’s something wrong with you or that you aren’t good enough.

Unfortunately, this is extremely common. In the 30 years I’ve been counseling people with all manner of personal problems, there wasn’t one person who didn’t have the belief they weren’t good enough. Isn’t that awful?

As a child, despite feeling like there’s something wrong with you or that you’re not good enough, you still had to function in the world. You still had to go to school, make friends, do your homework.

You were conflicted. On one hand you sensed you MUST make it on your own, and on the other hand you concluded you couldn’t (because you felt there was something wrong with you and you weren’t good enough). That probably brought up a lot of fear and anxiety in you as a child.

Fear and anxiety are painful and children try to find ways to not feel them.

And that’s where survival strategies came in.

What Makes Your Child Feel “Good Enough” Is a Clue to Their Survival Strategies…and Yours

Survival strategies help children deal with anxiety and fear of not being good enough.

When your child asks herself, “What makes me good enough?” the answers could be:

  • Having people like me
  • Taking care of others
  • Doing things perfectly
  • Doing as I’m told
father tickling son

As long as she does the things that “make” her good enough, the survival strategy works. The anxiety stemming from the negative self-belief of “I’m not good enough” stays in control. But as soon as she faces a challenging situation again, such as being ridiculed at school or coming home with a bad grade, she once again feels the anxiety and fear that she’s not good enough.

This vicious cycle repeats over and over, and well into adulthood.

And it is the underlying cause of such adult problems as people-pleasing, addictions, and workaholism.

Here’s how feeling not good enough causes these problems.

Let’s say you are criticized by someone at work. Or you have a fight with your partner or spouse, or your best friend suddenly “ghosts” you and doesn’t return your calls or texts for days.

Really take a moment to imagine these scenarios. Are you getting a knot in your stomach or a racing heart just thinking about them?

Now let’s imagine that your go-to survival or coping strategy that you developed from childhood when you feel this way is “having people like me” (people-pleasing).

You’d orient your response to these situations around this strategy of people-pleasing. For example, you might:

  • Take on extra work to “prove” you’re valuable and a good employee
  • Apologize to your partner even if you haven’t done anything wrong
  • Cook their favorite meal or give them a massage to get on their “good side”
  • Text your friend with a compliment or upbeat message even though you’re hurt
  • Pretend to agree with your friend or partner

Then, when your strategy works and your boss compliments you, or your friend starts speaking to you again, you relax, because you once again feel good enough.

However, none of these strategies permanently SOLVE the problem of you not feeling good enough. They probably don’t even get to the root of your conflict with your boss, partner or friend.

All this “people-pleasing” would do is help you feel better in the moment when faced with the very unpleasant feelings of shame, anxiety, fear, or loneliness.

You keep doing things to feel good enough but you’re not addressing the deeper problem of your negative self-beliefs.Therefore, your interpersonal problems keep repeating, and may keep getting worse.

Your lack of confidence in your work means you don’t get promoted. Your disingenuous relationship with your friend falls apart. Your tip-toeing around your partner causes you a great deal of unhappiness.

Here’s One Simple Question to Ask Yourself That Can Reveal Your Survival Strategies

Not convinced?

Here’s a way for you to test your own negative self-beliefs, whether you have them, and how they affect you now.

Ask yourself, what makes you good enough, what makes you important?

The answer should be, “Nothing. I just am.”

When your answer is anything other than nothing, it points to your survival strategies.

For example, you may feel that what makes you good enough is being respected and praised at work (doing things perfectly), or being there for your kids, partner or friends whenever they need you (taking care of others).

But the best would be not to need survival strategies in the first place, and to believe you’re good enough, important enough, without having to do or be anything other than just exactly who you are.

That’s when you can be free to be your authentic self, without worrying what anyone else thinks.

And that’s why it’s important to know what to do and say to your kids to instill that belief that they’re good enough just as they are.

So THEY can be their authentic selves when they grow up.

Avoid the Common Mistakes Most Parents Make and Help Your Kids Grow Up to Be Well-Adjusted, Happy Adults

You probably have a lovely vision of what kind of adult you imagine your child will grow up to be—happy, healthy, with a career they love and relationships that gratify them.

The last thing you want to imagine is your child ending up with a lifetime of problems stemming from the internal belief that they’re not good enough or that there’s something wrong with them.

You don’t want your child to become a people-pleaser with issues around addiction and workaholism. Who would?

daughter first day of kindergarden

The good news is that you can take action NOW to ensure that you’re giving your child the very best start in life, beginning with how you interact with them and things you do and say. The other good news is that it’s never too late to make changes in how you approach your kids.

That’s why I’ve partnered with Flourish, so I can extend my advice and guidance to as many parents as possible and help you make those necessary changes, starting today.

When you subscribe to our FREE Relationship Advice Newsletter, you get access to more articles like these, from an accomplished community of carefully selected experts (like me!).

You’ll get information-rich articles delivered to your inbox, with tons of actionable tips and specific advice to help you make positive changes in your parenting approach. These are articles by psychotherapists, authors, speakers and experts with decades of real-world experience working with families.

You’ll get articles from how to avoid some of the most common mistakes parents make and what you can do today to make sure you’re raising kids who will become happy, successful adults.

You’ll also learn:

  • The powerful parenting secret that eliminates feelings of self-doubt, inadequacy, and unworthiness in your children and enables them to be their authentic selves.
  • How to create and maintain a healthy family structure so your kids learn social skills and feel safe and secure.
  • 3 ways that being overly helpful or “rescuing” damages your children’s confidence and sense of self, and how to help your children develop their own problem-solving skills instead.
  • How to help kids develop a strong sense of belonging and an ability to handle disappointments and remedy their mistakes later in life.
  • Why it’s so hard to set limits and rules around “screen time” and real-life examples of how to use positive parenting in addressing this ubiquitous problem.
  • The common style of parenting that can result in a child growing up to procrastinate, not stand up for themselves or have relationship issues—and how to recognize if you’re doing it right now.

And much more…

All of us want to have a voice. We all want to feel that we matter. You, as a parent, are in the unique and privileged position to instill positive beliefs in your child, starting now.


Shelly Lefkoe

Parent Without Yelling, Power Struggles and Guilt

  • Critical skills to raise happy, healthy kids
  • Make parenting the most fun you’ve ever had
  • Ensure your kids feel loved, accepted and understood
  • Co-parenting secrets to help your kids thrive
  • Common parenting mistakes you must avoid
  • Less tantrums and tears, more snuggles and laughter

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