How To NOT Raise A People-Pleaser Child Or Be One Yourself

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Written By Olivia Miller

Author at Montessori Expert.

Discover what people-pleasing behavior is and how it can impact your life and your child’s. Learn the common traits of people-pleasers and the root causes of this behavior.

Find out practical tips for raising independent thinkers who are kind and compassionate, without the need to constantly please others.

What is people pleasing?

People-pleasing is putting others’ needs before your own, sacrificing your happiness for approval.

It often involves sacrificing your comfort, happiness, or even integrity to gain approval or avoid conflict.

Where Does People-Pleasing Begin?

The seeds of people-pleasing behavior can be sown early in life, often within the family dynamic.

Here are some common scenarios:

  • Conditional love: When a child feels loved only when they behave in a certain way, they might start associating their self-worth with pleasing others.
  • Overly critical environment: Constant criticism can chip away at a child’s self-esteem, making them crave approval and validation.
  • Neglectful parenting: If a child’s emotional needs are not met, they might learn to prioritize the needs of others to gain attention.

These experiences can shape a child’s belief that their value depends on how they make others feel.

15 Common Traits of People-Pleasers

three children playing with toys in a living room

People-pleasing behavior manifests in various ways. Here are some common traits to watch for:

  • Can’t Say No: Saying no feels impossible, even when overloaded.
  • Always Busy: Overbooked schedules leave no time for themselves.
  • Approval Seekers: Crave constant validation and reassurance.
  • Conflict Avoiders: Will do anything to avoid disagreements.
  • Fixer Mentality: Tries to solve everyone’s problems, neglecting their own.
  • Low Self-Esteem: Worth depends on how others see them.
  • Sensitive to Criticism: Take criticism very personally.
  • Others First: Always prioritize others’ needs, neglecting their own.
  • No Boundaries: Setting boundaries feels uncomfortable.
  • Chameleon Personality: Change their personality to fit in.
  • Over-Apologizers: Apologize even when not at fault.
  • Bottled-Up Emotions: Suppress true feelings to avoid disapproval.
  • Decision Difficulty: Fear of upsetting someone makes decisions hard.
  • Exhausted and Stressed: Constant effort to please leads to burnout.

What Causes People-Pleasing?

  • Low Self-Esteem: Lack of love and acceptance can make people seek validation from others.
  • Fear of Rejection: Bad experiences with rejection can make them people-please to fit in.
  • Anxiety: Anxious people might use people-pleasing to manage their worries.
  • Family Dynamics: Overcritical parents or neglect can make kids people-please for approval.
  • Cultural Influences: Some cultures emphasize pleasing others over individual needs.

Examples of When We Teach Our Kids People-Pleasing by Accident (and What to Say Instead)

Even with the best intentions, parents can unknowingly reinforce people-pleasing behavior. Here are some common scenarios:

  • Scenario 1: The Upset Playdate

Your child’s friend comes over to play, and a disagreement arises over a toy. You intervene and pressure your child to share or compromise, even if they seem genuinely uncomfortable.

What to say instead:

“It looks like you both want the same toy. Can you two brainstorm some solutions together? Maybe take turns or find another toy to play with?”

This approach encourages your child to find their voice and advocate for their needs while also fostering problem-solving skills.

  • Scenario 2: The Perfectionist Baker

Your child is helping you bake cookies and gets down on themselves if their contribution isn’t perfect. You reassure them by saying, “Don’t worry, mommy can fix it.”

What to say instead:

“Thank you for helping! All mistakes are part of the learning process. Let’s see how we can fix it together.”

This validates their effort and teaches them that mistakes are okay – even valuable learning experiences.

  • Scenario 3: The Overly Helpful Helper

Your child constantly offers to help with chores or errands, even when they seem overloaded with their own activities. You readily accept their help, praising them for being such a “good helper.”

What to say instead:

“Thank you for offering! How about we tackle this after you finish your homework? It’s important to balance helping others with taking care of yourself too.”

This teaches them the importance of boundaries and prioritizing their own needs while still recognizing their helpfulness.

Being mindful of our language and interactions, we can empower our children to develop healthy self-esteem and assertive communication skills, paving the way for strong and independent individuals who don’t feel compelled to constantly please others.

8 Tips for Raising Freethinkers and Kind Humans (NOT People-Pleasers)

a mom and a child are sitting on a bench in front of a chain link fence

1. Unconditional Love and Positive Regard 

Show your child consistent love and acceptance, regardless of their achievements or behavior. Let them know they are loved simply for who they are.

This fosters a healthy sense of self-worth and reduces the need for external validation.

2. Encourage Self-Expression

Create a safe space for your child to express their thoughts, feelings, and opinions, even if they differ from yours.

Validate their emotions and encourage them to find their voice.

3. Teach Assertive Communication

Help your child learn to communicate their needs and wants clearly and confidently, using “I” statements and respectful language.

Role-play different scenarios to practice assertive communication skills.

4. Celebrate Mistakes

View mistakes as valuable learning opportunities, not failures. Encourage your child to learn from their experiences and try again. 

5. Empower Decision-Making

Offer age-appropriate choices and allow your child to make decisions within safe boundaries. This fosters a sense of agency and responsibility.

6. Set Healthy Boundaries

Teach your child about personal boundaries and how to say “no” politely but firmly.

Role-play scenarios where they can practice setting boundaries with peers or adults.

7. Nurture Their Interests

Encourage your child’s unique interests and passions. Provide opportunities for them to explore hobbies and activities that bring them joy and a sense of accomplishment. 

8. Lead by Example

Children learn best by observing their parents. Model healthy boundaries, assertive communication, and self-care.

Show them that it’s okay to prioritize your own needs and say no sometimes.

Now that we understand the dynamics of people-pleasing, let’s explore some practical tips to nurture your child’s sense of self and independence:

how not to raise people pleaser child and raise confident kid image use for pinterest


Incorporate these tips into your parenting approach, you can help your child develop a strong sense of self, healthy boundaries, and the confidence to navigate the world as an independent thinker, all while remaining kind and compassionate.

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