As parents, teachers, coaches and mentors it is our responsibility to provide the next generation of adults with the tools they need to navigate adult life… and to make a better world, right?
Rather than focus all of our efforts on the impossible job of creating self esteem we can focus our energies on teaching values to our children and creating opportunities for them to explore and experience their own strengths and resilience.
Wait… did I just say that creating self-esteem for our kids is impossible?
Yup. I did. Self-esteem is an inside job. As much as we’d like to, we can’t do it for them. A child’s self-esteem grows with each successful interaction, each job well done, each goal met and every obstacle successfully overcome.
“On the way home from baseball, my son told me that he felt sorry for his friend, the team’s star player. When I asked him why, he said it was “because of the way his Mom acts at the games.” I remember thinking “oh boy, am I in trouble…. this gal is the gold standard…. The Team Mom…. and she’s not cutting it?” So I casually asked him to tell me more. “She cheers at him for everything… it’s like finding his way to home plate to take his turn at bat is as big a deal as a clutch hit or a big play in the field. It’s like she doesn’t think he can do anything right… it’s embarrassing.” Wait…. the eight-year-old boy (the one most of the others envy) has let at least one other eight-year-old boy know that his Mom’s excess cheering makes him feel incompetent? Maybe this over-involved, over-praising thing isn’t such a great idea after all.”
What???? Let our kids experience their own successes and failures? Without letting it be about the adults? One parent at a time, one child at a time, we can do this.
- Study finds children with low self-esteem are often praised for personal qualities instead of efforts
- Kids With Low Self-Esteem: The Parental Praise Paradox
Maybe I’m too grumpy to write this right now but most of you have been with me for a long time. I trust you’ll forgive me should that become necessary. And if not? I wish you well. I mean no offense.
I’m sick of self esteem. I’m tired of talking about it. Hearing about it. Worrying about it. Building it. Protecting it. Blah, blah, blah.
How can a woman who has been an advocate for kids and families for decades make such an inflammatory statement?
That’s simple: I think our collective obsession with self esteem may actually be hurting kids. It’s a term that gets thrown about as a well-meaning but lazy mental shortcut. Self-esteem has become the holy grail of modern parenting.
On the other hand, when I’m not frustrated and ranting, I’m able to hear those statements for what they are: love, concern and a laudable desire to protect.
Here’s the fundamental problem: we can’t give self-esteem to anyone. It’s an inside job.
As parents, teachers and coaches the best we can hope for is to create conditions that allow our kids to have the experiences they need to discover and embrace their own innate beauty and worth. Try, fail, try again, succeed. Hug, kiss. Praise, scold. Love the hell out of ’em. Trust the process. Rinse, lather, repeat.
- Low Self-Esteem and Bullying: How are they related?
- International Boost Self- Esteem Month ~ by Gabby
- How is self-help related to self-esteem?
- Self Esteem & The Arts