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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Too Much Self-Esteem?!


How many of us tell our children, "That is wonderful!  You did a great job!  Super!  You're an excellent (fill-in-the-blank)".  I did.  All the time when they were little.  In school, in books, blogs, articles, etc. I learned -

Praise the child, encourage the child, build, build, build their self-esteem!

Ok.  So, yes, I agree with this method of teaching and raising your child...but what do you say when this happens...

Seven-year old child says to an adult, "I am an EXCELLENT reader.  You don't need to help me."  Or, "I am the best --------".  

I'll tell you what you say - No. you. are. not.  Harsh, I know.  Tough to say and tough to hear, but I am very tired of hearing young adults and hearing about young adults who are entering the work field feeling as though they are entitled to everything.  They mess up and they blame someone else.  They mess up again and they are still not at fault.  We have created a generation of "I am the best" and "Me Me ME!"

 They are never at fault and never accept responsibility.  

I am seeing this in my own children as well and I DO NOT LIKE IT!  Yes, I want to compliment my children, and yes, I want to praise them when they earn it...but enough is enough.  I know it's hard parents - I am very guilty of this...but we need to change our words.  Building self esteem doesn't mean praising them for everything, making sure they win at everything and coming to their rescue every time they mess up.  

When I heard my child say the words I quoted above, I made the point of bringing it up with both of them one evening when we were alone.  You may be an excellent reader, but you aren't the best...and even if you were, telling people that is rude and it's bragging.  Then we had a discussion about what bragging is.  It's a hard concept for a child and to help them understand we had to turn the tables and do the whole, "what if someone said that to you".  Thus the word "humble" came up.  I love this word :)

I also heard one of my children unintentionally put a child down this week.  When my child wasn't listening I turned to the mother and apologized, saying, I'm sorry but we're working on modesty and humility and bragging.  She said - I understand and when you figure it out let me know :)  Thus sparked a conversation about where do you draw the line?  You want your child to have high self esteem but you don't want them to be braggarts or to feel that they are better than others.  How do you do this?

Of course, I always think of what the Bible says in times like these :)  If you read the Bible at all I'm sure you've come across the word "humble" and "humility" about a hundred times.  It's important and we need to be teaching it.  Here are just 5 of the 100+ verses out there on humility...

Proverbs 11:2
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.

Proverbs 22:4
Humility is the fear of the Lord; its wages are riches and honor and life.

Philippians 2:3
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves

Psalm 18:27
You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty.

James 4:10
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

One way we need to do this is by helping our children fail.  I know this is hard - no one wants to see their child fail at anything.  But we have to accept the fact right now, that 

Our children are going to fail.

How many of us have let our kids win at games so they don't "feel bad"?  How many of us have helped them in their work or fixed something they did so that they wouldn't fail?  We do it all the time...maybe intentionally or unintentionally...but where has it gotten us?  I'll tell you where it's gotten my seven year old - he doesn't know how to lose.  My five year old wants her work to be perfect..."the best" and if it isn't she will get frustrated and try, try again.  I realize that some of this is personality - a perfectionist and very competitive person is never going to like to lose...and a perfectionist wants their work to be perfect...but we can still teach them how to lose and how to accept that maybe, just maybe, there are things you aren't great at.  Be upset, be mad; that's fine, having emotions is fine.

But those emotions can't control your actions

Learning to fail is part of life and if they don't learn it now, they are going to suffer when they're older (like many of those young adults I referred to who are having a difficult time starting off on their careers).  You don't get a trophy if you lose, you don't get a smiley face if you act bad, you don't get a "redo" every time you mess up; and when you do mess up, you take responsibility for your actions by apologizing or by helping fix the problem.  And if there's something you aren't good at, accept it and either work hard to improve on it or let it go.  It's not the end of the world.  I'm good at math and atrocious at history.  I worked hard (well, sometimes ;) to get through History in school so I wouldn't fail, but it wasn't the end of the world that I wasn't the best.  In fact, who cares?  God gave us gifts to use for His glory...maybe one, maybe two,  in some cases perhaps three...but no one is gifted at everything...which means in some areas we aren't going to be "the best".  We will be "bad" at some things.  I think we've all accepted that for ourselves, but I don't think we have about our children.

Embrace your talents/your child's talents and let your shortcomings and your childs' be something you try to improve on but not obsess over.

My oldest monkey just entered the science fair at school.  While we were working on the project I explained to him that sometimes they give out ribbons for first, second and third place...but that we weren't doing the project to win anything.  I wanted him to learn something, to have the experience of doing a science project and to just enjoy what we learned.  He agreed with me and said it would be cool to get a ribbon but he understood that he may not.  I wasn't hoping for him to lose of course, but I was interested in seeing his reaction if he didn't.  Turns out, I got to see his reaction when he won - which was also good.  He didn't brag, he seemed genuinely surprised and very excited.  This gives me hope.  

I still need to change my words though.  If I could go back to when they were younger I would've used these words and phrases rather than the ones I chose...

YES:  That is so creative!  I love how you made your rainbow!  NO: Wow!  That's the most beautiful rainbow ever!

YES:  Look at all the colors you used in your picture!  I like that!  NO:  You're the best painter!

YES:  You worked very hard on that, I'm proud of you.  NO:  You're awesome!

YES:  You practiced very hard and played well.  Good job.  Sometimes you don't win.  The other team played well also.  NO:  Sorry you didn't win - you should have!  next time you'll beat them!

You can see how the difference in our wording makes a big difference in the message we are portraying to our children.

The more specific the better!

Another way to help?  When you aren't with your child, don't assume they do no wrong.  It may sound crazy, but I've been a teacher for over ten years and many parents will either not believe me when I say the child has done something wrong or defend the child's actions.  I'm not saying teachers are always right - always get both sides of the story...but children embellish and will sometimes make things up to get out of trouble.  If your child knows that you are always going to come to his/her rescue and defend them no matter what...even if they really did do something...you better beware!  Because they will quickly take advantage of that!

Ok.  Rant over :)  Just had to get that out there...anyone else ever feel this way?!

In Christ,
Laurie