We All Need To Fly On Our Own . . . Sometime
“There are 6 things that parents need to stop doing so that their kids can develop their own sense of self-esteem.”
As parents we all want our children to do well. We want them to live a well-adjusted life and to be ‘strong’ and capable and highly functioning and live happy lives. At the same time we do all we can to protect our kids and to shelter them from all that is bad in the outside world. We want them to see the world as a fair place.
I overheard a conversation awhile back about how one woman’s son had finally finished his hockey season and the league had put on a banquet for all the players and teams. Came time for the ‘awards’ portion of the festivities and all the players on the all the teams received a ribbon for participating but the trophies were presented to only those players who were the MVP, scoring leader and so on. Her son didn’t receive any of these awards and she was very upset that all the kids didn’t get a trophy as well. Had I felt like getting into the debate I would have asked why she thought he deserved a trophy and why she could not be satisfied with the ribbon to show that he participated. It seemed that he was just a kid who played the game every week and got what he wanted from the experience. It also seemed that mom was concerned that the players who did not receive any greater recognition would somehow be damaged or have their ‘self-esteem’ dented. After all it should be about having fun not winning. They all tried hard–didn’t they? Here-in lies the problem-at least for me.
If we consider the definition of ‘self-esteem’ Webster’s Dictionary states it’s about how highly one values him or herself and how much respect he or she has for themselves. Respect and value have to do with how much confidence one has regarding their ability to deal with what comes their way and how competent they feel with their skills or ability to adequately and successfully deal with finding solutions to the problems they face daily. The better they feel about their chances of handling their stuff the greater their sense of self-esteem.
So what do parents need to stop doing so that their kids can get on with developing that all important positive sense of who they are in the world.
1. Stop interfering with how their children see the world they live in. Obviously parents need to intervene when there is an element of danger that is eminent. But if little ‘Johnny’ isn’t upset about not getting a ribbon don’t act like or tell him he should be. ‘Johnny’ will make up his own mind about what he needs to feel and he will move on.
2. We cannot ‘give’ little Johnny self-esteem. It is up to him to build that within himself. If he wants a trophy, for instance, then he needs to work harder at developing his skills to be a better player. It’s that simple. There are no ‘free-bees’ in the real world. The kid who won the trophy may be a natural more highly skilled player or a kid who works real hard at being a better player.
3. He will learn nothing if, as parents, we are constantly fighting his battles for him. In other words if we try to do his thinking all the time so that he wont feel the harshness of not succeeding he will never learn how to think for himself. Poor decision making makes for poor choices and that comes from not being prepared to deal with issues as they come. Having said that obviously the bigger the issue the more we can listen to what he is thinking and question some of his thinking so that he might be encouraged to re-consider his solution or approach but in the end it is his decision to make.
4. As parents we need to stop thinking that we have all the answers to all the problems our kids will ever face. It is a vastly different world now and we are not in touch with all the changes that have occurred especially in a child’s world.
5. We need to stop thinking that our children are fragile emotionally and mentally. They are not either and we need to build on the strengths we recognize and stop treating them as though they can’t survive without us running point for them. We do need to monitor them closely and discuss any sudden changes in their demeanor.
6. We also need to stop trying to ‘fix’ our kids using an adult perspective and start trying to see the world through the eyes of our children. They don’t have an adult perspective–yet. They see the world and all it’s machinations through the eyes of human beings with much less awareness and experience. They don’t know what we know. It is up to us to help them learn what we know. Stop dictating and start teaching.
Next week I will go over the things that we CAN do for and with our kids that will help them develop an age appropriate sense of self-esteem and at their own speed. (Think about the differences between to encourage and to praise.)
That’s the way I see it anyways,
All the best, Jim