Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Self-Esteem Trap

My oldest friend mentioned something about The Self-Esteem Trap the other day. It's a new book about kids and self-esteem and parenting. I read oodles of that kind of psychobabble about ten years ago, and then gave it up. Too many experts, too many agendas, too much nonsense.

But today I saw the book in the library, flipped to the middle and read a page. It seemed to describe one or two of my children pretty accurately, so I checked it out.

Now I know only a certain kind of person comments on a book after reading only two chapters. I'm that person today (mostly because I'm leaving on vacation tomorrow, and won't have time to a. finish the book today or b) post again any time soon).

The gist of the intro and first two chapters is this: by praising and encouraging our kids' every move, we have created children who suffer from "obsessive self-focus, restless dissatisfaction, pressures to be exceptional, unreadiness to take on adult responsibilities, feelings of superiority (or inferiority), and excessive fears of being humiliated".

Basically, if parents congratulate kids for merely existing, they'll never develop their inner sense of when they are doing well, and when they are off base. Moreover, by protecting kids from adversity (don't we all try to do that?) we are depriving them of opportunities for growth. How will they develop confidence that they can handle difficult situations, if they never face them?

Finally! Someone is recognizing that the pendulum of parenting has swung too far. In reaction to old-style parenting that was strict, critical and less honoring of the individual, the self-esteem push of the 80's and 90's has gone out of control, creating a whole new set of psychological, emotional problems for kids.

I think I'll finish the book. Or at least keep reading until I disagree a lot. But so far, so good.

Application to my parenting?

My kids need more adversity! Woo Hoo! Imagining and creating difficult situations for each one..... MWA...HA..HA..HA.......


Beth said...

Looking forward to your final assessment.

Sue said...

Beth - it didn't change. Often those types of books offer most new ideas up front, with more explanation and details in the chapters that follow. Overall, I thought it was a good contribution to the dialogue on parenting - and needed right now. I didn't agree with everything she said, but liked her fresh, honest perspective.