We all think our children are wonderful. That’s good. But is it really ok for them to think they are wonderful?
No. It’s crippling.
Parents, however, are not always the culprits. In my son’s case, it was a teacher who stunted his growth by feeding him high doses of sugar-coated self-esteem.
When my eldest boy was in the second grade he struggled to read. I saw it at home and tried to help him. Of course, I brought my concerns to his teacher. She verbally patted my head and assured me that she had it all under control. The school was using a new program, I was told. He was at the top of his reading group, I was told.
Fast forward to the end of the year. At the parent-teacher meeting, I was informed that my son needed to be held back a year. He couldn’t read. Wait. What? I thought he was the highest in his reading group. He was. Only then was I told that he was at the top of the lowest reading group.
The teacher decided not to advance him to the next reading level because he would be the lowest kid in the group, and would have to start over. You know, from the bottom. She feared it would hurt his self-esteem.
What this woman failed to understand is that she had fed him so much self-esteem that he had mentally kicked his feet up like an overstuffed old man after dinner. Rather than working hard at learning to read at a higher level, like his grade level, he was enjoying the praise of being better than everyone else. You don’t keep climbing when you’ve reached the top.
Do you know what he needed more of? A good challenge.
The boy never gained a real joy of reading. What he did love, and does to this day as an adult, is a challenge.
In an article titled “They’ve Been Robbed” in Psychology Today, Dena Kouremetis explains:
Our children suddenly had delicate psyches. We praised them for trying. We even gave them trophies for showing up and participating — all because we wanted them to think they were winners no matter what the circumstances. Please. No tears. No disappointments. No mopey kids. Easy-peasy.
We impressed upon them that they were college material, too. Problem was — some were and some were not.
Well, guess what? Not all kids can win at everything — just as we were not great at everything when we were growing up.
Self-esteem and worth are often confused. Value is not based on achievement. How will they learn that if they never fail?
How will they come to know what the deep satisfaction of achievement feels like if they never earn it?
Feeding kids high doses of self-esteem just bloats their egos to the point of misery. Not everyone is good at everything. Children do need to be challenged and allowed to fail. It prepares them for a lifetime of achievement through perseverance.