In this writing I want to address one of the misunderstood concepts in parenting today, self-esteem. This concept became popular beginning in the seventies and has led to some rather bizarre actions on the part of parents. Even that great commentator on our culture, Saturday Night Live, has a spoof on it. Check it out on you tube and search for "you can do anything".
Originally the concept meant someone who knows, understands, and loves himself for what he is. But slowly the definition has come to mean parents think they must constantly praise their children whether it's truthful or not. Unfortunately this engenders dishonesty as a virtue. We've all seen the parent telling his toddler that he's the best soccer player on his team even though he's the only one who did not score. Here's the problem. Kids grow up; they recognize the truth and learn not to trust that parent. Don't be that parent.
Real self-esteem is the result of two simple things, unfettered love and complete honesty. Show your children that you love them even when they do wrong. That's what God does for us, and His is the best example. Telling them you love them is fine, but showing them is even more important. And showing them love does NOT mean doing whatever they want. It means doing what's best for them in the long run. It means speaking and acting towards them in a kind way but keeping their future in mind.
While showing love can be hard, sometimes honesty is even harder. Sometimes you just want to be that parent who does tell his child he's the best soccer player when clearly he's not. After all he'll believe you for now, and you have this short time to shield him from the real world, right? Wrong. You have a short time to build trust by showing him you will always tell him the truth.
Using that soccer example (okay maybe overusing), don't tell him he's the best; ask him which player on the team is the best. Ask him questions about the different skills of the players and which player is best at each position. Don't tell, ask. By this you give him credit for having a valid opinion and prevent yourself from lying to your child. By the way, if he asks you point blank if he's the best player on the team, tell the truth.
Yes, I know we all want to protect our children from the realities of life, but it's better to prepare them for the realities of life than protect them from it. You won't be able to protect them forever. (Clearly you do offer physical protection, you know what I mean.) If your child does not want to do his homework, he'd be better off failing a grade than having you step in and "check" his work. You may save him from failing an elementary or middle school grade only to have him drop out of college later. Take the hit now.
Parents, I hope this does not sound too harsh. Part of me would like to do the same thing for you and pretend that it's all going to be okay, but you will be better off in the long run if I tell you the truth here. If you would like to talk about how this may apply to your individual situation, I'll be happy to do so. I share this not to hurt any feelings or be critical, but in the hope of helping you be the parent you want to be.
In His Service,
Tim Miesner, Principal