I am a product of the self-esteem movement. Thank goodness my parents didn’t buy into the idea wholeheartedly. Children born in the 70’s and 80’s were raised based on the idea that building self-esteem is a critical component to raising well-adjusted children. There was a belief among parents that self-esteem was an extrinsic quality and needed to be fostered by parents themselves.
Kids were spoon-fed lies like, “You can be anything,” and “You can do it all.” Why were they told this? Because their parents bought the lie too, that building a child’s self-esteem is critical to raising an emotional healthy child. Problem is, it’s not.
In fact, the Gospel of Self-Esteem is dangerous.
In the wake of liberalism and political correctness, more and more parents are latching on to the notion of self-esteem. It has now expanded into schools and children’s sports, as well. In Ottawa, Canada a rule has been established by the local soccer league stating that a team cannot win by more than 5 goals. That’s right. If they score a sixth goal, they lose. In an attempt to make the losing children feel better about the fact that they lost, they have created “a non-competitive environment.” Swell, sounds like fun. Why bother playing?
Those who grew up swimming in the sea of the self-esteem movement were slapped in the face when the reality hit that not everyone is going to give you accolades or pats on the back. They very quickly realized that you don’t necessarily deserve praise just for showing up. You earn a reward when you perform well.
Your boss will not always throw you a “Job well done, Captain,” or an “Atta boy.” People expect responsibility and performance from adults. Go figure. There are certain things expected of us in life and there are other things for which we must strive. Confusing the two creates children—and then adults—who are underachievers and yet “over-expecters”. They have accomplished little, yet expect to receive the same kind of reward and recognition as those who have done much.
Now that I am a parent, I caution myself in praising too much or praising the wrong things. I try to avoid verbally praising my children for things that I expect them to do, like sit at the dinner table and eat dinner, or pick up their toys, or be kind to one another. That’s not to say that I don’t recognize those things, however. I give lots of “pleases” and “thank you’s”. I will say to my daughter for instance, “Did you know it pleases God when you are kind to your brother? Thank you for being kind to him today.”
I am certainly still figuring out the balance between praising my children and giving them unnecessary compliments. I am attempting to let the Lord lead me in this area as I listen for his instruction.
One thing the Lord has showed me is that children, do not in fact, gain self-esteem because someone lavished verbal praise upon them. Rather, self-esteem and self-efficacy develop from discipline, healthy boundaries, and in knowing the person of Jesus. God says we are valuable and worthwhile. He says we are treasured and can be adopted into His family through Christ.
God doesn’t place any emphasis on self-esteem. He places emphasis on knowing Him and letting Him know us. That’s not to say though that we can skip out on hard work or the effort needed to achieve something. God is a rewarder and He also created work for us to do. Yet, we find our significance and worth in and through Him. A “job well done” will never compare to a “Well done good and faithful servant.”
Are you a proponent or opponent of the self-esteem movement? How, if at all, has God encouraged your “self-esteem”? What is a good way to encourage and motivate others others?