Friday, September 11, 2009


Our actions are the best mirror of who we really are and what we really believe.  It's no secret that kids tend to grow up to act like their parents.  They learn, not by what their parents say, but by what the parent does.  A passive, uninvolved parent raises a passive, uninvolved child.  An interested, encouraging parent raises a child who is active and reaches out to others in helpful, supportive ways.  The actions of the parents show the child that parent's assumptions about life.  In time, the child views the world with the same assumptions.

The one assumption I'm most concerned about right now is that of how children build healthy self esteem.  The concept of self esteem gets a bad rap currently, because the popular press and traditionalists have pooh-poohed well-meaning efforts to build the self esteem of children by artificial compliments and watered-down tasks - cheap victories.  While on the surface, many adults shy away from touting self esteem programs, their actions show that they still think that they can manipulate a child's self concept.  Nowhere is this more true than in education.  They give presents and prizes and awards for dubious successes or meritorious actions.  They lavish praise, gold stars, and grades.  I suspect that kids, in the end, sense that this is manipulation and are not fooled or motivated by the motivation programs.  Most communication is non-verbal and, I think, kids get the real message.

I read recently in a scathing attack on self esteem programs a worthwhile suggestion which I can paraphrase to say:  expect failure, but persist.  If our children learn that worthwhile victories come at the end of a trail of many failures, they will be strong and capable in the long run.  We've all heard the stories of Edison's experience with the light bulb.  Babe Ruth was once quoted as saying he didn't mind striking out.  He knew that his ratio of home runs to strikeouts was one to seven.  So, in his mind, each strikeout brought him one closer to a homer.  Teaching kids to embrace failure is not so very difficult.  One need only point out that kids have failed before, like learning to walk, but persisted and succeeded in the long run.  Celebrating eventual success as "eventual success" will go a long way to teaching persistence and building a self image which contains a healthy positive image.  It is an adult's job to help kids realistically interpret life.  It's every person's job to be their own cheerleader.

No comments:

Post a Comment