The Self-Esteem Lie

I find myself wondering, has modern parenting become unsustainable? It seems almost entirely foreign to think of motherhood being anything other than sustainable. However, I ask you to honestly assess the state of family relationships today and ask yourself if our current cultural parenting models are truly sustainable.

There are rifts of epic proportions forming in some families while other families have become to self-centric that the members struggle to function outside of the home environment. There have been some painful public displays of these rifts recently. Steven and Kathryn Miner filed a lawsuit that was later dismissed alleging that their mother was a “bad parent” and had caused them significant pain and suffering with her neglectful ways. Among the atrocities mom committed? Refusing to pay for a homecoming dress and not putting money in their birthday cards. Why do we find ourselves in this place where grown children have come to resent their parents?

Although the Miners are grown people who should know better, I cannot help but wonder how the parenting choices made during their childhood might have led them to this place. I suspect the culprit is the lie we tell ourselves and our children: you are fully unique and special in every way and you deserve to have the world as your oyster. LIES.

The 1970’s brought us our first broad cultural discussions on the concept of self-esteem. It seemed like the answer to society’s woes was a simple “atta boy” at every possible juncture. The concept of being special and unique seems quite benign, right? Of course there is truth to this, DNA is proof that each one of us is unique. However, what we have lost is the concept that we are also all connected. It has become a self-absorbed, looking out for number one kind of place in the western world.

The fact is, each one of us is a tiny piece of a much bigger puzzle. Although we may be completely different in color and pattern, we still have formulaic edges that are inherent in our design and connect us to the other pieces. A lone puzzle piece is nothing. We have told our children repeatedly that they shouldn’t worry about what other people think. We praise them constantly for doing normal things that every person should do. These two messages have damaged a few generations and it is an unsustainable path.

We must worry what others think. Why? Because we are inherently social creatures who function in a social world. It matters what certain people think of you…like your boss, your significant other, your family, your friends and your clients/customers. IT MATTERS! We must offer praise where it is truly due, and only then. With children, we really shouldn’t praise at all. Yes, that’s what I said. Praise teaches a child that they must wait for someone to tell them what to do, how to do it and if it was good enough. It also teaches them that they should expect it at every turn. Instead, we need children who learn to self-evaluate, self-motivate and who hold themselves accountable for their actions or choices.

We have robbed our children of their internal compass. We confuse them by telling them that what others think doesn’t matter while constantly giving them evaluative praise that teaches them to wait to form an opinion until someone else has offered one. Generation after generation is more resentful of their parents because they have lost their resiliency.

Sustainable parenting means providing scaffolding in which a child is able to be independent AND social, without unrealistic expectations that the world owes them something.

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~ by vegucationmama on September 15, 2011.

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