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Beware of the Self Esteem Scam!…and 5 ways to help your kids avoid it!

If you think your child’s self esteem is the most important building block to their development, you might be hurting your child in the long run!

Self Esteem Thoughts

I recently came across , a blog dedicated to “happiness and tips that work in real life.” I was reading through one of the articles that highlighted self-esteem quotes.  Here were a few that caught my attention…

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”   -Buddha

“Until you value yourself you won’t value your time.”   -M. Scott Peck

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”   -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Don’t rely on someone else for your happiness and self-worth.  Only you can be responsible for that.”   -Stacey Charter

A Little History

The scientific concept of self-esteem took off in the early 1960’s through the work of sociologist Morris Rosenberg.  He developed a scale (The Rosenberg Self Esteem Scale – RSES) that became widely used in the social sciences to measure a person’s self esteem.  The test is available online here…I took it and immediately felt better about myself!

Is an intense focus on self-esteem really beneficial for our children?  The answer is NO!  In fact, studies have shown that the result of the 1990-2000 self-esteem movement is a disconnect in college students between where they stand academically and what they think of their abilities.  The BBC reports “that students are increasingly likely to label themselves as gifted in writing ability, yet objective test scores indicate that actual writing ability has gone down since the 1960s.” ( They go on to report that narcissism among college students is at its all time high statistically!

Childhood Narcissism

“What’s really become prevalent over the last two decades is the idea that being highly self-confident – loving yourself, believing in yourself – is the key to success.” – The Narcissism Epidemic, co-written with Keith Campbell and Jean Twenge

Parents, without sounding harsh, we need to help our kids accept the reality of

life without trying to make them feel like they are exceptional at everything.  Why?  Because they aren’t!  I have four children and if I tried to act as if they are the best at everything they do, both they and I would be disappointed.  It’s just not reality.  How can you help your kids grow up with a realistic view of life?  Here are 5 simple things you can do.

1. Be willing to say ‘no’

Always saying ‘yes’ trains your child that what they want is most important, regardless of the circumstances.  You need to say ‘no’ in your home.  Help your kids in a controlled setting learn the correct response to circumstances that they don’t like.  The reality is that they will have to learn to handle those things the right way…that is just part of life.

2. Everyone has to sacrifice around the home, sometimes it needs to be your child

I understand that you want the very best for your kids!  The best clothes, the best toys, the best sports teams, the best parties…and you wonder why when they are 16 they are angry that you didn’t buy them a car?  Who cares that you can’t afford it…you have trained them that life revolves around their wants and desires.

It is ok for your child to not play on the best travel ball team.  It is ok for your child to not have most expensive birthday gift.  Parents…breath easy.  Sometimes you just can’t afford what your child wants and it is ok if they have to sacrifice for the family.

3. Everyone helps cleanup after meals

This is a simple yet effective tool in helping everyone see that no one is above clean up time!  When the kids are younger, their job might be to clear off the table.  Ask my wife…I am always the first to take my plate off the table and to the sink, and then I wash my own plate.  (At…every…meal!)  It is a habit that my parents taught me in an attempt to include their kids in the ‘dirty work’ after the meal.

4. Don’t be disappointed with fourth place…and please don’t demand a trophy!

self esteem

I remember the first time my child won first place in our church soccer league, and I was the league director.  Year after year my son would play on teams that had talent and would win games, but there was always that one team (with one or two wins) that would surge into the playoffs and steal the championship.  Was I disappointed?  No.  It taught my son how to lose with dignity.

In life there are many teams your child will be on that won’t win it all.  In fact, they might not win at all!  Help you kids understand that in sports, there are bigger lessons to be learned.  Life lessons.  Don’t ignore the opportunity to teach those to your kids.

5. Help them do their best in areas they can succeed

Finally, find an area where they do accel.  It might not be the area that you are interested in or one that you would expect.  Help them find their niche in life and then encourage them to do their best.  Don’t try to fit them into your mold..especially if you have more than one child!  Accept them for who they are as God’s creation!

They might be average in some areas of life….As long as they do their best, help them to accept the person that God has made them to be.  That is the true secret to having a proper view of self!


DJHarry               Isaiah 64:8               We are the clay!





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