Mothering Forum banner
1 - 20 of 40 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
114 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have been in the midst of an on going discussion with my friends over whether self-esteem is beneficial or harmful. My friend says that self-esteem teaches children to be self-centered and less-likely to contribute to their community. She believes a person can not truly love themselves until they learn to love and help others. Apparently there was a book written on the subject which suggests the problem with people born in the 80s is that self-esteem became the emphasis in schools and at home. Now these kids are grown up and they are focused on themselves instead of contributing to society. I was born in the 80s and can see some truth to this theory when I think about my peers. I personally feel that I was not encouraged enough to love myself which lead to some VERY difficult times as a young adult.
I believe the phrase "self-esteem" is interchangeable with "self-love". I think that a child who loves themselves is going to be more likely to contribute to their community and be affectionate to others. I feel that a child who is raised in a way that respects their self-identity (attachment-parenting) will in turn copy that behavior in their own social interactions.
I believe that a big part of attachment-parenting is following the golden rule and treating your children exactly as you would like to be treated. Doesn't that mean teaching your children to value themselves as much as we value them as parents?

This is a difficult subject to which I am pretty sure there is no right answer. What do you think? Any thought on how attachment-parenting interacts with self-esteem?
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
3,851 Posts
There's a difference between self esteem and self centeredness. Healthy self esteem is paramount to a person's ability to be happy.

Quote:
Self-esteem is the affective or emotional aspect of self and generally refers to how we feel about or how we value ourselves (one's self-worth).
It would stand to reason that a child whose needs have been met (and have healthy attachments) will as a result have healthy self esteem and can in turn have a positive effect on the world. I do not feel that a self centered person has necessarily had their needs met. They cannot focus positive attention outwardly because they are not fulfilled.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,346 Posts
I agree about the difference between self esteem vs. self centeredness. Also I think that when I child knows that he/she is worthy of being loved and that they deserve love, they have a higher self esteem. And these children also learn that love is about give and take. And since they feel loved, and love themselves, they are more likely to spread their love and give to others.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
114 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I agree with both of you but the point my friend was making is that by encouraging self-esteem you are also encouraging a self-centered attitude. She says that by praising kids and showing concern for their feelings they are being coddled and taught to over-value their feelings.

To me this sounds like parenting right out of the 50s. But my friend believes that people who spend time thinking about their feelings are self-indulgent. It almost sounds like she subscribes to the school of hard knocks. (Which is kind of weird because she had a home birth and wore her baby all the time when she was little).

Perhaps there is a right and a wrong way to encourage a healthy self-esteem? The wrong way leading to a self-centered person?
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
3,851 Posts
Yup I hear you and I think that what I said is similar to what you were saying in the OP. I think where my difficulty might be is in that I don't necessarily think that self esteem is something that you encourage. I think that a healthy self esteem (self worth) is a positive by product of having our needs met. And that it is vital to being a healthy person. If anything I think it lends to altruism, not self centeredness. Being fulfilled enables us to give whereas if we are not fulfilled for whatever reason, we may turn inward, focusing on ourselves more, possibly trying to fill the needs that have gone unfulfilled and rendering us unable to give outwardly.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,883 Posts
I agree there's a difference between self-esteem and self-centered-ness. I also think self-centeredness is not necessarily related to high self-esteem. A person with low self-esteem might become a seeker of attention because their view of herself depends too heavily on receiving constant praise from others.

I think the key is not to give children a false sense of themself, which is what I would consider to be overly high self-esteem. And I think that's the problem your friend is thinking of, and it doesn't come from paying attention to feelings. I see more of a danger in the type of parents who insist that their kids must be "winners" all the time, in everything they do. Nobody can be the best at everything all the time. I don't see that parenting mindset being synonymous with AP, though.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
25,599 Posts
I was a teenager in the 80s, and for all the talk about self-esteem, that wasn't what I saw. IMO, self-esteem means that you value yourself - you don't let others treat you like crap, for instance. But, what was going on in the 80s was people being taught to believe that they were more important than everyone else...not as important, but more important. It wasn't that their feelings counted - but that other people's feelings didn't count. I think a lot of really faulty stuff went on under the guise of "teaching self-esteem". I also don't think you can teach someone to have self-esteem...you can only nurture it.

Mind you, I find I get bogged down on the differences between self-esteem, self-respect and self-confidence. I have the second. I don't have the last. I really don't know if I have the first or not.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
89 Posts
Okay, I'm not really sure how to put this...

but I think I understand where your friend is coming from with her ideas. I think it's about empathy and not always worrying about your feelings, or if you felt hurt or mad in a certain situation, but trying to put yourself in the other person's shoes. If you have empathy for others to the same extent as Jesus (or another great teacher/philosopher), they showed us how they were completely self-less in their thoughts and actions and only loved others. I suppose, if you practiced empathy for others, you must have love and respect for yourself, but you don't necessarily put yourself first.

Okay, I'm just rambling on. Maybe another mama knows what I'm saying could put it more eloquently?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
194 Posts
My mom has had this on the wall in her kitchen my whole life. And I firmly believe it

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,114 Posts
Inaccurate self esteem seems to me to be the bigger issue. Ex. my son is NOT athletic at all. He has no coordination etc. If I played into the whole "his feelings might get hurt if there are winners and losers in sports" I could see how he would get this false sense that he is good at something which he isn't. The self esteem that is accurate is that he is a good person with a good heart and makes the effort and does things even if he isn't the best one out there. He does it because he enjoys it, NOT because he has to be the best.

When we stopped focusing on the awesome attributes that kids DO have and being realistic about the gifts they don't have, I think is when kids started feeling and thinking like they could do no wrong and stopped caring about what other people thought or felt and only cared about how good they were.

I hope that makes sense.

I grew up in the 80's as well (and 90's) but luckily had parents who were very in tune with being realistic. I was not the best athlete, but I was good in school and excelled at one sport. They reminded me that if I wanted to do other sports it was ok, and it was just fun, but let me focus and work hard at what I was good at. My mom also told me bluntly that i sounded like a dying cat when I sang. Some might find that mean, but watching American Idol now, I want to strangle some parents for lying to their kids for so long and giving them a false sense of superiority at something they truly sucked at. Then their whole world came crashing down on national TV.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,334 Posts
There is a big difference between feeling true self worth and the manufactured self worth that was (and is still) so prevalent. The latter involves giving everyone a trophy even if they came in last, overpraising, giving everyone A's, etc. This does lead to people who feel entitled to every reward with little effort and college or their first job is suddenly a huge slap in the face to this attitude! But being secure in your own true self worth has nothing to do with entitlement, except that you feel entitled to be treated with the respect any human being should receive.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,114 Posts
Quote:

Originally Posted by Quinalla View Post
There is a big difference between feeling true self worth and the manufactured self worth that was (and is still) so prevalent. The latter involves giving everyone a trophy even if they came in last, overpraising, giving everyone A's, etc. This does lead to people who feel entitled to every reward with little effort and college or their first job is suddenly a huge slap in the face to this attitude! But being secure in your own true self worth has nothing to do with entitlement, except that you feel entitled to be treated with the respect any human being should receive.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,742 Posts
Quote:

Originally Posted by mamabird83 View Post
I agree with both of you but the point my friend was making is that by encouraging self-esteem you are also encouraging a self-centered attitude. She says that by praising kids and showing concern for their feelings they are being coddled and taught to over-value their feelings.
I agree with your friend's statements, but let me explain. I believe it's vitally important to everyone to have a healthy self-image, and feeling good about yourself/self-esteem is a big part of that. I do think, however, that it's possible to praise to the point that children believe they're wonderful at everything. I don't think that's healthy. As an example, I played softball. I liked it, but I was awful. My mom was supportive of me choosing to play. She commented on individual plays, but she never tried to prop me up by telling me that I was awesome or that I'd done "a great job." She just didn't, and I'm glad. It wouldn't have been good for me (and it would've been a lie). I've seen parents who proclaim every little scribble to be a wonderful work of art, and I just don't think that's healthy.

I don't think that "showing concern for their feelings" is bad, but I do think too much coddling is a bad thing. From a parenting perspective, I view my job as teaching my children how to survive as they get older. I want them to learn to handle problems as they arise, and sometimes that means accepting that our choices have consequences we don't like. I think it's important to understand that in an age-appropriate way.

From a teaching perspective, I've had college students in my office crying because they've always "thought they were good at history" but failed an exam. Or they want special favors/extra credit options because they "can't" get less than an A in the class. That for me results from an emphasis on self-esteem building in elementary and secondary education. Yes, I believe that's harmful. What's being "built" in those instances is a sense of entitlement, but it's often portrayed as self-esteem.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,742 Posts
Quote:

Originally Posted by Quinalla View Post
There is a big difference between feeling true self worth and the manufactured self worth that was (and is still) so prevalent. The latter involves giving everyone a trophy even if they came in last, overpraising, giving everyone A's, etc. This does lead to people who feel entitled to every reward with little effort and college or their first job is suddenly a huge slap in the face to this attitude! But being secure in your own true self worth has nothing to do with entitlement, except that you feel entitled to be treated with the respect any human being should receive.
I should've read the whole thread first. Yes, this is a much better statement of how I feel.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
579 Posts
I agree with you 100 %. One of the biggest reasons I believe in attachment parenting is b/c I think it will help foster a strong self-esteem. Self-esteem is self love and without it a person is doomed to struggle throughout his or her life. Respect definitely helps build self esteem.

Self-esteem is NOT self-centeredness that was supposedly rampant in the 80's. In fact, a lack of self-esteem can actually lead to self-centered behavior because you need much more from others to constantly boost your bruised and battered ego. And. you also need to show others that you are worthy or somehow better than them, thus the whole "keep up with the Joneses thing." Those who care about themselves and are not as hard on themselves are able to be more empathetic and understanding of others' shortcoming (due to their own self-acceptance.)

BTW, I haven't read the other posts yet.

IMO, anyone who believes that self-esteem is a bad thing does not truly understand what it is. We're not talking about narcissism, which is the opposite of self-esteem. Like you said, where talking self love and what I believe is self-acceptance. The world would be a better place if more people respected themselves and in turn, respected others.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
579 Posts
Quote:

Originally Posted by MotherWren View Post
.
It would stand to reason that a child whose needs have been met (and have healthy attachments) will as a result have healthy self esteem and can in turn have a positive effect on the world. I do not feel that a self centered person has necessarily had their needs met. They cannot focus positive attention outwardly because they are not fulfilled.
Exactly!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
270 Posts
I do think there are problems with the "self-esteem" movement.

Excessive praise that is handed out for every little action does children no good, IMO. Such praise becomes meaningless and children pick up on that quickly enough. They need to learn what a real accomplishment feels like, and they can only learn that by failing a time or two and trying again.

I also think that child-centered households, in which the child's every desire, demand or whim is catered to for fear that being told "no" will destroy the child's self-esteem is also damaging to the child. I think this results in selfish children who have no empathy for others, because they have never been expected to take the feelings or needs of others into consideration.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,789 Posts
I believe that everything goes back to the idea that if you can't take care of yourself, you can't take care of anyone else. This includes self esteem. Self esteem is vitally important imo for people to succeed and have a fulfilling life. It can be tied to other things as well as previously mentioned - self-respect, sense of self-worth. ALL of those are necessary imo to be a well centered being. What your friends are talking about doesn't sound like self esteem to me at all but rather children who were raised to be spoiled and taught the world revolves around them. It's the whole "me first" syndrome, and really I can't see that that has anything to do with fostering a good self esteem. A healthy self esteem allows a person to keep going in the face of adversity, not rely on peer pressure, not look to others to determine their self-worth, and to stand up when they're being mistreated. Someone who lacks self esteem but cloaks that in self centeredness doesn't necessarily have the skills to react the same way, and I've found that often that self centeredness is concealing deep rooted insecurities.

I would like to say too that it's very possible to be self centered AND contribute to society in a positive way. My mother is the most self-involved, self-centered person I know, yet she'd do anything to help someone and goes out of her way to do nice things for people. However, on the personal level, anything we do, any decision that is made always comes back to her and what she wants.
 
1 - 20 of 40 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.
Top