For too long have American schools or allegedly educational magazines emphasised and 'taught'
self-steem to children and students alike, but not necessarily to the benefit of young people. That's why
psychologist J.M. Twenge challenges parents and teachers to stop teaching their youngsters self-esteem.
Parenting magazines should stop insisting that a parent's most important duty is to
raise a child who "likes herself." As any parent of a two-year-old can tell you, most kids like themselves
just fine - and make the demands to prove it. Even as children grow older, most are confident and
self-assured. It's true that a small percentage of kids might need extra encouragement, but a much
larger percentage will believe you if you say they are the best kids in the world. Children do not
need to be sheltered from failure. "We do not need to completely shield our children from pain, discomfort,
and unhappiness," advises the sane book 'The OverScheduled Child'. "When life undoes all that hard work,
as real life invariably must, our carefully 'shielded' children may not have developed the tools they
need to cope with adversity." lf children are always praised and always get what they want, they may
find it difficult to overcome challenges as adults. "The risk of over indulgence is self-centeredness
and self-absorption, and that's a mental health risk," says psychologist William Damon.
Much of the "self-esteem movement" actually encourages narcissism, or the belief that one is better and
more important than anyone else. Narcissism is a very negative personality trait linked to aggression
and poor relationships with others. Somehow we've developed the notion that it's not OK to have a few
insecurities, but it is OK to think you're the greatest and everyone else should get out of your way.
Instead, children should learn to have empathy and respect for others. Eventually, children will learn
that the world does not revolve around them. As an added bonus, children who are sensitive to others'
needs get along better with their peers and thus enjoy all of the benefits that come with good friendships.
Children are naturally self-centered; growing up is the process of learning how to empathize with other
Instead of children doing "All About Me" projects, or writing "commercials" advertising themselves,
perhaps they could learn about another child in the class. What is her life like? What are her beliefs,
and why does she have them? What has she learned from her experiences? Children would learn a lot more
from this type of project, and might also develop empathy in the process.
Psychologist Roy Baumeister argues that parents and teachers should focus on teaching self-control
instead of self-esteem. Children who learn how to persevere at a difficult task and delay rewards
until a later time grow up to accomplish much more than children who do not have these skills. Children
should be rewarded for good behavior, not indulged when they whine or get upset. Kids who learn to control
their emotions and actions will reap the benefits for years to come. Their actions are more important
than their feelings about themselves.
We also need to stop talking in unrealistic platitudes, and this goes for teachers, parents, and Hollywood
screenwriters alike. We must stop telling children "You can be anything you want to be" or "You should
never give up on your dreams." Why? Because both of these statements are patently untrue. Not everyone
is good at what he would like to do, and even if he is, the profession might be very competitive and
full of talented people. Adults cannot follow their dreams all the time, but must deal with the practical
matters of getting a j ob that pays the bills. It's fine to tell kids to try to find a profession that
they enjoy, but talk of "dreams" and being "anything you want" creates unrealistic expectations that are
bound to disappoint. We're raising idealistic children who expect the world and can't even buy a condo,
who believe that every job will be fulfilling and then can't even find a boring one. It's especially
tempting to utter these aphorisms to smart and talented kids, but they especially need to realize that
it will still take a lot of hard work and luck to make it - lots and lots of smart people don't get
into the law school of their choice or get their dream job. Yes, your talent will open up more
possibilities, but it doesn't actually mean that you will be able to do anything you want to do. I have
never met someone who was truly, objectively, good at everything.
1. According to the author of this text, what harm do self-esteem projects do to children in the long run?
2. How should children and young people grow up in the author's opinion?
3. In which ways do proverbs like "All things are difficult before they are easy" or "Learn to walk
before you run" contradict to self-esteem education?
Source: Jean M. Twenge's 'Generation Me, Free Press paperback, pp. 224-226