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Monday, January 2, 2017

Monday Memory: Instilling Self-Esteem is Important, but Can You Go Too Far?

(Originally posted 05/12/2012)

I've been thinking a lot about kids and self-esteem lately.  Why?  Because it seems like every one of my kids has a wee bit more than is healthy!

It seems that there are two extremes when it comes to the way some parents treat their children's egos.  Some parents seem to go over the top, gushing at every little thing their children do.  This kind of parenting seems to be getting more and more popular, and it is reflected in the "everybody gets a trophy" attitude.  For example, if a little girl makes a cake for her mommy, and uses salt instead of sugar, and Mommy tells her what a great job she did, the little girl might beam with pride, but she misses an important lesson.  Following directions is important!  Perhaps at a later time she will be careless in how she follows directions when not following them could have serious consequences.

Other parents are so critical that they would have berated the little girl for her careless mistake. Perhaps so much so, she would never want to make a cake or even cook again.  Where is the balance?  I tend to be more of a gusher, and would be tempted to ignore the sugar and try to choke down a piece with a smile. However, that probably wouldn't even be possible!  LOL  I suppose the best way to go about it would be to build the child up for wanting to bake and bless the family, while still pointing out that directions have to be followed.  The hard part is that every kid is different and has his or her own balance.  That's where it gets a little tricky!

I think my husband, Sane Man, and I have a pretty good balance when it comes to these things.  I do tend to gush, and he tends to tell it like it is, but we both try to be balanced.  If our kids show an interest in something, we are always there to encourage and make it happen. We've encouraged music, computer programming, sports, and more. But....

Our kids seem to think they are the most amazing human beings on the planet! Seriously! LOL They are always telling me how good-looking they are, how talented, and how genius. Now, I'm glad that they aren't depressed and feeling like failures, but here's the problem:  They don't always see the need for things like, oh, practice or studying. They are happy with "average" results because they just figure that if they did it, it must be superior. What have I done?

Even the Bible seems to send two "self-esteem" messages. One, we are sinners and fall short of the Glory of God. Two, we are God's beloved children, fearfully and wonderfully made, who are so loved that He died for us.  How do these two messages mesh? Well, we are sinners, no doubt about it, but He loves us anyway. As the cliché goes, He loves the sinner and hates the sin. Somehow as parents, we need to figure out how to still build our children's self-esteem while still pointing out the flaws in their endeavors. Obviously, not all of their flaws will stem from sin, but the more I think about it, they often do!

The little girl in the example above probably just made an honest mistake when she put in salt instead of sugar. Small children are just inexperienced and need a lot of guidance. However, I'm finding that a lot of what my older kids do wrong, or just poorly, really does stem from sin. Perhaps, in my desire to build my children up, I haven't stressed enough that they are to do all things for the glory of God. Often I see them seeking glory for themselves.  Perhaps instead of always saying things like, "You're so smart!" or "You're so pretty!" I should have said things like, "God has truly given you intelligence," or "God made you beautiful," or "God must be blessed that you wrote Him that worship song."  Maybe if they really grasp the fact that they are serving God in all they do, they will learn to strive to really do their best.

Am I on to something here?  I admit, I've been doing this for over 20 years, and I'm still a bit clueless!  What do you do? Do your kids have a healthy self-esteem?   Do you have any lessons learned that you'd like to share?  I'd sure love to hear about it!

Happy Child Raising!


  1. Crazy Mom,

    Welcome to The Christian Home magazine! What a great article to share for your first time as the featured columnist for parenting.

    My boys have quite a variety of self-esteem issues. The actually do a fairly good job of berating each other to 'keep it real', so I can comfortable gushing on occasion.

    The thing I've seen be an issue with self-esteem is when people get so wrapped up in what OTHER people think and not look towards God. Then, it is very easy to be out of balance.

  2. Great post!

    This comes at a good time as our Gov. has decided that holding children back who can't read will likely harm their self esteem and so they should not be held back. I live in an area where illiteracy is very, very high. (I'm glad to homeschool)

    When I was in school it was okay for my math teacher to tell "you'll never go to college or amount to anything unless you learn math" which is way over the line but still if we are turning out children who are so into themselves, can't read, etc what have we done?

  3. What a great post.

    Yes, I do think parents can go overboard. I am thinking of one child (teenager) that I know. The parents tell her that she is the "smartest child in her school" and will debate it with her. They are only growing an arrogant girl.

    For your example of the girl with the cake, it could be handled similar to how you said it, but with a learning opportunity too. "How how sweet of you to bake the cake for us. I appreciate your help in caring for the family. How much sugar did you use? Which container did you get it from?" discussion on following directions, being observant, etc.

    With your discussion of your own family: I like your God references in the praise. There was only 1 perfect being ... Jesus. That usually puts teens into a different thought process.


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