Hi there! This post was removed from Psychology Today by the author, but you can still read it in its original form here:
The easy solution: tie small rewards to completing the tasks as expected and tie the coveted larger rewards for completing the task above what was expected. Obviously this is what the children of the olden days would have expected - they were never rewarded for turning up let alone ever told they were magical special. Children once went to work right an early age and be expected to earn their keep and could even be legally abandoned in some places. Not to mention in the olden days welfare didn't even exist - if you were out of work for an extended period you would lose everything and be a beggar. Maybe that's why the old people (mostly dead now) counted their blessings - they grew where they had no guarantees in life whatsoever.
Or better yet, don't give rewards for tasks that are supposed to be completed, but give rewards when tasks that are above and beyond their duty are completed.
Great job for cleaning your room and here's a small reward, but if you'd have dusted, you'd have gotten a bigger reward. WRONG. An occasional but simple "I like how your room is always clean" is sufficient to let the kid know you're watching.
Save rewards for winning competitions, reaching a long-term goal, graduations, and milestones/rights of passage type events like religious events and birthdays.
Also, no matter your child's age, speak to them as adults and they will act like adults.
In reading this post, I got the impression that your daughter is very young. It's hard work to be a good parent to a baby, but it's also very simple.
The older the child gets, the more complicated parenting becomes. As your daughter gets older, you may find that you don't have all the answers after all.
Your grandfather was wrong about the WPA. It built roads, libraries, sanitation and water conservation facilities among many other things. And Ok, it wasted money on golf courses and other useless projects as well. But private sector jobs can be pretty useless too.
Under the conditions at the time, working for the WPA was perfectly respectable. The WPA provided tangible benefits to future generations, which is more than you can say for a lot of private sector jobs. It is wrong to disrespect those that did WPA work.
Yeah, that struck me as kind of weird also. If Grandfather were alive today, I would explain to him that all of the wages paid to WPA employees acted as a sort of stimulus. When you spend that money, it's going to any number of other businesses, whose employees benefit, and then their wages do the same thing, and on and on, and that's how the economy works. Didn't matter what your personal opinion of the individual projects were. Big picture dude.
Of course, being 60 now, I stopped trying to explain things to that generation at the end of the 60's. Greatest generation my foot. They mostly smoked and drank themselves to death, and then told us we couldn't/shouldn't do it. Greatest hypocritical generation.
Henry Morgenthau Jr., secretary of the Treasury to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, said to the House Ways and Means Committee on May 9, 1939:
"I say after eight years of this Administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started. ... And an enormous debt to boot!"
"We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work."
"I want to see this country prosperous. I want to see people get a job. I want to see people get enough to eat. We have never made good on our promises."
Stimulus is just that, initial stimulation -- it is not a sustainable model to base the government on.
But, if you want to sing the praises of the Government stimulus idea, don't give credit to FDR -- he got the idea from Hitler who got it from Mussolini.
Not the best pedigree.
You're connecting disparate things. If someone asks me if I'd like paper or plastic that doesn't mean I have high self esteem.
I think too many people confuse the terms positive self-esteem with conceit. As a person who stuggled with awful self-esteem, I believe that self-esteem is important but conceit is undesirable. In other words thinking that your child is as valuable as anyone else is good but good parenting means injecting that sense of balance and realism to avoid conceit.
The kids interviewed don't seem to be very smart. The idea of having free healthcare, basic nutrition for the poor, and free education isn't quite as strange and idiotic if you look at Europe, however these kids probably didn't know how to explain their position very well, they come off as entitled and lazy. That seems like a bad education issue rather than an issue with too much self-esteem.
What I find interesting is that you explicitly say you don't care about your daughter's self-esteem rather than your child's self-esteem. Isn't self-esteem tied into self-worth? Do you think your daughter is going to have the courage to express her opinions if she doesn't think anyone will want to listen to her? Especially in a society when a woman's thought is secondary to her appearance?
As for a sense of entitlement, I agree. The generation does have feelings of entitlement. They were taught the traditional Protestant value that if you work hard, you will get ahead. Also within the rhetoric of growing up with participation trophies is that if you don't want to flip burgers all your life, you had better get yourself a college education. And now that so many young people have their college education, they are being displaced from the workforce with huge student debt and they shouldn't be angry or feel too entitled to flip burgers after earning a college degree?
Finally, the wealthy will always be able to afford healthcare if they should get sick. I agree with what these people are saying that if you have an illness, you shouldn't have to lose your life because you can't afford radiation or high blood pressure medicine. The Declaration of Independence and the foundation of this country is that every person should have the right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Why should only the rich have the right to life in the face of illness?
Self-esteem for women is more complicated than you think. Society and media send many messages to girls and women about their value based on their level of attractiveness and their engagement as loving mothers and caretakers. Women who stray from the norm or show too much ambition, particularly in business, sports and academia are too often depicted and treated unfavorably.
As a woman in my 40s who has worked since I was 14, my self-esteem came from years of developing my whole self (mind, body and psyche), from building competencies (not accomplishments) and from working through obstacles, setbacks and loss. It is not about being rewarded for showing up or what other people think of me, but rather defining my own value in the world and contributing in my own ways.
A lot of negative comments, so I’ll just post one blanket response here. Interesting how the comments I’ve received from outside PT are positive. Different crowds with different viewpoints, I suppose.
First off, I hope it’s clear that the title of the post is tongue-in-cheek. Obviously I care about the way my child views herself. That’s the whole point of my post. For me, the sun rises and sets with that kid. I would take a bullet for her.
Of course I want her to feel good about herself, but I want those feelings to be genuine. I don't want her self-esteem to be some sort of Potemkin village that crumbles under the first gust of wind. It's important for me, as a parent, to understand that I cannot give her self-esteem. I can only help her learn how to earn it.
To the people who said that I’m conflating issues, I disagree. There is a connection between unduly high self-esteem, helplessness, and entitlement. I see children every day who are given unrealistic appraisals and unrealistic feedback. It can go in both positive and negative directions. Either one is a cruel thing to do to a child because it sets them up for failure
A well-rounded person is able to judge his or her performance and worth to others with some degree of accuracy. I have observed that feeling wonderful about oneself when you really don’t have much to offer is as big a handicap as feeling too critical about oneself. People with unduly high self-esteem suffer socially and professionally. It isn’t fair to do that to a kid. And we’ve been doing it to them for years.
As to to all the other political arguments (healthcare, the WPA, etc.), they’re off topic. I welcome the discussions, but please pardon me if I choose not to participate.
One last thought to the lady who said that self-esteem is more complex for girls. I disagree. Boys, and society’s influence on them, are every bit as complex as girls. Their needs are different, to be sure, but they require and deserve the same level of consideration. Not only do boys suffer when they're not attended to properly, but society suffers a great deal at the hands of young men whose sense of self is off-kilter.
I disagree with you that "political arguments" are off-topic. Anytime something is mentioned in a post, it's fair game for discussion.
Well they are by definition off topic because the topic of the post is self-respect. Politics are at best a minor context of the post. Feel free to discuss them, though. You can discuss anything you wish. :)
I really appreciated this article and wholeheartedly agree.
I am an adult student who attends a local university. I am in my 40's and have had many classes with those in their late teens and early 20's. Some of the courses are required and these are usually the less popular courses. For example statistics or microeconomics. What I have seen consistently is in the very first class, the professor reviews the syllabus and what their expectations are. T
he younger students then attempt to negotiate with the professor and try lessen the required work. "Could we have take home tests?" "Can we use notes?" "Do we have to do a group project?" "2 papers seems like a lot, can't we just do 1?" I was shocked the first time I experienced this. Plus the younger students would casually address the instructor by their first names.
I am currently a senior. I can say that in some of these classes the professor caved and made it a little easier for the students, I got A's in those courses. In other classes the professor would not budge. I also got A's in those classes. Guess which grades I felt better about? I have a 3.92 GPA and was recently awarded an academic scholarship and I earned every bit of it! It's a small amount of money and honestly I didn't need the money, but I am proud that it was based on merit.
I also agree that men have just as many issues with self esteem as women, even though it plays out differently. For example, how many boys/men are emasculated for showing or expressing certain emotions?
I think this article hit the mark. It seems to me that with self respect, self esteem will follow. I will teach my daughter to focus on self respect.
I agree that it's a bad idea to make a child's self esteem centre stage. It's like making a child's gender centre stage. If you emphasise one way or another too much - if you make it the focus of attention - you can't fail to go wrong. I'm childless, so I don't necessarily have a right to make this comment!, but I guess what I plan to do is not think too much about it unless something actually comes up and then I plan to help them to think about the big picture (i.e. does this circumstance actually say much about you or are there so many variables involved that you have a bit of responsibility, and another person has a bit of responsibility, and events beyond your control had a bit of responsibility....that's just more realistic).
I'm not sure why you connected the idea of self esteem to some fairly normal left wing ideas though? Perhaps the US left wing is different from the UK left wing (the US right wing is certainly more extreme), or perhaps I have not met enough UK protestors, but I don't tend to hear people expect something for nothing among the Occupy crowd. You get some people that haven't thought it through, but I think left wingers generally agree we should pool resources more effectively (everybody's resources that is, it includes the poor, who pay in a means-tested way) in order to provide those things that are fundamental (food, shelter, education, healthcare) to everybody. There's never something for nothing, really, it's about looking after each other communally.
And saying rejecting public works jobs is a sign of self respect also seems a little off key. The whole point of public works is that it boosts the economy (due to higher employment) while providing resources everyone can enjoy. Perhaps it didn't work so well in the US or something? It's historically worked very well in Germany.....but it is inherently less selfish than private sector work because it exists to help everyone, not just the few at the top (which is how capitalism is supposed to work anyway, public works simply balance out the negative effects of capitalism on both the economy and society).
I realise you've said you won't get into politics, but well, you brought it up several times and compared political/economic ideas with self esteem. I agree with your central idea of not pushing esteem or punishment on children but leaving it out of the equation until necessary, but I'm a little confused why most of your article made such a tenuous link between political choices and ideology and esteem. Particularly as those same left wing views as Occupiers believe in have existed for centuries, not just since the 'self-esteem' movement.
Agree. But our sense of entitlement- shifts with society's standard of living? As our quality of life improves- our demands shift? Not happy just to be alive- but happy if we can have free education etc etc.
Self esteem - tied closely to self worth???
IS this article overestimating the value of what a parent says to his/ her child?
I don't think telling a child they're great washes- As soon as they go to school- they see their mother is daft soon enough- they're not so great- 1000s will tell them so, but they might be pleased she at least is blind enough to think so & give a big hug to boot? As they gain social skills- they see the way?
But I do wonder if inculcating good principles (as well as just having them as part of personality)- will foster a sense of self worth & that this is the one thing that will foster true self esteem.
They might see eventually that they don't actually have to be intellectual geniuses-or sport stars to feel good about themselves.
Just need to be good honest, well meaning, helpful souls-they will get ample heartfelt positive feedback then- assuring them that they are valued - That will build true self esteem?? The only way?
Your parents telling you so- doesn't work to make it so? And it isn't all upbringing anyway- Personality is inherent- genetic too? These students may just be intrinsically selfish. Or you may have misunderstood them? The point is made here in comments - they may just be referring to what they view as basic human rights .
But your point- agree. Likely far more complex as some have been truly wronged by life. But is this one problem I wonder with people who perpetually see themselves as wronged by life? They see their problem as poor self esteem and they blame others for it. The answer is within them & comes with building their own sense of their self worth
I have never really seen anyone with an undeserving high self-esteem become disillusioned about themselves. Their delusions, which can border on narcissism, which is so common among young adults these days, are so strongly ingrained, that their psychological immune system makes them quickly forget about the facts when they failed, and cherry-picks the situations when they were successful and competent. This increases their sense of entitlement even further. It might be annoying for a few people around them, but they feel increasingly better about themselves, or so it seems. Can the ignorance about one's own imperfections be a bliss?
Hi Anz, I think ignorance about one's imperfections can be bliss up to a point, but eventually they catch up. A quick example would be someone who gets fired from a job, or loses a friend, because they don't recognize where they are coming up short. That's what makes narcissism so painful. A true narcissist desperately wants approval and can't understand why they keep getting rejected.
On the other hand, ruminating on one's imperfections is an impediment also. I think the healthier approach is to recognize them, know when they are affecting things, and try to make informed, dispassionate choices about them.
I like to think that we need real mirror around us and so do children. I like the approach and comments used in play therapy for children. I think it is the best way to give them a sense of self. To simply describe without any judgment what they do. I also think that there is not one approach which should be used. I think some level of praise and some level of (kind) punitive approaches are not unhealthy.
Im a liitle confused about your article because in my studies on self esteem high self esteem people dont act like that. its seems to be closer to someone of a low self esteem. I have noticed that there seems to be some uncertainty as far as identifying what high and low self esteem and how individuals who have one or the other acts. According to some what you have discribed of thos children is low self esteem and to others it is high or too high. However some say that there is no such thing as too high self esteem. What is saidto be too high is actually low. Why is this?
The Occupy group reminds me of the Hippies of the 60's. I was a kid, back then, but they struck me as illogical, stupidly idealistic, and they tended to be mooches.
But, the kids now in their late teens and 20's that I know are very different. These kids (my kids and their friends) are very down to Earth.
They are very Libertarian in their political and economic philosophy and very socially liberal. They have contempt for their older party-polarized counterparts.
These kids are also very well versed on the economy (my son could explain the Federal Reserve better than many of our politicians)and , needless to mention, they are very familiar with technology.
What I have learned, after much consternation, trial and error, is that there's nothing intrinsically wrong with this age group, they are just on their own timetables and terms.
They are not conforming to our definitions of success and they will change those notions in the future.
(And...they are fully aware that those trophies were just a lot of PC bull)
The New-Ager's call them the "Indigo Children" which is based on some idea about auras and such. I don't subscribe to that stuff (and neither do the kids), but I will say that the New Age descriptions of these kids is pretty spot-on (after you take out the mumbojumbo). So, I like to call them Indigos for lack of a better moniker.
I now believe that they, and we, are going to be just fine.
PS: From one parent to another, I wouldn't worry about too much self-esteem -- any extra gets burned off pretty early on.
When it comes to entitlement, nobody in the OWS movement has anything on those on Wall Street, on those jerks who consider plundering pensions, looting companies, collapsing economies and being paid for it by the government as not entitlements but natural rights!
Shawn Smith is a licensed psychologist in Denver, Colorado.
You are reading