You Called Me A What…?
THE Relationship Blog
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Do you know what makes you awesome? Everybody talks a lot about self esteem but what really makes up self esteem is being your own cheerleader. Self esteem is not just confidence but a sense of your own amazingness. Self esteem is intrinsic and yet we spend so much time and effort trying to promote self esteem extrinsically. For example, in competitive sports for children, everyone wins a trophy so that kids won’t feel bad. The reality is that the trophy ultimately means nothing if the child does not feel that they are good. Even the most valuable player who hit all the home runs, caught all the touchdowns and kicked all the goals could be sitting there with the biggest prize beating themselves up about the time they didn’t catch the ball or struck out.
Parents and educators are told that they hold the key to a child’s self esteem. We spend all our time refraining from any perceived negative terms and celebrating minor miracles (wow, you made your bed!) and never ask the kid how they feel about themselves. Educators have been virtually handcuffed to a politically correct dictionary. In the last 30 years, psychological classifications of intelligence have evolved (or devolved depending on your opinion) from the old feeblemindedness to saying that a child has extremely low intelligence. The problem with the new wording, or even trying to use euphemisms like mentally deficient, is that most parents sitting at an IEP hearing these words have no idea what the psychologist is talking about. You can show the Bell Curve and demonstrate statistical averages and the standard deviations delineating borderline intelligence and lower but a parent will not understand. The child, for all that we try to protect them, understands to well that they are not in a regular classroom. A child is no longer a genius or superior but gifted. In other words, it was a present, not inherent within him.
Look, our parents never asked us one way or another how we felt nor did they cushion any blows for us, like most children in our generation and the ones before us. We were told do not brag or boast. We were taught that humility was a beautiful thing and arrogance was ugly. We have not changed that much over the years. We are foregoing the bragging for one upping and keeping up with the Jones. Everybody needs the latest I-crap to be whole. Ultimately, we have solidified that our esteem is built on extrinsic classifications, prizes and belongings. Having a good heart and being nice are not really perceived as virtues.
Self esteem is a big deal. However, spend less time telling your kid that they are awesome and ask them how they feel. This has to be the next step in the evolution of parenting and child rearing. Perhaps, maybe in our children’s generation, we can forget about fighting all these labels and words and just let a child tell us how they feel. It’s not the words that hurt but the meaning we attach. The word retarded is not a bullet or a death sentence. It’s just a technical term. Yes, some people have bastardized it and it became an insult. However, the scientific term is still the only real all encompassing word that indicates a slowness of development. So ease up people. Let your kids share their feelings about themselves. That is how to build up their self esteem; not keeping them in a word bubble.