Monday, August 21, 2006

 

Parenting and Self-Esteem

The Mary Winkler case prompted me to, once again, consider the concept of self-esteem and how one develops high or good self-esteem. I rarely think about my own self-esteem but do often consider my children's.

First, a distinction must be made between good, healthy self-esteem and high self-esteem. When a person holds a view of themselves that is positive, realistic and beneficial to the person and the world. High self-esteem may be good, healthy self-esteem of it may be a sociopathic, narcissistic version that is ultimately harmful to the person and society.

True self-esteem comes from experiences and accomplishments or lack there of. In general, a child who performs successfully in school, socially, etc. will have healthy self-esteem. Overly critical adults easily influence a child's perception of their own performance. My approach is to help my children perform at the highest level possible given their capabilities.

I have one son who is slim, lean, quick, fast and can jump through the ceiling. My other son is much slower and doesn't have much "hops". But he is big and strong for his age. Although a couple of inches shorter he out weighs his older brother by 20 pounds. Both are excellent athletes, one an excellent basketball player and the other an excellent football player.

Both naturally gravitated towards their sports of interest. My job was simply to help them excel. My youngest daughter, who is tall and slim but not skinny, has also developed a love for basketball which suits her abilities well.

Sports allows for a simple, easy anecdote. Intellectually, my children, an yours if you have any, are equally diverse. It is not my job to steer my children towards my interests but to enable them to pursue their's. I follow my interests also and if my children show curiosity, I welcome them to join me.

People develop good, healthy self-esteem through mastery and control over their environment and through good works, not through being told they're a "good person", they're "worthy", etc.

I feel like I've written a rather sophomoric essay. But humor me. My philosophy of parenting is best summed up by Kahlil Gibran:
Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;

For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.
Perhaps over quoted but, if understood, provides a clear philosophy for parenting and helping your child develop good, healthy self-esteem.

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