I have been reading lately several books on Self Esteem and Morale. There is this experiment. Have several people you know write down their strong points, best things about themselves. Have these same people turn over the page and write their weaknesses. The list of good points, of strong points will be 1/2 to 1/3 of the size of the list of weak points. Why is that? Does that mean that everyone in the world has more things wrong than right about them? This is the implication. I believe it is culturally biased. People hate braggarts. So if they go on and on about their strong points and have few weak points, we immediately distrust and dislike them. You must be humble, even if you have to make up weaknesses to appear to be less prodigious than you are!
It is a myth that pervades the educational system and society in general that you MUST NOT criticize anyone. There are no rights and wrongs, just better or less wise choices. You must praise everyone equally for the 1st 21 years of life. This is foolishness! Foolishness I tell you!!! Remember this is from Solomon’s advisor. Story of 2 children
John and Bill are 2 different boys born on the same date and brought up in 2 different households. John is brought up by a family totally removed from media, psychology books, therapists, and Sesame Street. Bill is brought up by a very enlightened family that has Self Esteem books, tapes, little Einstein, only 1 channel on the TV…public television station, a nanny, and a therapist.
John rolls over at age 4 months. Parents are pleased
Bill rolls over at age 4 months. Parents take videos and post to Facebook, have a party with educational toys and books, and study the child development book for signs of genius. Yes, Bill is a genius!
John sits up, then crawls, then walks. Parents are pleased. John is pleased.
Bill sits up, then crawls, then walks. Bill sits at 7 months though, parents bring in a physical therapist to make sure he’s developing correctly. They show him movies of babies crawling, read him stories about crawling, and motivate him to crawl. Bill crawls. Parents have avoided imminent disaster and developmental disability and trauma. Bill has learned to get parties by doing stuff he would do anyway. Bill is not a stupid child.
John celebrates his 1st birthday. Parents give him blocks. John plays with blocks. John plays with the box the blocks came in. Parents are pleased. John is pleased.
Bill celebrates his 1st birthday. Parents give him educational toys that light up and sing and teach him his letters and how to count and colors and shapes. Bill’s parents’ friends give him clothes and educational books and potty training motivational tapes and videos. Bill plays with the boxes that all the toys came in. Bill chews on the books and falls asleep during the potty training motivational video. Bill is pleased. Parents are worried.
John has developed a 20 word vocabulary. Parents are pleased
Bill points and grunts and parents teach him sign language so he doesn’t need to speak. Bill is pleased. Parents are pleased.
John makes funny faces when he fills his pants. Parents potty train him. It takes about 2 weeks. Mom puts cheerios in toilet for him to “aim” at. Mom sets him on toilet when he normally makes funny potty face. Dad puts plastic sheets on bed, John sleeps bare butt until he sleeps dry.
Parents check the calendar. It is now time to potty train Bill. They play motivational videos, watch potty training tv shows, use the potty training doll that poops m & m’s, scream in ecstasy every time he goes in the potty. They ask him if he wants to go potty, he always says, “no” and then goes to a corner and fills his pants. He can go for days without changing a diaper because he doesn’t mind being wet if it doesn’t feel wet. Parents believe it is their fault that Bill isn’t potty trained and know that he will be in therapy for at least 5 years because he wasn’t potty trained correctly. They start the therapy sessions. 6 months later, Bill still isn’t potty trained. Parents are in anguish because they know they’ve ruined their child for life! Parents start therapy sessions.
John learns to put away his toys: a truck and some blocks, 2 or 3 books, and a stuffed animal. He does this before his bath at night.
Parents have a maid that cleans up the 30-40 toys that Bill has. Bill’s dad steps on a car, trips over the educational interactive box, lands on the cat and breaks the coffee table. He’s on crutches for 6 weeks. Cat does not trust Bill’s dad. Bill screams when it’s time to go to bed. He still has another 29 toys to play with today and he’s not done. Parents scream in ecstasy again for him accidentally putting a car into the toy box.
John learns to turn pages in a book and point at pictures. Parents are pleased, and get him more books. John does not know how to work the remote on the television.
Bill will look at 2 pages of a book and get bored and wander off to watch the latest educational programs on the tv for 4 hours.
John pulls the table cloth off the table and breaks a dish. Mom says, “NO!!!! and then swats his behind and sends him to his room.” John cries.
Bill pulls the table cloth off the table and breaks a dish. Mom says, “Oh Billy! are you all right?!” Then she explains to him (for 3 min) that we do not pull table cloths. Mom cleans up the mess. Bill pulls the table cloth off again. Mom asks, “Billy? I told you we don’t pull table cloths. Why did you do that?” Bill doesn’t know. Mom explains another 3 min why we do not pull table cloths. Mom is getting upset. Mom cleans up the mess. Bill giggles and pulls the table cloth off again. Mom yells, “NOOOOOO!!!!! grabs him and puts him in time out and sets the timer for 3 min.” Bill cries. Mom cleans up the mess, and then sees that he is truly sorry and lets him up after 2 min. Bill watches educational tv for 2 hours, then nonchalantly pulls the table cloth. Mom screams, “Billy! I’ve told you 4 times and put you in time out! You know you’re not supposed to pull the table cloth! I’ve explained it to you!” She gets ready to swat him and send him to his room. Bill’s dad walks in and sees what has happened and says, “You’re really not going to apply corporal punishment to our son for the loss of a dish or two are you? Do you think hitting a child will change his behavior?! Let me have him.” Mom reluctantly hands Bill over to his father who calmly and coolly explains that we don’t pull table cloths and then sets him in front of the tv to watch an educational video on how not to pull table cloths.
At this point, which child has the higher self esteem? If you guessed Bill, you are correct. He is now more important than either of his parents.
Let’s move to the school years.
John goes to kindergarten. He brings home a picture, and his parents put it on the refrigerator. His parents are pleased. He is pleased.
Bill goes to kindergarten. He brings home a picture, and his parents have it laminated and put on permanent display in the entry way. They praise him for his acute sense of perspective and use of color. He is an artist! They buy him an artist’s easel and a box of 200 colors and 3 reams of paper to draw on.
John wants to learn to tie his shoe. Dad shows him over and over and they work on it until John can do it by himself. Dad is proud. John is proud.
Bill wants to learn to tie his shoe. Dad shows him over and over and they work on it until Bill can do it by himself. Mom posts on Facebook and tweets it and gets a video of this momentous occasion and broadcasts it to the known world. Mom and Dad are proud. Bill is amazed that this is such a big accomplishment.
John is introduced to some new food. Mom makes him take a bite. John doesn’t like it. John doesn’t eat that food, but just the rest of the things on his plate. John complains that he is still hungry. Mom reheats the stuff he didn’t eat. John will eat it or go hungry.
Bill is introduced to some new food. Mom pleads and cajoles Bill to take a bite. Bill will not eat it. Mom makes an entirely new dinner for Bill. Bill eats this and gets gushy praise from Mom and Dad for finishing his plate.
Are you seeing the trend? I may have gotten down a bunny path, but I keep seeing these situations cropping up. The point I’m trying to make is that self esteem is EARNED and not just GRANTED. Over praise for everyday things can have 2 different consequences. One is the feeling of ULTIMATE TOTAL POWER, which you must agree is not a good thing for a 5 year old. The other consequence is the opposite. The child thinks to himself, “Why is it such a big deal if I put one toy away? Do they think that is is amazing progress for someone such as me? John puts all his toys away and gets a smile from his mom, and I drop one in and they take pictures. I must not be as capable as John. It must be an unusually difficult task for me for some reason. I guess it doesn’t matter because I can grunt and point and Mom and Dad will do anything for me. I must not have to worry about putting toys in a box. Leave that for the lesser beings.”
More on this tomorrow.