Self-Esteem is Ruining Your Kids

As a child of the 70’s I grew up 80’s where baby boomers were loving life, loving love and loving themselves. This translated to every area of life including their parenting. The seeds of self-esteem were laid by my parent’s generation and have taken full root in my generation. It’s this idea that kids need to have a positive outlook in life, they need to love themselves. While in limited ways this can be true the pervasiveness of this idea is killing the collective conscience of our country and is ruining our kids.

My parents were not primary concerned with my self-esteem for that I am thankful. I remember my mom saying something to me when I was younger that always stuck with me. She said that her and my father were not concerned with how our peers felt about us they would always watch how adults interacted with us and would listen for the assessments adults had of us. Why? Because my parents were more concerned with our self-awareness than our self-esteem.

How kids interact with adults is a great (not perfect) indicator of how self-aware your kids are. So many parents today are concerned with their kids having friends, their kids having the right kids of friends, their kids not getting their feelings hurt by their friends because they want their kids to have good self-esteem because they love their kids. They are doing their kids a disservice. Parents today take their child side over the word of another adult because they don’t want to crush their kids. In doing this they are eroding the very things that will make kids successful in life. I am all for good self-esteem and smarts in school but what makes you successful in life is self-awareness. And here is the truth that parents so often totally miss that when you raise a kid who is self-aware you get self-esteem thrown in, but if you try to raise a kid with your primary goal being good self-esteem you get neither.

[Tweet “Kids who focus on self-esteem run from the cross those who are self-aware run to it.”]

3 Reasons why self-awareness should matter to you as a parent.

1. Self-awareness produces confidence in your kids and confidence produces self-esteem.

2. Self-awareness makes your kids other focused because you are confident and understand their strengths and limitations it allows them to flourish and not have to pretend, lie, cheat or steal to be something they wish they were and not who they really are.

3. Self-awareness allows your kids to see themselves as the desperate sinners they are. When you are aware of who you are in Christ you have a desperate confidence. You understand that you are a desperate sinner but have a confidence in a sinless savior. The cross is not a boost to your self esteem it doesn’t feel good to talk about the cross. Kids whose awareness is understood in light of their shortcomings and Christ’s sufficiency, glory in the Cross.  Kids who have learned to nurture their self-esteem run from the cross those who are self-aware run to it.

20 thoughts on “Self-Esteem is Ruining Your Kids”

  1. This is right on, Sam! In fact, I just wrote a post on Monday that dealt with this same issue from the perspective of the Kidmin Leader being self-aware. It is so key that kids understand that they are fallible, broken, desperate sinners that NEED God’s grace to realize their potential. Children who lack self-awareness grow up to be adults and leaders who lack self-awareness and breed confusion and fear from those who follow them. I appreciate your perspective here. Great stuff – as always!

  2. Great point. We’ve been learning a lot about this recently, as we’ve been working with kids in poverty, & the educational struggles they are having.

    The experts say that instead of praising intelligence / skills, you should praise the following 3 things in children: effort, persistence, & strategy.

    Why? A child can’t control skills, but can control those other 3 variables.

  3. Pingback: Self-esteem is spoiling children as we look on godly-esteem with contempt | American Squire

  4. We were talking about this today in our staff meeting. Does a 14 year old have the ability to make tough decisions about their own life?

    It came down to “depends on the 14 years of parenting…how many decisions have they made and been held accountable for up to that point?”

    Really interesting how disciplining other parent’s kids is now seen as something you shouldn’t do or at least an area to exercise extreme caution nowadays.

    Great post as always Sam!

  5. Couldn’t agree more, Sam. Do you have some ideas of other posts, books, resources, etc. that show people “how” to build that self-awareness? As a parent – I need it. As a blogger – I want to share it! Thanks Sam.

    1. Big Truths for Young Hearts by Bruce Ware – Gospel Powered Parenting – The Meaning of Marriage by Keller – Self-Awareness in my mind is a by product of understanding and applying the gospel in every area of life. When you understand your sinfulness and his sinlessness you live out of gratitude not entitlement.

      1. BTW – One of the things I constantly try to build into my own kids is a sense of identity – who they are in Christ – so they live out of that identity (rather than simply morality). Last week’s post on my site might be of interest to you: 49 Identity Messages Your Kids Need to Know (and Won’t Unless You Tell Them). I actually turned it into a free ebook (no email address required). Might be of interest to you – and the readers of this post in particular. Hope it helps.

  6. Always learn from the thoughts you share. Too true. We can parent out of fear of misshaping or harming our child’s fragile self-image. We fail to see how that hurts them in the long run.

    1. Gina we all fall victim to this. That’s why it’s so important to remind ourselves that the bible and life are not about us but about a sinless Savior. Thanks for your comment.

  7. Charles S. Seaver

    Remembering when I was a tad short of cash for some silly thing I wanted and my mom told me that it would be impossible to get a job without a HS Diploma. Some 30 minutes later I had been hired, Part Time, as a stock boy at something like 75 cents, or less an hour and was expected to work at least 12 hours a week and still go to school. That was the beginning of being told so many, many times that I couldn’t do that, or this and usually was led in a manner to accomplish what I had set out to accomplish. The same was true in the late 40’s and early 50’s, and was and still is true in the 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s, the main difference that I see is that too often parents sometimes forget how they grew, fell and got up again to accomplish what their hearts desire was. It’s certainly not too late, we’ve got a son whose done the same thing, except he;s allot better at it than I was and we thank God and him for that. He’s a gift from God and that’s the just the way it is.

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  9. I think this is only partly true. My father was rather strict and would always take an adults side before hearing my side. The few times that I needed to lean on him for support, he recommended that I look at my own faults and fix them first (even when my alcoholic husband was running roughshod).

    I understand that self-reflection and personal accountability can be useful – but there are many times when I could have used him in my corner. There needs to be a balance between self-awareness and self-esteem. If a parent focuses solely on the child learning “personal responsibility,” she may feel that she has been thrown to the wolves! Not all adults have a child’s best interests in mind, so being protective of your children isn’t a bad thing. Also, if there truly are external circumstances that are harming your child, he or she shouldn’t be made to feel shame as if it is her fault for causing the situation.

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