A Stronger Basis Than Self Esteem: Competence

Gaining Real Self-Confidence through Competence

                Children will only truly believe in themselves when they have done something competently, something to feel good about. And it is involvement in real things in the real world that leads to such competence. The home provides a natural training ground where even the very young child can feel valued and have a sense of belonging, as he or she contributes while at the same time learning life skills in the family.

               As your child’s coordination, ability, and understanding increase, so can her level of responsibility in the home. She can also learn the value of constructive feedback in learning to do chores well. According to Damon,

               Children must learn to hear negative as well as positive feedback, to care about it and to act on it. This can only occur in relationships where they have full respect for the person who offers the child feedback. It is best for children to learn this while young, well before the adolescent years.… The only effective route is through a continuing succession of specific actions and achievements, such as taking on genuine family responsibilities around the house [emphasis added]. The process must be sustained, in small and large ways, over the years. There is no quick fix.

               We have the tools we need to produce self-confident, competent children. We must give our children real things to do in a stable predictable routine so they can know they are needed and important, and then we must praise them for doing something real.


Life Skills For Kids: Equipping Your Child For The Real World

by Christine M. Field


I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. ~ 3 John 4

Dad

Results of Focusing on Self-Esteem

                Damon also observes that the humblest people are often the most secure and that those who are most self-aggrandizing are often quite insecure. Jesus is the greatest example of that strength of humility. Philippians 2:7 says that Jesus “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant.” He humbled himself as much as he possibly could to do his work among us.

               What are the long-term results of the short-sighted self-esteem fix? (I like to call it the “self-esteem monster.”) Children who have spent their lives being told how wonderful they are eventually reach an obstacle which comes as a shock to them. Perhaps it is in the form of a tough teacher who expects more than good feelings in a student’s work. Perhaps it is an employer who wants the young adult to work hard, regardless of how he feels about himself. The collision of reality and the cocoon of self-esteem woven in childhood can be harsh and devastating.

               A recent newspaper article in my area was headlined, “Self-Esteem Taught by School as Important Life Skill.” In it Teresa Mask interviewed a college teacher who said that her students often get angry when they are told that they haven’t written a coherent paper because all their lives they have been led to believe that everything they have done is wonderful. Then reality sets in. Mask comments, “The harm comes from people who develop low self-esteem when they learn they aren’t as great as they think they are.”

               My own transition to the real world contained some of this element of shock. I finished high school at a small private school where I earned good grades and received much attention and praise for being so bright, gifted, and funny. Then I went to a large college where there were many, many people who were bright, gifted, and funny. It was a shock to learn I was not the only one. I completed undergraduate school and went on to law school, a place full of people who have done very well up until that point, or else they would not have been accepted into law school. The rigor of that training teaches young law students that they aren’t so special and that they essentially know nothing. Then, practicing law with the full realization of my own ignorance was the next transition. Being able to whisper to myself, “I am special” when faced with a formidable adversary in the courtroom was of absolutely no value to me. My security and confidence required a stronger basis.


Life Skills For Kids: Equipping Your Child For The Real World

by Christine M. Field


I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. ~ 3 John 4

Dad

This Message Is Confusing To Children

                James Tobin, like many parents, questions this trend to do everything possible to boost a child’s self-esteem. Speaking of his thirteen-year-old daughter, he notes,

               Eager to boost Lizzie’s self-esteem from babyhood on, we hurrahed each tiny step forward and rushed to reassure her at every setback. We wanted a Superkid in school and sports, but asked little from her around the house or in the community. As a result, we’ve sometimes wondered, Will she really be ready to tackle adulthood?

               Parents who make the choice to sacrifice a child’s well-being at the altar of self-esteem may discover not only that they have given up too much, but also that the gain is not worthwhile.

               William Damon’s research shows that scientists have not been able to find any correlation between a child’s self-esteem and any important behavior or skill in a child’s social, emotional, or intellectual life. Adults who offer general praise, such as “You’re terrific,” are sometimes doing children a disservice because the praise is not tied to any specific mastery. The message this sends is confusing to children and leads them to not take adults at their word. It also leads, Damon believes, to an over-preoccupation with self. He says, “When we tell children that their first goal should be self-love, we are suggesting to them that they are at the center of the universe. By contributing further to the already child-centered orientation of modern culture, this emphasis can push a child towards a narcissistic insensitivity to the needs of others.”

               Our Christian faith, likewise, warns us about having an unbalanced view of ourselves. While affirming our inherent worth as creatures of God the Creator, the Bible cautions, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you” (Romans 12:3).


Life Skills For Kids: Equipping Your Child For The Real World

by Christine M. Field


I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. ~ 3 John 4

Dad

 

 

Self-Esteem Is This Goal A Worthy One?

Seeking the Road to Independence, Security, and Maturity

                Patricia Sprinkle notes, “Children who do too little in childhood may not grow up capable of doing enough as adults.” What have we expected of our children? Too often, it has been simply that they feel good about themselves. The goal of enhancing, or at least not damaging, children’s self-esteem pervades the books and magazines we read, the discussions we participate in, and every aspect of the educational system. Seminars and school assemblies are devoted to helping children feel good about themselves. However, we have to ask, is this goal a worthy one? Will it lead to beneficial results?


Life Skills For Kids: Equipping Your Child For The Real World

by Christine M. Field


I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. ~ 3 John 4

Dad

 

 

Negligence Verses Diligence

Poor is he who works with a negligent hand, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.  
Proverbs 10:4


The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.

Psalm 19


I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. ~ 3 John 4

 

Dad

 

 

The Value of Small Moments For Small People

                I heard once that God made time in order to prevent everything from happening all at once. His graciousness extends to human growth as well. Imagine the stress of having to mature in one year, or having to complete a high school education by age ten. God had a better plan—to allow human beings to mature, learn, and grow at a saner pace.

               A child cannot read the classics of literature without wading through some phonics training. She can’t be expected to solve algebraic equations without first counting many beans. Learning life skills is the same. We can start while our children are young to teach them to be self-reliant and productive. Taking advantage of the learning opportunities in the small moments and the small tasks of everyday life not only cements the bond of relationship, but also lays the foundation for learning bigger things. We have the time, if we will seize the small moments. Bonnie McCullough and Susan Monson, in their idea-packed book, 401 Ways to Get Your Kids to Work at Home, tell us,

By the time your children reach eighteen years of age, they will have spent 32,234 hours under your guidance and training. Consider that it takes only 2,100 hours of classroom and outside study time to complete a bachelor’s degree in college and half that time to learn some skilled trades. Your home has sixteen times more teaching hours than does the university. What do you want to do with this time?

               Reading that forced me to look at how I was using my own time. Am I engaging my children in life-enhancing activities, or are we just passing time? I don’t want to be an ogre who nags the children to do more, more, more, but I want to be a faithful steward of the precious time that we have together. Having come to motherhood a bit later than most, perhaps I am especially aware of how quickly these years are passing.


Life Skills For Kids: Equipping Your Child For The Real World

by Christine M. Field


I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. ~ 3 John 4

 

Dad

 

 

Responsibility in the Small Things

Don’t Start Too Early or Too Late

First Maxim of Maturity

               Responsibility begins in small things, and it should be timed well. By starting too early or too late to expect things from a child we may groom someone who can’t do anything for himself or others.

Transferable Skills

  1. Positive attitude toward work and a good work ethic
  2. Eagerness to continue to grow and learn
  3. Ability to take responsibility for, and accept consequences of, own actions
  4. Adaptability to helpful routines
  5. Attention to detail
  6. Capacity for staying with a job until completion.

Life Skills For Kids: Equipping Your Child For The Real World

by Christine M. Field


I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. ~ 3 John 4

 

Dad