I know exactly why I was so critical of the kind encouragement, though this doesn’t make me feel like any less of a slug. I just read an article by Lori Gottlieb in this month’s The Atlantic (July/August 2011) about how we coddle kids because we’re afraid we’ll damage their fragile self-esteem.
Here are the main points of the article, which is fascinating, the kind of article I wish I’d read when my kids were young because I see so much of myself in the warnings.
a) Parents do too much for their kids. As a result, kids don’t become resilient.
b) Parents rarely say No to their kids. As a result, kids don’t listen well to their parents.
c) Parents are too concerned with their children’s self-esteem. “All failures are reframed as ‘good tries,’ says Gottlieb. As a result, kids feel entitlement and in the worst cases become narcissistic. (Martin Seligman, former APA president has been arguing for years that self-esteem, while important, is overrated. Murderers, he says, often have high self-esteem. If we offer our kids empty, baseless praise simply to ensure high self-esteem, we are doing a disservice to our kids.)
d) Parents treat their kids like fragile “teacups.” Well, you can guess the result of that.
My mother sometimes tells me that I’ve raised my three daughters like flowers, which is amusing. My mom the poet. I don’t know if it’s true; I did my share of yelling when they were younger. When she says it, though, I smile. I like that image. And I suppose she’s mostly right. Better than raising them like weeds.