We've all been taught that it is critical to grow self-esteem in children. But most of us haven't a clue about how to actually do it.
We drag our kids from soccer games to dance lessons to karate to Girls Scouts to baseball and on and on. We mistakenly believe that all these things will give our kids high self-esteem. But we need to stop and think this through for a moment.
Compare the shiny plastic gold trophy your daughter got for playing on a team with her driver's license. Which was she more excited about? Why? The driver's license, of course - because it was proof she could do something on her own - she could drive a car. And that's a very big, adult thing. It's not that activities for our children are bad - they are just not always the great source of self-esteem we think they are.
Ann Landers had wise advice, "In the final analysis it is not what you do for your children but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings."
Let them be independent
Our children will get their best feelings of self-confidence from being independent and capable. Remember how great it felt the first time you got dressed by yourself (think way back), or made your own bed, curled your own hair, fixed the car yourself, made dinner for the family and on and on? You felt so grown up and able!
Teach them to work
Many children today have too much food, too many clothes and too many toys, and don't have to work for any of it.
Gordon B. Hinckley said, "Work together. I don't know how many generations or centuries ago, someone first said, 'An idle mind is the devil's workshop.' Children need to work with their parents - to wash dishes with them, to mop floors with them, to mow lawns, to prune trees and shrubbery, to paint and fix up and clean up and do a hundred other things where they will learn that labor is the price of cleanliness and progress and prosperity. There are too many hundreds of thousands of youth in this land who are growing up with the idea that the way to get something is to steal it."
If they aren't willing to steal it, most kids are still willing to whine for it. Many have the idea that if they sit around, whine, complain, and make life miserable for their parents - "Don't you love me? Don't you want me to be happy?"- their parents will cave in to either guilt or the sheer torture of it all and give them what they want.
Children lack maturity to know what's best for them. That's why they have parents. They may think that sitting around or playing all day is the best way to be happy. Parents who have vision know better.
Let them be grown-up sometimes
Children perceive adult functions as important and worthwhile. They know that those grown-up activities are of value. And they find them very attractive because they want to be mature grown-ups as well. The best source of TRUE self-esteem will come from your child being able to perform adult, independent functions competently.