Living with Children: Straight talk about self esteem

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A fellow psychologist says I paint with too broad a brush concerning the devastating effect mental health professional advice has had on children. He claims that some of the changes in parenting practice since the 1960s have been beneficial and gives more involved fathers as an example. Hold that thought.

In the 1960s, American parents turned from elders to professional “experts” — people such as yours truly — for childrearing advice. The new experts cut from whole cloth a childrearing philosophy that was 180 degrees removed from tradition. The centerpiece of this new point of view is the notion that high self-esteem is a good thing and that parents should do all in their power to ensure their children acquire it.

Mind you, the supposed merits of high self-esteem were sold on rhetoric, not evidence. People with high self-regard, says the evidence, generally possess low regard for others, are manipulative, and often become abusive when they don’t get their way.

People with high regard for others seek opportunities to serve. People with high self esteem want to be served. It’s the simple difference between wanting to do for others and wanting others to do for you — obligation versus entitlement.

Because high self-esteem has become what I say on the subject doesn’t go over well with some folk. The most common protest: “But I want my child to be self-confident!” There is no evidence that people who are humble, modest, and possess high regard for others lack the belief they are capable of dealing with life’s challenges.

Self esteem doesn’t pass the commonsense test either. Ponder this question: Would you rather (be employed by, work alongside, be close friends with, be married to) a person with high self-esteem or a person who is humble and modest?

See what I mean? Your commonsense knows the truth. (And make no mistake, high self-esteem and humility do not and cannot coexist.) The problem is that America’s childrearing commonsense has been all but asphyxiated by the big wet blanket of parenting psychobabble that came out of the 1960s.

So, since belief in high self-esteem is essential to believing in the whole of what I call Postmodern Psychological Parenting, I maintain that the latter is completely devoid of value. It is a sham that has damaged children, families, schools, and culture. I propose, therefore, that we begin the long haul of finding our way back home.

Back to more involved fathers. Are we talking here about the all-too-typical post-1960s dad who wants, most of all, for his kids to like him? If that’s the case, let us all praise the father who is a husband first and lets his kids know it.

[Family psychologist John Rosemond: parentguru.com, johnrosemond.com. Copyright 2023, John K. Rosemond]