Raising Good Kids: Self-Esteem vs. Entitlement

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Parents want to develop a healthy sense of self-esteem in their children. Unfortunately, along the way, it is all too easy to shift the balance away from developing a healthy sense of self-esteem, and toward creating an undesirable sense of entitlement in our children.

Raising a child to have a healthy sense of self-esteem means developing an individual who embraces life with confidence, and pursues realistic goals and rewarding relationships. Basing self-esteem on generalities doesn’t do children any good, so when talking with your kids, be specific.

A well-adjusted child benefits from praise of actions and behavior. Praise should acknowledge the effort, not a child’s traits. It is better to say “you worked really hard” (if they did) rather than “you are so smart.” Praise should be mixed with discipline for inappropriate behaviors and actions. “Discipline” is “training that develops self-control, character, or orderliness and efficiency.” The opposite is to “indulge” which implies “a yielding to the desires of oneself or another.”

Sometimes parents indulge children thinking this will help them to feel good about themselves. Parents become generous with material possessions – giving children the best toys, sports equipment, bedroom furnishings, televisions, video equipment, cell phones, cars. We allow them too much freedom, or we provide too much help thinking we’re ensuring they’ll feel good about themselves and their life. Unfortunately, it does not typically work out this way, and the child struggles in life with a misguided sense of entitlement.

Ultimately, we all want the best for our children. A healthy belief in oneself allows a person to lead a well-rounded life with the confidence to make the right choices.