Sunday, July 1, 2007

The Self-Esteem Theory

A stranger complimented me today. She said, in her beautiful, accented voice, "You look so hip. You look like you're from Europe." I said thank you, and promptly stuck that one in my back pocket. I got into the car and wondered why the kind words from a stranger meant something to me.

For a while now public schools have been criticized because self-esteem has become one of their new pet topics. The church we used to attend (dubbed 1st Critical by my hubby) used to criticize the "ridiculous" exercises teachers were "forced" to go through to make sure they didn't criticize a student in a negative or harsh way (or dent the child's can, as my drama teacher, Mrs. Unkenholz, used to say). Some say teachers shouldn't be bothered with this kind of esteem building in children, but I realized today why it might be more important than the hyper-critical think. (So begins my underdeveloped theory...)

As I understand history, my generation raised more fatherless children than any before it. Father's left the home, mother's worked hard, and much of the time praise and encouragement didn't make it into the conversation. From a girl's perspective, this meant growing up without that special bond God intended between girls and their daddies, and it dwindled down the dynamic between girls and their mothers. It was detrimental to a child's healthy understanding of who they were and where they belonged. In order for their self-esteem to develop many kids found themselves misplacing the longed for attention and approval of their parents into the hands of friends and/or the opposite sex. And oh, the chaos this caused!

It's entirely possible that my fellow, fatherless friends are now members of the school board, making policy, and making sure that children get encouragement instead of criticism. They acknowledge many children aren't receiving it at home, therefore teachers are admonished to pay enough attention to their students in order to encourage them when appropriate. It seems natural, acceptable, and harmless to me.

Teachers should never replace a parent's role in giving a child praise, encouragement, direction, or purpose, but they sure can help. Let the children get all the praise and encouragement due them. They are created in the image of God, after all.

And quite possibly, when they're my age, they won't walk around with kind words from strangers stuck in their back pockets (for future reference, of course).

0 thoughts: