Adults Who Promote High Self-Esteem Do Society an Injustice

By Rosemond, John | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, September 27, 2010 | Go to article overview

Adults Who Promote High Self-Esteem Do Society an Injustice


Rosemond, John, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


The notion that adults should do all they possibly can to advance the self-esteem of children is dying a slow but, hopefully, unavoidable death.

Research done by a number of objective folks, most notably Roy Baumeister at Florida State University, clearly has shown that high self-esteem is associated closely with anti-social inclinations. Unfortunately, it's taken more than a decade for the research in question to bridge the gap between academia and popular culture. At this writing, two generations of parents were persuaded to devote themselves to creating child-rearing environments that were rich in praise and reward but lacking in reality, elevating their children to idol status in the process.

Thankfully, I am a member of the last generation of American kids who were not allowed to possess high self-esteem. My mother and, later, her second husband did all they could to repress my Inner Brat, for which I am most grateful. (I did not, however, appreciate their efforts at the time.) When I had an outburst of high self- esteem, one of them would tell me I was "acting too big for my britches" and needed to size myself to the psychic garment in question before they were forced to lend me a literal hand.

Then there were those occasions when, without reprimand, one or the other of them would say, "It would be good for you to always remember that no matter what you accomplish in this world, you are really just a little fish in a big pond." It's helpful for me to remind myself of this on a regular basis.

Everyone in my generation heard these very healthy things from their parents. I estimate that there are fewer than 10 parents in America who say these psychologically incorrect things today. Today's typical parent seems to think his/her child is the only fish in the pond worth noticing, which is really too bad for his/her child. It's bad for all of us, actually, because the research also finds that the higher a person's self-regard, the lower his regard for others. …

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