Virtual Voices

The self-esteem myth

Education

The theory that promoting self-esteem in children provides wide-ranging benefits has been debunked. Again.

A new book, NurtureShock, by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, takes a look at a variety of recent findings about child development. Among them is evidence that teaching self-esteem doesn't do children any good whatsoever.

Americans seem eager to embrace fads when it comes to child rearing, and the self-esteem fad was among the hottest. It became all the rage in schools, with California even establishing a self-esteem task force. In the elementary grades, my children recounted exercises they were asked to participate in during "Life Skills" class. My son, for instance, recalls his teacher asking each child in turn to tell the class one thing at which he excelled. For him, and undoubtedly for many other children, it didn't ring true.

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According to the book, the latest findings show that having high self-esteem doesn't improve kids' grades, enhance their social skills, or deter them from drinking alcohol.

To me it's another argument that schools should stick to the basics and stay out of the business of group psychology. Imagine the money, time, and energy wasted on the futile effort to help children by teaching them to feel good about themselves.

I know that Christianity is more complicated than the simple but profound fact that God loves each of us perfectly. But I've often thought that if we could know that---deep down, every moment---it would be the cure for our insecurities and the negative thoughts and actions they breed. The knowledge of God's love and the desire to love Him in return: Now there's something worth fostering in children. And loving others---loving one's neighbor as oneself---is surely a more worthy goal for all of us.

Marcia Segelstein
Marcia Segelstein

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