Building on yesterday's post, let's talk a bit about self-esteem. In the last generation, a belief has been built that self-esteem is something that can be bestowed upon a child. Again, when did we forget? When did we forget that self-esteem is built by accomplishment? When did we begin to believe that empty praise builds self-esteem?
Recently there was a news story about NFL player James Harrison returning his children's participation trophies. He believes that a trophy should be earned. Good for him! He is teaching his children that trophies don't come from trying or even just showing up. Sometimes, doing your best is not good. That should be incentive to do better, not rewarded with the empty platitude of a "participation" trophy.
In addition to the empty praise, such rewards also increase a child's sense of entitlement. That is not doing a child any favors. While just showing up may be rewarded in childhood, just showing up will get you fired in adulthood. I have seen, numerous times, a younger employee who believes that their paycheck depends only on them "showing up" and that such a blessing should be enough. There are numerous article written about such inflated self-esteem and the corresponding lack of work ethic.
Self-esteem comes from accomplishment. Even a child reaches the age where they realize that praise without accomplishment is empty. Most will still accept that praise as it is usually accompanied by a monetary or other type of physical reward. Unfortunately, that empty praise leads not to self-esteem, but to spoiled entitlement.
There is nothing wrong with having expectations, whether from a child or an adult. If those expectations are met and/or exceeded, praise is due. If the expectation is not met, it is not. When did we forget that basic principle? Perhaps a refresher is in order.