The Self-Esteem Trap: Raising Confident and Compassionate Kids in an Age of Self-Importance Hardcover – Sep 2 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Young-Eisendrath, a Vermont-based Jungian analyst, practicing Buddhist and author (Women and Desire), identifies a threatening and perplexing problem she calls the self-esteem trap. Today's children and young adults are suffering from a number of symptoms, including obsessive self-focus, restless dissatisfaction, pressures to be exceptional, unreadiness to accept responsibilities and feelings of either superiority or inferiority. According to the author, instead of contentment and positive self-regard, kids raised to believe they are extraordinary or special are more likely to be unhappy and disappointed. Being ordinary and realizing one's connection to the human community is the real key to happiness, she argues, and cultivating the qualities of generosity, discipline, patience, diligence, concentration and wisdom will lead to children who are self-confident and content. She also warns against parents who run interference, protecting their children from inevitable disappointments. Instead, letting kids develop autonomy and experience the consequences of their decisions, she claims, is the way to go. At times, Young-Eisendrath's scope seems unwieldy, but her message rings true. (Sept.)
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"Wise and packed with insight, the book explodes the myths of specialness and self-esteem, replacing them with solid values much more likely to lead to successful children and, even more important, children who turn out to be good people. If you've wondered how to cut through our culture's obsession with perfect children, this is the book for you."-Jean Twenge, PhD, author of Generation Me
"Groundbreaking ... Insightful, well written, and filled with practical advice....As Dr. Young-Eisendrath points out, we can't give children self-esteem. It is a gift we must help them give themselves as they struggle and feel the joy of living in personal conscience, core values, and empathy for others."-Michael Gurian, author of The Wonder of Boys and Nurture the Nature
"Incisive, persuasive, practical, and wise. ...An immensely valuable, reliable, and engaging book."-Edward Hallowell, M.D., author of The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness
"A thoroughly delightful exploration as to why compassion and virtue are the necessary ingredients for the development of a healthy balance for ourselves and our children."-Richard Boyatzis, PhD., coauthor of Primal Leadership
Top Customer Reviews
Highly recommended for Raymond Parenting parents.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
In "The Self-Esteem Trap" Polly Young-Eisendrath is concerned to delineate how we got our kids into this "self-esteem trap" of too much praise and entitlement for too little effort, and offer advice as to how we can bring them out of it. In her opinion, it started with the '60's and thte "I'm okay, you're okay" movement in parenting. Unlike past generations, parents tried to deal with kids more as equals; creativity and expression was never to be stifled, authority and rules were seen as over-burdensome, and children were seen (albeit undeliberately) as fragile. Paradoxically, the good intentions of trying to take limits off of kids, and desiring for kids to feel terrific about themselves, ended in kids that were more miserable and unable to cope with stress.
Young-Eisendrath goes on to spell out several particular things she finds lacking in today's youth, offering evidence from studies and her own interviews (with patients and those who work with children) for support. The author suggests that today's children are not (a) learning how to deal with adversity and disappointment; (b) learning how to problem-solve real-world situations, and (c) learning how to feel average, rather than extraordinary (humble, rather than brilliant).
Most of the book focuses on these three problems and their corroolaries: kids today are either experiencing too little guidance (from laisseez-faire parents who don't teach their kids the importance of virtues like patience and persistence), or overprotected (by "hellicopter parents" who fly over their kids to ensure that they never have to face consequences or problem-solve their own dilemmas). The author talks about strategies for raising well-balanced kids that respect authority, can cope with disappointment, and know how and why "virtue" sitll matters. (One particularly interesting suggestion is the weekly "house meeting" where the family gathers to openly discuss problems, succcesses, failures, and solutions).
As a special educator, I recognize many of my students in this book. Today's kids are uncommonly unused to disappointment and carry a large sense of entitlement. (I am owed a good grade, because I've shown up to class, and did a few assignments.) The best thing about this book, though, is the author's calm, rational, and never-accusatory tone. She is as interested in outlaying the problem (and what she sees as its origin) as she is about giving ideas towards a solution. Far from a book crabbing about how we need to revert to the parenting of yore, Young-Eisendrath wants to figure out forward-looking solutions to the crisis.
I strongly reccomend this book both to those who are predisposed to agree with its thesis, and (especially) those who might not. "The Sel-Esteem Trap" offers much for us to think about.
I also work with young children and see firsthand how our current parenting methods of trying to build self-esteem with the goal of creating capable, happy children; is instead producing children who cannot cope with the smallest frustrations, who are too often rude and demanding, entitled and self-centered, and who ultimately do Not feel capable or good about themselves.
The author expands upon these early years and shows that the results of our well-intentioned efforts backfire and produce adults who feel that the world owes them, or that they will be rescued and when they are not, they do not understand and are unhappy, and unable to cope.
It's a long fall and a hard landing off the "special" pedestal we often create for our children...they would be happier learning that they are "ordinary", and that they will struggle like everyone else. Being special sets them apart or above, which ultimately creates more difficulties for them.
Everyone has troubles along the way, including them. Eventually we all face sickness and death, for example. We are weakening our children rather than strengthening them when we try to smooth over and fix every disappointment they face.
Also, she presents this as a cultural issue, a result of the place and the times we live in. I think this is very true and that a new parenting trend must be set, that too many of us are enmeshed in these faulty methods- with the best of intentions.
She is compassionate, and offers great insight and ways to accomplish the goal of raising children to become capable and happy adults.
"...self-esteem includes knowing and accepting both your strengths and your weaknesses" pg 31
I think we leave out the part about accepting your weaknesses, your limitations- I know that I did at least, so I will be using her advice to try and remedy that with my son.
I highly recommend this book.
She does not blame or verbally assualt parents, and often chastises herself for not knowing any better. She spends a great deal of time explaining why so many gen-x and gen-y kids are now having troubles in their young adulthood and then offers advice for both old parents, new parents, and their children for dealing with their current issues and preventing future problems.
I wouldnt say I was spoiled, especially after 9 years in the Navy, but I often had diffuclty judging my own accomplishments or failures. Growing up in an age of self-important didnt provide clear goals or plans or meters for important events in my life. Having the kind of upbringing I had wasnt always easy, but this lady showed me how to be more realistic, less self-hating and self-depricating, and more able to focus on the truly important aspects of my life, career, relationships, and everything. Reading the book helped me to appreciate my own life even more, now that I am 30 and looking to move up in the world.
Much thanks to the good doctor, I only wish I had read it sooner.
Young-Eisendrath's prescription is a healthy dose of traditional parenting, where children are required to have responsibilities at an early age, and where they are allowed to deal, where age-appropriate, with life's issues and challenges on their own. Her prescription is structured by her Buddhist beliefs, where virtues from that tradition, like patience, discipline and fortitude, for example, and an emphasis on interdependence, provide the foundation and soil from which children learn that life is hard, that it takes time to achieve anything significant, and that they can develop the internal resources to cope, grow and thrive. Young-Eisendrath's catch-all mindset is that of "being ordinary", or not seeking fame, fortune and power, which are alluring yet ultimately disappointing , and instead focusing on the virtues and practices that lead to a fulfilling, although ordinary, life.
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