If I could buy one book for all parents and educators of today's kids, "Self-Esteem Trap" would be it. I write as a high school special educator, and as such, believe that this is a very necessary and prescient book about how we begun raising fragile, self-obsessed, and unprepared-to-cope kids - and what we can do about it!
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.