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The Self-Esteem Trap: Raising Confident and Compassionate Kids in an Age of Self-Importance Hardcover – Sep 2 2008

5.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (Sept. 2 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316013110
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316013116
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 2.1 x 24.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 454 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #585,535 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"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

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
It speaks an improtant message to us to pass on to our children that we need to be sure that we are not enabling their feelings of entitlement and place in society. The basic rules of respect, courtesy and gratitude are dwindling and part of the reason why is that us as parents do not want our children to feel sadness or disappointment or failure. We want extraordinary children - but what ends up happening is that we end up raising kids who can't think for themselves, have no creativity and have never experienced failure, so as soon as they are adults, become depressed and breakdown. As a type A personality that always thought the most important thing was to have you and your kids be extraordinary, it has changed my thinking to believe that being ordinary definitely has its benefits.
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Format: Hardcover
Many parents mistakenly believe that constant praise is good for a child and will result in happiness and confidence. This book reveals the pitfalls of praise and constant attention. The author outlines the problems that can be created created when a child grows up to feel too exceptional or special and may have a hard time finding his place in the world, it it isn't at the top.
Highly recommended for Raymond Parenting parents.
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Format: Hardcover
Fabulous advise. Too bad the people who need it will likely not read it. Every parent should know this no matter what age your kids are.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars 21 reviews
38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You Must Read This (A Special Educator's Point of View) Dec 13 2008
By Kevin Currie-Knight - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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.
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must-Read Parenting Book Dec 31 2008
By KBmom - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I am a mother who has fallen into the self-esteem trap and is now seeing the negative results in my teen son.

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.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Helpful for gen-xers, their parents, and perhaps their children. Oct. 17 2009
By Shorty L - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a young man raised in the tail end of the Gen-X group, I found this to be an excellent read. The doctor talks about everything that went on between parents and children of that generation, what went right, what went wrong, what we can learn from it, and what to do better. It is not an expose or a blame game or anything hostile. Its just an honest look at how kids were raised. The doctor speaks as both a medical professional and mother, talking about what happened with the baby-boomer generation, why they thought what they thought, and why they raised their children the way they did. She talks about how some ideas, (like constant praise regardless of the childs actions), may have seemed like a good idea at the time but looking back was not entirely correct.

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.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Power of Being Ordinary Nov. 10 2009
By bronx book nerd - Published on
Format: Paperback
Psycotherapist Polly Young-Eisendrath delivers a sobering reminder of the traits that turn children into well-adjusted adults. Her book is not just a call to return to "traditional" parenting, but a reinforcement of what was good in earlier generations of parenting. Today's parents, baby-boomers raised by post war parents, and who grew up through the tumultuous 60's, have adopted parenting practices that are ultimately harmful to their children. Primary among these parenting errors are "interference", or when the parent gets involved in situations where the child should struggle and learn on their own, in a misguided effort to shield the child from any and all harm or difficulty, and overparising and insisting on telling the child that he or she is "special", capable of doing anything and everything excellently. According to Young-Eisendrath, these practices result in young adults who do not trust themselves and do not know how to confront life's inevitable problems and challenges. In addition, these parenting habits result in feelings of superiority or inferiority, with young adults who lack compassion and understanding toward others, and feel entitled to rewards they have not earned. For those feeling inferior, there is the overcompensation in behaviors to mask the feelings of inferiority.

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.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Avoid Parenting Mistakes You Don't Want to Make June 18 2009
By Jennifer Stone Gonzalez - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Polly Young-Eisendrath has written an important book that parents of middle-schoolers and teenagers ought to read before their kids go to college. One of the most important points is that today's young people have an abundance of information at their fingertips but lack real world experience that tests their mettle. Parents play an essential role in helping their children develop the life skills necessary to succeed in today's world. Too often, parents want to run interference for their kids and smooth the way, and tend give more to their children then the parents expect in return. This results in kids who get frustrated when things don't go their way. Young-Eisendrath reminds us why we need to provide our kids with opportunities, such as working in the community, that help them learn to navigate life. Highly recommended. (A longer review can be found at [...])