MomsOnMonday: Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on May 13th, 2013, 1 Comment

How Low Can You Go?

Season 4, Episode 22

The Framework

Tonight the whole family is at a roller rink for a charily event. And on and off the rink, family members seem to be struggling with self-esteem issues. So much so that when Phil skates by and asks, “How low can you go?” he might have been enquiring about their level of confidence rather than their Limbo skills.

Claire is still worried enough about disappointing her father that she won’t even consider his job offer – at least not initially. Cam is beside himself with jealousy over the relationships that Mitch’s ex, Teddy, still has with the rest of the family. Meanwhile Gloria is self-conscious enough about not being able to roller skate that she lies about it.

The adults aren’t the only ones struggling tonight. The kids have their own issues: After her first failed go at college, Haley so wants to avoid having a conversation with her parents about school that she secretly throws out all the college brochures that she’s getting in the mail. Alex wants a bigger romantic life, but her insecurity when interacting with boys makes her come off as mean. And Luke is so stressed out about disappointing his dad that he engages in some serious binge eating.

Flipping the Frame: My Notes

Is self-esteem the root cause of all these problems? If these characters just learned to accept and love themselves a little bit more, would their issues gradually go away? And would they end up treating each other better in the process?

Not long ago, most experts would have answered “yes.” For decades it was believed that healthy self-esteem could solve (or at least help solve) many personal and social problems. The list included some of the things we worry about most when it comes to teens. Underachievement in school, relationship issues, early sexual activity, and drug use were all on the list.

Unfortunately, self-esteem was way oversold. We now know that …

• High self-esteem in children does not make kids do better at school. While it’s true that many kids with good grades do have high self-esteem, it’s because school success leads them to feel good about themselves – not the other way around.

• Having high self-esteem does not make kids nicer or more popular. Although teens with high self-esteems may think they are better at getting along with others than most kids, when researchers asked their classmates or teachers to rate these teens’ social skills, the ratings had nothing to do with self-esteem.

• High self-esteem does not cause kids to wait longer before having sex. The most careful studies have found either no relationship between self-esteem and sexual behavior or a small tendency in the other direction. This might be explained by the fact that teens with high self-esteem take more initiative in getting to know people, which may lead to earlier dating.

• Finally, high self-esteem does not protect teens from experimenting with substances. If anything, kids with higher self-esteem are slightly more likely to experiment at an earlier age – possibly because kids with high self-esteem may be more likely to downplay the risks involved with alcohol and drug use.

So in spite of the high hopes for self-esteem, most agree it’s time to stop concentrating so much on it. Researchers have begun to shift their focus to character strengths that have been shown to be good predictors of high achievement and life satisfaction – things like grit (click here to read more about grit), self-control, zest, social intelligence, gratitude, optimism, and curiosity. And some schools are beginning to get serious about helping kids develop these strengths. Some like the Kipp Schools have even begun to evaluate kids on character the same way they’re graded on math and reading.

Sources: “Rethinking Self-Esteem” by Roy Baumeister

Flipping the Frame: Your Parenting Experiences

• Teachers in the Kipp Schools use a report card that assesses students on the following traits for each of their classes:

_____ Actively participates
_____ Shows enthusiasm
_____ Invigorates others

_____ Finishes whatever he or she begins
_____ Tries very hard even after experiencing failure
_____ Works independently with focus

Self Control – School Work
_____ Comes to class prepared
_____ Pays attention and resists distractions
_____ Remembers and follows directions
_____ Gets to work right away rather than procrastinating

Self Control – Interpersonal
_____ Remains calm even when criticized or otherwise provoked
_____ Allows others to speak without interruption
_____ Is polite to adults and peers
_____ Keeps his or her temper in check

_____ Gets over frustration and setbacks quickly
_____ Believes effort will improve his or her future

_____ Recognizes and shows appreciation for others
_____ Recognizes and shows appreciation for his/her opportunities

Social Intelligence
_____ Is able to find solutions during conflicts with others
_____ Demonstrates respect for feelings of others
_____ Knows when and how to include others

_____ Is eager to explore new things
_____ Asks and answers questions to deepen understanding
_____ Actively listens to others

How do you think your teen would score on this kind of a report card? How do you feel about schools doing this kind of assessment? Do you think having this kind of information would be helpful to you and your teen?

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1 comment

  • I can attest to the misplaced importance (in the past) placed on self esteem and/or the lack of it. This posting is an excellent review of self esteem and what we really need to be looking at in parent education as well as adult and youth development.

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