I'm Not Giving my Child his Self-Esteem. Now What?

Self-esteem cannot be given.  It comes from within.

I’m sure that is a controversial statement, which hundreds of doctoral theses’ have been founded on.  But think just simply about the language.

You can have confidence in someone.  Can you give them confidence?  You can have faith in someone.  Can you give them faith in themselves?  You can admire someone.  Can you give them self-admiration?  You cannot self-esteem someone.  How could you possibly give self-esteem to someone?

Further, are you responsible for your child’s self esteem?  Yes and No.  Constant criticism, lack of attention, and no encouragement or support can definitely undermine one’s early image of oneself.  Yet, look at the individuals who rise above such poor and neglectful upbringings to go on to develop a wonderful sense of self, doing amazing things with their lives.  Who gave them their self-esteem?  No one.

Self-esteem comes from within.

So called “helicopter parents” do their children no favors by handling all of the arrangements for their children, nor all the personal conflicts they stand to encounter not only in their adult lives but in the current life of their childhood.  They are admirable parents, only wanting the best and being the best for their child.  But, how do they even know what that is?  Personalities abound. 

What if their child doesn’t want what they want?  What if they cannot live up to the expectations of these parents? 

In the book, How to Raise an Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims, one mother that was interviewed said, “I need to put out champion-caliber children who are at the top of their field, making an impact and changing the world in some way.  I am responsible for creating the individual who is capable of that.  They are my legacy to the world.” Is she serious?  I can only wonder what her timeline for that is?

And what if they don’t live up?

Raising children is a long and arduous process.  A three year old is not the same as an 11 year old.  Situations will come up when you least expect.  Even though you may try, you are not always going to be there at those moments.  More importantly, Johnnie is not the same as Susie, even if they came from the same mom and dad.  (I happen to know this for a fact.)  Some are smarter. (Susie)  Some are more athletic. (Johnnie).  Just kidding.  Some are introverted.  Some are aloof. 

Cannot all of these have either high or low self-esteem?  Of course.

Now What can parents do?

Guidance is the best word for it.  Encouragement.  Support, both logistical and emotional.  At least two times in my daughter Carolina’s life, I intervened in a situation that was causing her strain and stress, one in preschool and the other in 7th grade.  For one, I even requested to move her to a different class.  Both times, the teacher assured me that he was very aware of the situation and encouraged me to let Carolina handle the situation herself, which she seemed quite capable of doing.  Carolina even writes about the latter situation in her sister blog, ‘My Kid is a Bully’ found at  What sage advice.  I guided her and offered coping strategies, but ultimately she had to get through it herself.  She went on to be able to handle equally stressful situations-audition rejections, difficult college roommates (and great ones, too), difficult bosses and a move across the country for a career that would test the self-esteem of even the most confident young person.  I am proud of her. 

Did I give that self-esteem to her?  No. Does she have good self-esteem?  Most of the time.

It was gained by her own accomplishments, her own efforts, her own life experiences, and her own failures that she was allowed to have and move on from.

Don’t constantly tell your child how great they are.  Let them find out for themselves.



I'm Involved in my Kid's Sport. Now What?

I’m Involved in my Kid’s Sport.  Now What?

Kids and sports.  What a tricky subject.  And yet sports are so accessible in our country for boys and girls of all ages and abilities, it would be a shame to not take advantage of the life lessons imbued in team sports. 

Last weekend, I was fortunate to be able to attend the World’s Archery Championship in Myrtle Beach, SC.  World’s, mind you!  These were the best of the best.  The best teams that made it to regionals, then states and now world’s. 

Two of my friends’ grandchildren were participating so I, of course, wanted to see them, and wanted to see what this archery was all about.  Remember, my girls were swimmers and softball players.  Imagine walking into a gigantic gym where 4200 kids shoot bows and arrows over 3 days.  I was a little afraid to walk in!  But, it was all organized with rules out the ying yang, bleachers for the parents and everyone kind of finding their way around.  Yes, they all had their own bow and arrows and cases (some fluorescent, which would have been my choice.)  All the family members were there with the t-shirts, little siblings, and pride showing everywhere.

I watched three kids participate.  One was young. She was happy go lucky; last to finish shooting in every round.  She seemed to be taking it all in stride, not too impressed.  Her older sister, however, looked like a competitive little thing.  She stood straight as an arrow (no pun intended), got in the rhythm within her shooting, focused all the way.  She shot very well.  Highest score for her in a competition.  The last one I watched, he seemed nervous all around.  Looking around in between shots (for support and encouragement, I’m sure).  He didn’t shoot well, for him.  Afterwards, he figured his score and was so disappointed.  I was disappointed for him.  How could we make it all better?

Which of these kids will go on to be a success in life?  All of them!!

Why?  Because they had the support of their parents, their grandparents and their friends that came all that way and made all the arrangements for them to be at that competition.  They had taken them to so many practices, had bought them the right equipment, and had bonded with the team parents.  They were committed.  That doesn’t get lost on a child at an impressionable age.  And going to the World’s in anything is something to always remember.  My daughter went to Junior Olympics. She didn’t win gold.  In fact, I don’t really remember how she did.

In Youth athletics, winning gold is not really what it is all about. 

Listen, parents, if your child shows an interest in a sport, go for it.  If they seem to be talented, even better.  But temper your enthusiasm.  No need to get too excited. 

No need to go out and buy the best and brand new of everything they need. 

I actually played softball for my sorority in college with my cousin’s glove.  Carolina started out with her dad’s.  I mean, they are broken in, right?  Carolina never got an “aquablade” swimsuit until JO’s while some of her friend wore theirs in the hot tub of the hotel pool.  We didn’t even go to the full weekend competitions until we got to the end of year championships.  We would pick one day to compete.

And your participation needs to be tempered, as well. 

Your job is to be there! 

You can clap and cheer if something goes right.  If something goes wrong, be quiet.  Most of all, before the age of high school, never coach!!!  Leave that up to the coaches.  Really.  If you really have to make a comment, talk to the coach and let him/her take care of it.

Be realistic and I mean really realistic.  Youth sports is mostly for participation and developing natural skills. 

The odds are your child will not play college sports or after. 

We just had the US Olympic trials in swimming.  Over 250,000 children swim competitively in the US.  And every four years, 52 go to the Olympics.  52!!  And Michael Phelps every time!

So, let your child find their sport.  Let your child develop at their own pace. Take you own ego out of it.  Be there for all the kids.  Don’t get involved in games or matches.  If something goes amiss, address it later.

Enjoy it all!  Trust me, the memories are priceless when they are grown.

Good Luck to my little Archers!! Do they have that in the Olympics?