Worrying about a child’s self-esteem can trip any parent up, but it is especially treacherous for those who homeschool high school. Instead of worrying if our kids are competent, we worry that they like themselves. We are concerned about what will happen if they fail. We stress over stress. As a result, we often see helicopter parents, those who constantly hover over their child to make sure they are never stressed or criticized. Unfortunately, homeschool parents can really be the worst of the lot because we have it in our power to totally protect our children from any stress.
What does this look like academically?
We set the bar low to avoid failure. Maybe we struggled in math, so by our words and by our actions, we convince our kids that it is hard, too hard to master. I’ve seen parents who only require Algebra ½ to graduate from high school and as a result, penalize their kids for life. We give them an “A” they don’t deserve because they tried hard and we feel sorry for them. Last time I checked the real world doesn’t operate that way. You produce or you get fired. Coddling in childhood leads to failure in adulthood.
We extend homework deadlines because they were up late at an event (substitute any excuse). College professors are not amused when homework is turned in late and bosses tend to get angry when assignments are not done on time. Your school needs to operate like the rest of the planet.
What does this look like in extracurricular activities?
We never let them compete at anything as it might damage their self-concept. Instead, we do group projects or clubs or only allow them to play on teams that don’t keep score so everybody wins. We let them live in Disneyland. Basically, we allow them to live in a world of make-believe where they fantasize about who they could become, yet we never provide a concrete way to get there. Here’s an example: we let them stay home and daydream of becoming an author without expecting daily diligent writing, submissions to journals, or putting themselves under a mentor.
What does this look like socially?
We never place our kids in challenging, unfamiliar situations. It is so easy to keep them cloistered in our church or homeschool group. As a result, rough edges are never knocked off, skills are never developed, and potential is never reached.
Amy Chua caused a national uproar a few months back by challenging the western system of parenting to protect the ego. The tiger mother claimed that Chinese parents assume strength, not fragility. I guess I qualify as a tiger mother in some respects because I believed passionately in my children’s potential.
I assumed strength by:
- Expecting my children to operate by real-world standards
- Setting the bar high
- Putting them in tough situations
- Not allowing them to give up
- Not coddling their fear
- Not nursing their drama
- Giving them concrete action steps to meet their goals
Years of experience have taught me that Ms. Chua is correct in assuming strength. In fact, research in psychology and cognitive science verify her statements.
Hara Estroff Marano in A Nation of Wimps states that “Research demonstrates that children who are protected from grappling with difficult tasks don’t develop what psychologists call ‘mastery experiences.’ Kids who have this well-earned sense of mastery are more optimistic and decisive, they’ve learned that they’re capable of overcoming adversity and achieving goals. Children who never test their abilities grow into emotionally brittle young adults who are vulnerable to anxiety and depression.”
I encourage you today to assume strength in your children and forget about self-esteem. By focusing on the right thing, you will build strong kids with great skills and a healthy self-concept. Are you assuming strength in your children?
Get our FREE Guide to help you avoid the mistakes made by many college-bound students.