Self-Esteem: Harmful or Helpful?



Self-esteem: Harmful or Helpful?

Every time I turn around, I hear a discussion on children and self-esteem, and I groan. What good has all this focus on instilling self-esteem done for our children and our society?  Do we have better kids or more well-adjusted adults now?  I think not. There are many programs inside schools and even outside schools which stress self-esteem, and some parents and homeschoolers are obsessed with instilling self-esteem in their children.  There are free self-esteem worksheets and lesson plans available online. So what’s wrong with focusing on self-esteem?

When did this obsession begin?

Our North American obsession with self-esteem began as early as the 60s, but didn’t come into wide use in schools until the 80s. I experienced the results of this obsession first-hand. At the end of my Grade 8 year, a teacher sat me down to tell me that I had earned too many top marks and they were not going to give me all the trophies I had earned – they were going to give them out to other students to “share the wealth”.  I was so upset. Up until that point, my grades were so very important to me, and they suddenly became less so.  I also respected that teacher a little less.  It reminds me of an episode of the Simpsons in which Principal Skinner says “I don’t have any opinions anymore. All I know is that no one is better than anyone else, and everyone is the best at everything.”


Should we have a different focus?

Many children seem to be adopting a “me-first”, self-important, self-absorbed, entitlement attitude. They are given constant praise and anything they do is “ok” so as not to “hurt their self-esteem”. Studies on self-esteem have shown that it is a myth; it’s not the answer. Instead, I believe we need to focus on self-respect and self-discipline when parenting and homeschooling our children.

Why do we say we hold someone in esteem or respect them? Because they’re someone we look up to, due to their actions or the work they’ve done. Children can have self-respect based on something tangible, such as through hard work and achievements. When we allow our children to make choices and goals and follow-through to actually accomplish things, they will have achieved self-respect and experienced self-discipline. Even simple things such as chores can go a long way to help children feel self-respect. I believe my children are empowered by the fact that they are able to cook, clean, and care for the household, pets – run the household – even though they are only 10 and 15.


If you’re a Christian, you may also find that faith in God gives kids self-respect. It’s easy to respect yourself when you know that God made you who you are and loves you so much that He can count the hairs on your head, and knew you even before you were born.

What do you think? Are you raising your kids with self-esteem and a constant stream of praise or are you teaching them to have self-respect through their actions and achievements? Let me know in the comments below!

Love, Luck &


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