Want Your Children to Be Great Adults? Don’t Teach Them Self-Esteem—Teach Them This

One mom set out to find out how to help her kids become functional adults…and she found out the self-esteem answer is just a solution that causes more problems.

Since the 1980s, parents have been told by child psychologists, doctors, and other parenting experts that self-esteem is KEY to raising a successful child. But after about 30 years of everyone thinking they’re the best at everything because mom said so (and because they got a trophy for showing up), professionals are changing their tune. Desperate to raise kids who would become responsible, functional adults, and not liking what she was seeing in her four kids at home, mom Heidi Landes went on a search to find out what she was missing.

“How am I going to get them to college, when I can’t even get them out the door with two shoes on?” she asked herself.

The answer she discovered, as she outlines in her TEDx talk below (SO worth 10 minutes of your time!!) is NOT by teaching them self-esteem.

After decades of research on kids who were taught high self-esteem, Dr. Roy Baumeister and his team at the University of Florida concluded in 2003 that “High self-esteem does not prevent children from smoking, drinking, taking drugs, or engaging in early sex. If anything, high self-esteem fosters experimentation, which may increase early sexual activity or drinking, but in general effects of self-esteem are negligible.”

D’OH! Talk about your all-time parenting backfires.

So what should our kids be taught instead? Not self-ESTEEM, but self-CONTROL.

Why? Well, because studies have shown that kids who are taught to have self-control will grow up to be adults who are less likely to have drug and alcohol problems, commit a crime, or struggle financially. They go on to become adults who are more likely to be in good health, earn more and save more money, volunteer and give to charity, and be satisfied with their lives.

If you’re a Christian parent who holds fast to teaching your kids the fruit of the Spirit, where self-control is highlighted, maybe this won’t surprise you. But for many Christian and non-Christian parents alike, Landes’ talk comes as a fantastic reminder, and call to action!

In a fabulous handout she’s written which you can find here, Landes summarizes five things she and her husband implemented in their home to teach self control.

1) Expect a lot more 

Expect them to not interrupt, wait patiently, talk respectfully, and do what they are told the first time.

2) Unplug the electronics

At least for a time, go screen free to help them re-discover toys, books, the outdoors, and social interaction

3) Use consequences that COUNT.

Consequences have to REALLY make them uncomfortable if you want them to work.

4) Serve together as a family

Serving others helps them realize that they are not the center of the Universe. Start small right in your community.

5) Assign household responsibility

Don’t just make them “help” — make some chores their COMPLETE responsibility.

Landes goes into greater detail in the handout she wrote with her husband Gabe, so check it out, and check out their website, Courage For Parents, too!

Who’s ready to start instilling self-control in their kids so that they can be adults who bring good to our world for God’s glory? I know I am! I encourage you to give your 10 minutes to Landes’ talk, below, too.

Jenny Rapson
Jenny Rapson is a follower of Christ, a wife and mom of three from Ohio and the editor of For Every Mom. You can email her at jrapson@outreach.com, or follow her on Twitter.

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