Tag Archives: Self-esteem

How to Praise Your Kids

I get a lot of calls from people who say, “I can’t do anything because I don’t have self-esteem.”  My usual response: “b.s.”  I don’t wake up every day and tell myself, “Oh my gosh, I love you.”  It’s when I’ve done something that requires guts, sacrifice, or was extremely valuable to me that I’m proud of myself. 

Ever since the 60s, there has been a lot of psychobabble surrounding self-esteem.  People who buy into the “self-esteem movement” figure that the best way to combat low-esteem in kids is to artificially pump them up by saying things like, “You’re wonderful,” and, “That’s the most beautiful piece of art I’ve ever seen.”  However, this “person praise” does nothing to actually give them higher self-esteem.  You’re only blowing smoke and treating them like animals (“You’re such a good boy/girl” is something I say to my dogs). 

Instead, praise should be directed at a child’s effort.  For example, tell them, “Wow. You really worked hard on that!”  This is what is called “process praise” – you’re commenting on their diligence and persistence.  According to a study from the University of Chicago, kids are more likely to prefer challenging tasks and believe that intelligence and personality can improve with effort than youngsters who simply hear praise directed at them personally.  It sends the message that effort and actions are the sources of success and your approval.  If you’re impressed by their effort, kids will put in more effort.  If you just say, “You’re very good at this,” that’s it – they stay at that level. They won’t try harder because they figure that they have already reached the pinnacle. 

By praising the process, actions, and strategies (e.g. “I’m impressed that you did your best and worked hard to stick with it”), kids try to do better and better to impress you and themselves. And what happens when they impress themselves? Their self-esteem goes up. 

The bottom line: You can’t give your kids self-esteem. They have to earn it in their own minds.  Otherwise, you’re just handing them praise balloons and turning them into narcissists.

How to Cure the Navel-Gazing Epidemic

Narcissism is one of the biggest dangers today, especially with kids.  Parents are doing everything they can to rescue their kids from their own laziness and failures.  They hand out trophies when they lose and tell them they’re wonderful no matter what.  However, the only thing they’re doing is fostering empty self-esteem.
Many people don’t realize there’s a big difference between wanting something and deserving it.  They think, “I deserve something because I want it,” as opposed to, “I deserve something because I earned it.”  And when it comes to self-esteem, their attitude is no different.
A lot of callers come on my show saying that the reason they make bad choices is because they have low self-esteem.  However, they have it backwards: it’s because they make poor choices that they lack esteem for themselves.  Self-respect requires effort.
About six months ago, a Pakistani girl named Malala Yousafzai was shot multiple times by a Taliban gunman on the way home from school because she stood up for women’s education.  She was taken to Britain and a brilliant team of surgeons saved her life.  Her face looks a bit numb and she has a hard time talking, but she can use her arms and walk.  This girl is a hero and inspiration to us all.  Why?  Because she earned it.  She bravely took a public stand in a region where it’s very dangerous to do so.

Self-respect doesn’t just happen by virtue of being born or because you’re breathing – you have to earn it by what you do.  I can’t believe that people actually expect themselves and their children to feel respect for themselves when they haven’t earned it.
So, how can we adjust this narcissistic attitude?

It all starts with the parents.  First off, I think every parent who allows their child to have their own personal, private Facebook or Twitter account is being negligent.  It gives kids a false sense of who they are in the world, and they have only one way to go from there – down and out.  According to a brilliant essay by Dr. Keith Ablow, Facebook introduces kids to a world of fantasy which artificially makes them feel special, mature, powerful, and important.  But ultimately the bubble bursts and the fake autobiography explodes.  They end up depressed and either kill themselves or someone else.

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/01/08/are-raising-generation-deluded-narcissists/?test=latestnews&intcmp=features#ixzz2HV6CQ8Tm

The rule also applies to television and cell phones.  Your kids should barely watch TV and only if you pick out the programs.  They shouldn’t have a cell phone, but if they do, it should be an old-style phone that only allows them to make calls (not text!) in case of an emergency.
In addition, parents need to cease being weenies and start being leaders in their homes.  Women have to stop dumping their kids in institutionalized day care so they can go off and “esteem themselves” by working.  Furthermore, there are too many unhappy and lonely children as a result of divorced parents who are either too bored or too invested in some new guy or gal to be giving and loving.  Not only does it destroy children’s homes, but it also opens the door for pedophiles who prey on neglected, lonely kids with inattentive parents.
Let’s make fewer excuses (e.g. “We’re too busy and tired,” “All the other kids are doing it,” “You can’t control it,” etc.), and parent more.

When Your Teen Dresses Like a Slut

A couple months ago, I was in a clothing store looking for a pair of jeans when I saw a man shopping with his 12-year-old daughter.  I assumed he was divorced because he wasn’t wearing a wedding ring.  His daughter went in to the dressing room and when she came out, she was wearing something that would have revealed her pubic hair if she had any.  I just looked at him and said, “You have got to be kidding.  Is this how you want boys to see your daughter?!”  He didn’t respond, and I walked away.
   
Another time, I was at the movies with my husband and I saw this really attractive, voluptuous 17-year-old girl who was the walking stereotype of a bombshell blonde.  She was wearing pants that barely stayed above her waist and a tight shirt that dipped down just over her nipples and exposed her midriff.  She was surrounded by about five boys who were chatting and laughing with her.  My husband – who knows me far too well – whispered to me, “Please don’t say anything,” but I just couldn’t resist.  As we walked by, I stopped, got her attention, and said, “They are all talking to you because they think you’re intelligent.”  Then I walked away.
 
There has been enough research to show that teenage girls who wear sexualized outfits are judged as less capable, competent, determined, and intelligent than girls who dress modestly.  Men in particular look down on them because they see them as sex objects.
 
Furthermore, girls who dress like sluts have lower self-esteem.  By objectifying their bodies and monitoring themselves in terms of how they look, these girls increase their risk of becoming depressed and/or developing eating disorders.
 
The reason why teen girls want to dress this way is two-fold.  First, kids face a great deal of pressure to fit in.  As a result, they take cues from pop culture on how to dress “cool.”  Secondly, there isn’t a whole lot of parenting going on these days.  A lot of parents are too busy with their love lives or work lives to give a damn about their kids.
 
Personally, I agree with the more religious notion that “modest is hottest.”  I also believe you should only send your kids to schools that have a dress code.  That way they are always wearing the same boring outfit, and it’s all about what’s on the inside that matters.
 
So, the next time you take your daughter shopping, tell her to go pick out three outfits, and then have her show them to you so you can give her the final “yes” or “no.”  By doing this, she’ll get something that both she likes and you approve.
 
And while you’re shopping, remember this: No guy is going to turn down a girl who’s presenting herself as a whore.

Parent Your Child, Not Yourself

Many of you aren’t parenting in the best interest of your child.  Instead, you’re parenting to satisfy your own needs.

I get too many calls on the topic of having low self-esteem.  And that’s probably because there are a lot of parents who have no concept of how to help their kids develop a positive attitude about people and life.  You see, a lot of parenting comes from the “hurty” places: “I didn’t have a lot of freedom, so I’m going to give my kid total freedom,” or “I didn’t have a lot of freedom, so I’m not giving my kid any freedom.”  Instead of thinking about the needs of the child and what’s really healthy, parents make it all about what I experienced.  They think things like, “He looks a lot like my ex-husband, so I can’t stand him.”  

Parents conjure up all kinds of things from ugly places.  They lament to themselves, “My kid isn’t perfect, my kid has some kind of handicap or problem, my kid’s not pretty, my kid’s not athletic; my kid’s not this my kid’s not that.”  But at the root of all their complaining is just their narcissism not being fed. 

The whole “I look good through my children doing something” idea is the same mentality that creates groupies.  Girls go hump stars and sports figures and they think they’ve made themselves into something.  That’s all that’s about.  I had a wonderful conversation a while ago with a young woman who called with, again, a self-esteem question.  I asked her, “Well, how have you earned it?”  Her only comeback was, “I know how to have fun.”  Well, I’m sorry.  We don’t respect ourselves because we know how to have fun.  Don’t misunderstand me, I think it’s healthy to know how to have fun, but that’s not how you respect yourself.

So, a lot of mistakes parents make with their kids come from them still being mucked up by their own pain.  That’s why I think it is really important to have six months of premarital counseling before people decide to marry because they learn a lot about themselves, the other person, their needs, their fears, their desires, and their problems, and they learn how to resolve things, move forward, and mature.  It’s more likely that the marriage will work.

Considering this further, I thought maybe you could apply this rule to having a baby.  Maybe people should go into counseling for six months before they have a baby, or if they get pregnant, perhaps that’s when the therapy starts.  In pre-baby therapy, you can talk about what happened in your childhood, what feelings you have about your husband or wife with respect to having a kid, and put everything on the table.  It’s amazing how much better you both can deal with things once the air is cleared. 

And that’s why I’m so blunt on my satellite radio program: I’m trying to role model for all of you how to put even the ugly stuff on the table.  Because once we take a clear look at it, it has less power over us.   What you try to suppress is what has power over you.   I’d like you to be the master, not the slave to your history and emotions.

So, this is why I recommend counseling when you’re thinking about getting married, and when you’re considering having a baby.  A lot of stuff is never discussed when you’re dating.  I mean who discusses diapers when they’re dating?

You Don’t Need Self-Esteem to Break a Bad Habit

Do you know how many people have called my show over the last 3 1/2 decades to tell me they could do the right thing in their lives if they only had self-esteem? 

A LOT.

People use low self-esteem as an excuse all the time:

“What made you do this thing instead of another?”
“Low self-esteem.” 

“How come you stayed with a guy who pummeled you?”
 ”Low self-esteem.” 

“How come you quit X, Y or Z?” 
“Low self-esteem.” 

But that answer is wrong, wrong, wrong!  It’s backwards – it’s making bad decisions that creates low self-esteem, not the other way around. 

Healthy self-esteem is like a tennis racket: if you hit the ball too close to the edge, it’s bad, but if you make contact with the sweet spot, it’s perfect.  High self-esteem is “a sweet spot between an unhealthy level of narcissism and harmful self-criticism.”  It’s right in the middle.  However, you don’t need self-esteem to change your actions, habits, or temptations.  

A lot of you have very bad habits, like eating at 10 o’clock at night, not cleaning your teeth, speaking before your think, and succumbing to temptations like cookies, cigarettes, and booze.  But you absolutely do NOT need self-esteem to change any of them.   What you need is a thing that gets put down, dissed, and discounted all the time: good old-fashioned willpower

And where does willpower come from?  You have to pick a motivator.  Your motivators are the values and goals in life that are important to you.  Once you have them lined up, you can change a habit no matter how much self-esteem you have.  Whether it’s dying from continuing to smoke or drink, losing weight, wanting to be a good role model, or being religious, whatever you decide is your motivator has to come out of your head, not out of the universe.  It’s something you decide.  Just ask people who have quit smoking or drinking, and they will tell you it was willpower, not self-esteem that made them quit.  Certainly when they were drunk and had to smoke 135 cigarettes every five minutes, self-esteem wasn’t an issue.

So, it’s all about willpower.  It’s not a big deal if you don’t have self-esteem.  It is not correlated to success, willpower is.  People with willpower have self-control and self-discipline, which helps them build better relationships, take initiative, and sustain their efforts over time.  And when you use willpower to accomplish something, you can say to yourself, “I did that!”  When you can impress yourself by achieving a goal and cheer yourself on, you begin a virtuous cycle instead of a vicious one.  Because if you successfully change a habit, then you give yourself more self-esteem, and it just keeps on going in a circle. 

Here are some steps to activate your willpower:

  • Make the decision to change.
  • Set realistic goals.  Goals can be like inchworms: once you achieve one goal, you move the goalpost, and then, when you achieve the next goal, you move the goalpost again…
  • Activate your willpower by using the thought of your motivator to guide your behavior.
  • Make a specific plan for change or join a program to help you change.
  • Bounce back from setbacks.  Just getting on your own case about a hitch in the road is not useful progress.