The Toddler has absolutely no issues with her self-esteem. She will tell anybody that will listen that she is the cutest, the smartest, even the strongest person there is. She sometimes claims to be the oldest and tallest, but I’m pretty sure that she’s joking. She also thinks she is the funniest. It must be great to be three.
She can be pretty good at putting a dent in other’s self-esteem though. When a co-worker asked if she liked the home-made pickles he had graciously made for us, she replied that she did not. Because they “were stinky.” “Like him.” A particularly hirsute friend of ours was asked if he was “some kind of werewolf or something?” Last week she asked a poor acne riddled teenage cashier “how come she had so many mosquito bites?”
This last episode embarrassed me the most, as I’m sure she was particularly sensitive . Everybody who is raising a teenager, especially a teenage girl, knows the importance of managing self-esteem issues. We’ve all seen the studies about academic efforts, relationship conflict, drug and alcohol dependency and teen pregnancy rates relating to low self-worth. It’s something to be paid attention to.
On the surface, it sometimes can appear that The Teenager has issues with this. She often talks negatively about herself and her appearance, unfavorably comparing herself to others. She had a high sensitivity to criticism, is excessively preoccupied with imagined personal problems, and generally mopes around a lot. In other words, she’s a teenager.
She’s also assertive about expressing her opinions. She’s able to laugh at herself when appropriate. Last year she joined the school gymnastic team with no experience in gymnastics since she was eight years old. In a few months she will perform with her dance team in front of hundreds of people. She’s stronger than she realizes.
So we try to care but not coddle. Both kids will always be accepted for who they are and encouraged to be themselves. They will be made to appreciate themselves, but not by completely getting rid of criticism. The highest praise will be reserved for high effort, not for personal qualities that offer them achievement.
I recently saw a study that said that 7 out of 10 high school girls had low self-esteem. I’m not sure how they came up with this number, but I think its probably wrong. School counselors and other outside opinions are important and can provide a valuable service, but nobody knows a kid like their parents. These are the opinions that should always hold the most importance. I think the real number is that 10 out of 10 high school girls are complicated. I don’t need any studies to tell me that.
I also saw a study that implied that a girl’s self-esteem doesn’t peak until nine years old. I found that one WAY more disturbing.