As Dr. Madeline Levine, author of “Teach Your Children Well,” stated in a 2012 New York Times article, “The central task of growing up is to develop a sense of self that is autonomous, confident, and generally in accord with reality.” Unfortunately, many parents in their attempts to give their children self-esteem and psychological security overly praise their children and celebrate the completion of tasks that are ordinary and easy, effectively rewarding them for mediocre efforts. As a consequence, children develop a false sense of self-confidence and achievement, a facade of self-esteem that crumbles when they are challenged as teenagers and college students with potentially devastating consequences.
Teaching a child to succeed and achieve the potential of which they are capable is not just a matter of positive reinforcement, but includes giving them the tools to understand and appreciate the reality of genuine achievement. Parents need to realize that self-esteem does not lead to accomplishment, but that accomplishment leads to self-esteem. Children who understand that instances of adversity and stress are inevitable in every person’s life are going to become emotionally and socially intelligent adults who can recover from disappointments and move on with their lives.