Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Danger of Replacing Self-Respect with Self-Esteem

One of the most disturbing trends I see in society is a lack of respect, for ourselves and others. I am currently reading a book by Jill Rigby called, Raising Respectful Children in a Disrespectful World. In the opening she writes,

When I was growing up, people weren't perfect, but society was certainly more civil. The lines between right and wrong were clear.
Teachers were teachers. So teachers taught.
Parents were parents. So parents trained.
Kids were kids. So kids obeyed.

Respect for authority was paramount. Service to others and respect for property were natural elements of community. Teaching manners and instilling character were the cornerstones of public education. Parents looked at the right side of the report card (conduct) before they look at the left (grades). Kids got in alot more trouble if they were disrespectful to a teacher than if they made a B minus.

How did this happen? How did our society become so disrespectful? We've substituted self-esteem for self-respect, and in the process we lost our manners.
The author does not purport that the past was perfect, only that an element of civility and respectfulness has been lost. I find this to be so true. Anyone can look around and see numerous examples of disrespectfulness in attitudes, speech, and dress. The author gives the example of how students who are caught cheating or who are failing have no fear, because my dad "will handle it." Another example is when we see elderly women pushing their grocery carts with no one stopping to help.

While some might say self-esteem and self-respect are synonymous, the author defines them very differently. Self-esteem teaches children to focus on themselves and how they feel and what they want. This focus breeds greed, arrogance, insecurity, and discontentment.

Self-respect, on the other hand, focuses on others and how others feels and what others need. The author states that this perspective leads to gratitude, humility, confidence, and contentment.

I am challenged not to be conformed to this world and its focus on self and to pass this along to my children. When our children learn to respect our authority, we lay the foundation for their ability to respect the authority of God in their lives. By teaching simple manners, we model this respect and teach our children. I will write more later on the impact basic manners can have on developing self-respect, as well as displaying Christ's love to others.

What manners do you see especially lacking in society? What methods or tools do you use to teach manners to your children?



Xandra said...

I think that simple, common courtesy has all but disappeared in our society. I teach my children to say please and thank you, and to write thank you notes when they receive a gift.

Beyond those basics, we try to instill a sense of empathy for other people by example and by letting them participate. When Nathan was about 4, a family in our community lost everything in a house fire. One of the children was just a bit younger than Nathan, so I began gathering clothes to donate. Nathan saw me, and asked me what I was doing. I explained what had happened, then asked him how he would feel if he lost everything. All of his toys, his clothes and his books.

Well, of course he thought it would be terrible and then I asked him how he would want to be treated if that happened. After some thought, he decided that he would want his toys back.

I left him to finish packing the clothes, and soon he came back with his little arms full of toys that he wanted to give the little boy. When I realized that he had picked his very favorite toys, it was all I could do not to cry. I was so proud of him, and all it took to nurture that sense of empathy was a short conversation.

We have to talk to our kids and explain things to them. Empathy does not come naturally to most people. We have to nurture that in them and remind them over and over of what God expects of us as Christians.


Susanne said...

Excellent Kelly! My teens and I were just talking about this very thing the other day!

Mocha with Linda said...

Wow, this is dead-on! I am continually amazed at the lack of respect for any authority. When I helped out with my girl's school choir concert, I was incredulous that so many of those 7th and 8th grade girls could not sit quietly and listen to the other groups perform. Even when repeatedly admonished, they completely disregarded correction.

It seems so many parents don't want to be the "bad guy". They don't want their child upset with them, so they won't make the effort to enforce the rules. They want to be the buddy instead of the parent.

And many parents haven't grown up and learned to follow the rules themselves. Years ago I was at a conference where a Children's Minister stated that a number of parents would come to her office for help in getting their children to respect authority and obey them. She pointed out to them that they (the parents) were the same folks that the church had been repeatedly, and unsuccessfully, asking to stop parking in the No Parking spaces! Children learn by watching us....

Darnelle said...

Hi Kelly,
I'd like to make a hundred copies of this post and leave them everywhere I go! You've said it well.
When my 5 kids were young, folks used to stop us, often, in public to comment on how well behaved and sweet they were. Honestly, they were just regular kids who simply didn't act like out of control maniacs in public (except in Wal-Mart - not sure what that was about - LOL)
I think, though, that people aren't used to seeing kids who have even a little respect for themselves or others. It's sad really.

"We've substituted self-esteem for self-respect, and in the process we lost our manners."

Preach it!

BTW - sharing a computer with my brood limits my blog visiting, so I don't get by here often enough, but I'm always blessed when I do!


Elle said...

Thank you for posting the author's definitions of self-esteem vs. self-respect. The difference is very helpful in thinking through how I wish to train my sons. From family interactions to church events to every time we venture into public, I find myself looking for opportunities for this type of training. It is an awesome, even overwhelming, task. I'm looking forward to your posts on this topic.

kmom3 said...

I posted about you and other bloggy ladies who bless me. It isn't anything you have to pass on. I just wanted you to know that you bless me and that I think my friends would be blessed to know you, too! You are an encouragement to me!
Love and Blessings,