"You're going to write a blog post about this now, aren't you?" It was really more of a statement than a question, and she said it with an assumption of rightness rather than resignation. Rowan simply assumed that her attending the local TBA theater camp for the sixth year was important enough that I had to write about it. I just smiled and gave some noncommittal answer.
The conversation made me think, however. Rowan's assumption that her activities are important enough for me to write about in my blog is evidence of her high level of self-esteem. She is generally very self-confident and assured of her importance in the world. Certainly nothing the adults in her life have ever said or done would lead her to think otherwise.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that building up the self-esteem of our young people has become a cornerstone of modern education systems and parenting styles, in America anyway. We want our children to face the world with confidence and feel secure in the knowledge that they are capable of handling anything.
Of course, there are some who say that we focus too much on self-esteem. If we constantly praise our children and are never critical of their efforts, how will they learn to handle it when a boss criticizes their work? Will they learn that they have to work hard to do their best, or are we raising them to think that everything they do is wonderful no matter how little effort went into it?
My hubby and I were talking about this a few months ago. Now, let me preface this part by saying that neither of us has any issue with the support we received as children from our parents. Moms, we love you and think you did a good job of raising us. Okay, that said, I think it's safe to get on to my point.
Thane and I are both quick to praise Rowan, to give her high-fives and knuckle-bumps when she's done something cool, and we tell her often that we're proud of her. I think we do a reasonably good job of not just telling her that we're proud of her in general, but with regards to very specific things she's done or accomplished. On the other hand, we'll also tell her when we're disappointed in her behavior or performance, and why. We think it's important that she understand why we're proud or disappointed, otherwise our feedback becomes meaningless.
What Thane noted in our conversation a few months ago was that he couldn't remember getting high-fives or other enthusiastic, overt praise when he'd done well at something as a kid. I can't either. I think it was expected that we would do well at whatever we were doing, and that we'd behave well; it wasn't considered necessary to point it out when we met those expectations. If we didn't meet them? Well, that was another story - not that it happened often.
I suppose these differences in parenting styles are symptomatic of the times in which each generation was/is parenting. When Thane and I were children, having high self-esteem wasn't seen to be as important as behaving oneself and doing well in school, sports, whatever. As long as we were meeting those expectations, life went on without comment.
I wonder, sometimes, if we are doing Rowan a disservice by praising her too much, by being unwilling to let her know when her abilities perhaps aren't as great as she thinks they are. I hesitate to say anything that might quell her interests or passions because I know how painful it was to have had that happen. On the other hand, do I want her to find out in a more hurtful way or from others that she's not perfect at everything? (Sorry, honey, but it's true.)
I suppose we'll continue to support Rowan in whatever she chooses to do, while also doing our best to point her in directions in which we think she'll succeed. We won't, however, try to protect her from all the bumps and bruises that need to be part of her education. No matter what happens, we'll continue being quick with high-fives, sympathetic hugs, and necessary discipline.
I'm quite sure this post is not quite what Rowan had in mind when she said I needed to write about her starting TBA this year, but it is, after all, my blog. She'll have to be satisfied that I included pictures of her from most of the plays she's been in.