A belief that became popular during the 1980s was this idea that if we engaged in a sort of child-worship by lavishing our children with unearned praise and our undying attention, they would grow up to become happier adults.
But forty years later Martha Stout has written a book called The Sociopath Next Door in which she quotes a statistic that says 4% of Americans are now sociopaths.
It turns out that raising a child with the “special-child” syndrome is exactly what kills empathy.
Raising a child who thinks he’s special and only his needs matter is just about the worst thing a parent can do and still stay within the law.
Four percent might not seem like much, but when you consider the possibility that one in every 25 people you know is a sociopath, you want to start shaking every parent you see and yell, “Stop worshipping your child!”
You see, there is a spectrum between empathic and sociopath, and too many of us are falling on the wrong side of the spectrum.
The question each parent today should ask is, "What kind of a child am I raising?”
Will he become a kind, caring person or will he become a self-absorbed person with a scanty regard for other people's feelings and well-being?
We confuse self-esteem and self-confidence, and this is where the problem lies. High self-esteem is an overinflated view of your worth that leads to these sociopathic-type disorders; having confidence means you know what you’re capable of.
How do we raise confident children, then, without turning them into the sociopath next door?
The good news is that we can help our children develop more self-confidence by avoiding certain popular behaviors and being intentional about others.
We don't raise confident children by falsely praising and excessively focusing on them. They develop self-confidence by becoming competent people. Reaching a level of competency is what makes them feel self-confident.
When children learn how to do things well, whether it be to develop excellent social skills, play a musical instrument, or learn daring skateboard tricks, they build confidence in who they are as a person.
A more introverted child might lack self-confidence but it doesn’t have to become a life sentence. As a parent, you can guide them in ways that will help them overcome their hesitation or fears so they can work hard to improve themselves.
Learning a martial art is one way for a child to develop more self-confidence. Excelling at a musical instrument would be another. There are many activities you can involve your child in to help him gain more confidence.
But acquiring self-confidence doesn’t just happen overnight. It requires hard work and patience.
Ignore the outdated strategies for developing high self-esteem through excessive praise and massive amounts of attention, and instead focus on helping your children develop self-confidence by becoming better at skills that are worth becoming better at.
For my upcoming course, Raise Your Child Well: Correct Preparation for a Satisfying, Successful and Happy Adulthood, please join the waiting list to be notified first when enrollment opens again in August, 2019.
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Elizabeth Y. Hanson combines her training in holistic medicine, parenting coach certificate, plus 17+ years working in education to provide you with a unique approach to raising and educating your children.
A veteran homeschooler herself, she now has two homeschooled children in college.