Thursday, September 25, 2008

Review: The Self-Esteem Trap & Giveaway

Summary: Kids today are depressed and anxious. They also seem to feel entitled to every advantage and unwilling to make the leap into adulthood. As Polly Young-Eisendrath makes clear in this brilliant account of where a generation has gone astray, parents trying to make their children feel special are unwittingly interfering with their kids' ability to accept themselves and cope with life. Clarifying an enormous cultural change, THE SELF-ESTEEM TRAP shows why so many young people have trouble with empathy and compassion, struggle with moral values, and are stymied in the face of adversity. Young-Eisendrath offers prescriptive advice on how adults can help kids--through the teen and young adult years--develop self-worth, setting them on the right track to productive, balanced, and happy lives. -- Little, Brown and Company

I'm not a huge fan of self-help books, but I thought THE SELF-ESTEEN TRAP, RAISING CONFIDENT AND COMPASSIONATE KIDS IN AN AGE OF SELF-IMPORTANCE by Polly Young - Eisendrath, PhD sounded like one that I definitely needed to take a look at. My nine year old daughter has been having a tough time of things since she started fourth grade. She's a terrific kid who's very sweet, smart, and cute (but I am her mom!) However, she's having a hard time finding a BFF. It seems that all the girls have a best friend and she's feeling a little left out. I figured it a book could help me help her, then it was definitely worth my time.

As I started to read this book, I quickly recognized that the book actually deals with a problem that my friends and I talk about all the time! There are so many kids and grown-ups out there who can't handle any disappointment. I agree with Dr. Young-Eisendrath that parents are the main cause of this problem. In the past 30 years or so, we have drastically changed how we parent our children. Kids are now the focal point of our households (mine included.) We constantly try to build their self-esteem by complimenting them all the time and telling them that they are "special." Unfortunately, this parenting approach is backfiring for some of us. While we might think that we are building their self-esteem by complimenting them, we might actually be making them expect this type of treatment throughout their lives and setting them up for disappointment. I mean when was the last time someone told you how "special" you were for vacuuming the house or driving the kids to soccer practice?

As parents, we also try to give them everything and make sure that they never feel any disappointment. I'm not saying that all of this is bad, but I do think the author has a valid point. Many children are becoming more and more self-absorbed, always have to be "the best," and consider themselves unfulfilled or even unhappy when they don't live up to their expectations. I am very worried that what I'm doing as a parent will lead my children into "The Self-Esteem Trap."

This book really resonated with me. After I finished reading it, I immediately handed it to my husband and asked him to read it too. He is a big believer in almost everything the author talks about in this book -- mainly that we need to let our children deal with disappointment (even though it often times goes against our natural inclinations to protect them.) While I agree with Dr. Young-Eisendrath's philosophy, I do tend to baby my kids more than my husband; and I do find myself trying to always make things "okay" for them. I hate to see them hurting, but I know that I need to accept that it's okay for them to be sad. Life is definitely going to throw my kids some curveballs (now and as adults,) and it's best for them to learn to deal with these challenges. I realize that I'm going to have to let them deal with things so they will one day become happy, functional adults.

There were a few things that I especially enjoyed about this book. One was how Dr. Young-Eisendrath defined the three types of parenting styles -- Laissez-Faire Parenting, Helicopter Parenting, and Role-Reversal Parenting. It didn't take me long to see which one I fell into! In addition throughout the book, she gave wonderful examples to help support her ideas. I not only recognized myself in the cases, but I also recognized many of my friends and their children. When I read the author's explanations for both the parent's actions as well as the effect it has on the children, I thought it all made a lot of sense. Finally, I really like the author's overall message that it's important for our children to be "grounded in their shared humanity and interdependence." If we encourage our children to be compassionate towards other and understand their role in this world, they are much more likely to have a positive view of themselves.

I realize that Dr. Young-Eisendrath's book won't appeal to everyone, but I do think she makes some very good points. I want to be a parent who equips her children with the life-skills that they need to be independent adults. Will I totally change my parenting style after reading this book? I feel as if my husband and I are doing some things very right, but I do think I will make some additional changes. There is definitely one thing that I need to reconsider: I am one of those mothers who are always telling their kids how "special" they are. I do believe my kids are "special," but only as "special" as all the other children out there (maybe I should start telling them that they are unique.) I don't want my children thinking that they are prettier, smarter, "better" than other kids out there; and I do like the author's concept that ordinary is okay (I mean how many adults are truly spectacular -- rich, beautiful, famous, etc.) In addition, I know that I need to let them work through things on their own. While I think that I'm helping them by stepping in to solve their problems, I'm actually sending a message that they can't resolve things themselves and that they need someone to "save" them.

Although I do agree with so much in this book, I am worried that I won't be building my children's self-esteem if I make all of these changes. In the back of my mind, I understand the logic of what the author is saying; but as a mother, I want to support them. I think there's probably a very fine line of supporting your children and building their self-esteem without going overboard. I think my challenge will be finding that line and then staying on it!

On Monday morning, I was fortunate enough to be included in a conference call with Dr. Polly Young-Eisendrath. The participants all submitted their questions ahead of time, and we had the chance to hear Dr. Young-Eisendrath answer them. I found the Q&A to be very extremely interesting. Dr. Young-Eisendrath reinforced many of the themes in her book. I specifically asked her if she's received any criticism about the book. She told us that she's had a lot of positive feedback from adults who grew up in "the self-esteem trap" as well as teachers, professors, and other psychologists who deal with young adults; however, she admitted that most of the critics are mothers of young children. If you would like to learn more about the book and the author, check out the book's website. There is a lot of wonderful information for parents as well as Dr. Young-Eisendrath's advice and wisdom.

I think this book is a valuable parenting tool; and I just happen to have five copies to share with you courtesy of Hachette Book Group USA! Please leave a comment with your e-mail address to enter. If you would like to double your chances, blog about this contest with a link back to this post! The contest will run until Friday, October 3rd at 11:59 p.m. EST. I will be selecting the winners on Saturday, October 4rd. Unfortunately, this contest is open to mailing addresses in the U.S. and Canada only! Good luck!

36 comments:

Amanda said...

Wow what an interesting book! I don't have kids (yet) but I have a nephew and think my sister would love to read this and I definitely think it'll be a good read when I have kids. Thanks!

kamewh said...

This sounds like a wonderful book- I would love to read it!

Feener said...

i have been trying to start researching books about this exact topic. i have 2 girls and i grew up with very little self esteem, i NEED to make sure i instill in them self esteem and confidence. feener44atgmaildotcom.

i will post about this as well to double my chances http://mommyvents.blogspot.com

Melissa N. said...

Julie -- I would like to read this book... I can probably use some of the advice in it :)

Cheryl said...

I'd like to read this book. :)

Stacie said...

I am totally with you on this one and would love to read this book too! I also blogged with a link on my site
http://sincerelystacie(dot)blogspot(dot)com
Staciele(at)netins(dot)net

Jeane said...

This certainly sounds like a book I could use. Please enter me in the drawing!

traveler said...

This fascinating and practical book is a wonderful resource and just what is necessary. Thanks for this great giveaway.

anne said...

I enjoyed reading your wonderful review and thoughts about this intriguing book. I know that this book woudl provide me with all the answers necessary and be a godsend. Thanks for the opportunity.

ellie said...

What an impressive book you featured today. I know that I would benefit greatly by reading this useful book. Thanks.

Ti said...

Great review. This issue is a concern for me as well. We try to give our kids what we didn't have growing up but it raises their expectations and they forget the simple things and then if they don't get something... they don't even know how to deal with it.

I would love to read this book.

Ruby (Mouth) said...

I have a little girl who is now seven and I would love to win this book for her as she gets older. It is never too soon to start helping her with her self esteem.


angelleslament @ gmail.com

Julie said...

I have a 3 year old and would love to read this book before I truly fall into one of the traps! I'm all about good parenting books, since I've never done it before.

Chain Reader said...

I am a desperate parent of a teenager and would love any help I can get :-). My email is saz@chainreader.com.

Amy R said...

Sounds very interesting. My daughter is still quite young (190 months) but I would love to read it and hopefully avoid such a trap.
Thanks!

erodda(at)yahoo(dot)com

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

No need to enter me (although if you read my post at Win a Book, you might decide to overrule that!). I'm just letting you know I got a post up at Win a Book. Thanks for your awesome review of this!

Breeni Books said...

This book seems to address several issues I worry about in raising my own kids. I'd love to give it a shot.

Thanks for the entry!

breenibooks[at]gmail[dot]com

Holly said...

This sounds terrific. I have a 10-year old who finds it difficult to make friends sometimes.

I blogged it here:
http://2kidsandtiredbooks.blogspot.com/2008/09/giveaways_25.html

annie said...

This book is a life saver and your review was interesting to read. This book would be a learning experience which would prove invaluable.

diane said...

I am impressed with this amazing book that you reviewed. It is n ot only unique but is a treasure to have. Thanks.

Kim and Jason said...

Hey Julie,

Just wanted to leave a little hello and let you know that I left ya some love on my blog!

Kimberly

ruth said...

This great review for this amazing book has sparked my interest greatly. A mother of two daughters I could use this information.

Mom of 5 Boys said...

With five sons I could really use this book. They range in age from 5 to 15, so it's not too late for me to teach them. I hope I have made it clear to them that life is often fair and that's okay, but who knows how the message is getting across compared to the rest of the messages they hear.

Tammy said...

This book sounds great. Can't wait to read it.

Karlie said...

I read a similar book by Jill Rigby and would love to see how this compares.

kia (good enough mama) said...

This sounds like a book that I need in my personal library. My son is anxiety-filled and I need to find ways to help him out. Pick me! Pick me!! :)

Laura H said...

I'm not a self help reader either but this book sounds interesting. If I dont win one from you, I think I will check it out of the library.

Red lady-Bonnie said...

This sounds like an interesting book and I have a young son and some of the things you mention I can relate to. Please add my name to the giveaway.

Melissa said...

Hey, this sounds like a pretty interesting read. I think it can be useful for me because I have a 9 month old son - please count me in and check it out - I'm going to link back to you!

mkowalewski[at]gmail[dot]com

Eva said...

Oh, I want this book for my sister! (My niece is two and a half) What a generous give away! :D

photoquest said...

I really need this book. I have a 15 year old and 12 yar old both girls and both have issues. This sounds like it has some wonderful information that's much needed. Please enter me in your drawing. Thanks,
photoquest(at)bellsouth(dot)net

Dawn M. said...

I would love to read this book. Please count me in! :0)

Thanks!

Michele said...

This sounds like a great book to read. I am not usually into non-fiction, but should be able to with this one as it's near and dear to my heart these days. My 11 year old girl and 8 year old boy are both struggling with things right now, including our move. Thanks for the opportunity.

windycindy said...

Hello, I have two sons that I would love to read this for. Please enter me in your delightful drawing. Many thanks.....Cindi
jchoppes[at]hotmail[dot]com

Anonymous said...

I would really enjoy reading this book. Sounds very interesting and I could find it very beneficial with my children.

Stephanie said...

This would be a great book for our family!

daq_17 at hotmail dot com