One of the most important issues that parents worry about is maintaining their child's self-esteem. If your are the parent of a child with learning disabilities, then your worry is compounded by the knowledge of the very real challenges your child faces every day.
Whether you look in a parenting magazine, an online forum, or read the newspaper, it seems that everyone is worrying about making sure their children have high self-esteem. Interestingly enough, however, high self-esteem seems to be a relatively modern phenomenon: there seems to be little reference to it in the popular literature as recently as pre-World War II.
Why is this? Were parents less concerned about their offspring than they are now? Some would argue that "in those days" families were so busy surviving, they didn't have time to worry about the items higher up on Maslow's hierarchy. After all, if you're not sure whether you'll be able to feed your children, your'e unlikely to spend precious time (or money) on making sure they feel good about themselves.
However, even if you look at the more well-to-do classes, there is still very little mention of making sure the progeny felt good about themselves. Correspondence, advertisements, and popular literature still show a paucity of references to self-esteem. Parents wanted their children to be happy, healthy, and to be able to provide for themselves. They expressed concern over passing valuable family traditions on to the next generation. But feeling good about themselves seems not to have been an issue.
Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned from this. The post-World War II generation was the start of a time period where the structure and function of each family member changed radically.
For many families, fathers became the breadwinners. Women stayed mostly at home, raising their families. Children, whose bread-winning capabilities were no longer relied upon, were finally allowed to be children: they had time to play, read, pursue hobbies. School became accepted as a way of improving one's self; it was the gateway to prosperity and a better life.
Suddenly even the average person had "leisure time," and enterprising businessmen rushed in to fill this heretofore unknown need. Perhaps it was then the pursuit of happiness changed from being a dream to an expectation. Even more importantly, happiness changed from being something you achieved on your own, through worthwhile accomplishments, to something others gave you.
This is what is at the root of all of our troubles with self-esteem today. We say we want our children to be happy: to feel good about themselves, to be happy with who they are and what they can do. But if they must look to others to fulfill this for them, then they will never truly be happy. Not only will they want more "happiness," but they will feel entitled to it.
Furthermore, we confuse happiness with other more appropriate terms such as "joy" or "satisfaction" or even "fulfillment." These are things that the most endowed webkinz site cannot give our children. Hard work, giving back to others, sacrificing for the good of a cause outside of themselves-these are difficult feats that cannot be bought at your local mall.
However, it is precisely these opportunities that our children need to have in order to have high self-esteem. If we can allow our children these opportunities, they will learn they can make a difference in the world, despite their various "handicaps." A report card full of low grades, a teacher's sarcastic words- all of these will pale eventually in comparison to the good they know they can give back to the world.