Self-Esteem, Resiliency Training, and Success
Parents, like Sandy's mom, often confuse resiliency training with the popular self-esteem movement. Although the two may appear to be similar on the surface, there are significant differences. Most self-esteem programs focus on getting children to feel good about themselves. They often encourage children to use positive affirmations ("I am graceful and strong") and self-awareness activities (such as looking into a mirror and identifying three things you like about yourself). The push for children to have high self-esteem is based on the belief that children who feel good about themselves will do well in life.
However, Reivich points out that self esteem and success don't necessarily go hand in hand. "Children won't succeed solely because they feel good about themselves," she says, adding that some people with very high self-esteem engage in antisocial, immoral and sometimes even criminal behavior. Resiliency research, on the other hand, supports the notion that children who do well in life will feel good about themselves. What parents should be doing is teaching children the skills they need to embrace life with all its bumps and hurdles.
"The goal," Reivich says, "is to identify and develop a child's unique strengths and skills. It is the mastery of skills and abilities that leads to positive feelings about oneself." When a child does well (works hard on a project; gets a good grade; is a good friend), he will feel good about himself. Reivich would rather parents focus their attention on helping children learn skills for doing well in life instead of supporting self-esteem slogans and activities.