Self-Respect Verses Self-Esteem

The nurse at my school recently came into each kindergarten class and took the weight and height measurements of the students. She takes these measurements and determines the child’s body-mass index. Parents can use these measurements to determine if their child is over or under weight.

Mike Beede, the new governor of Arkansas, says that these types of statements should not be sent home to a child’s family. He concludes that it might lower a child’s self-esteem to determine that he/she is not the appropriate weight for his/her height and age.

As our world gets harsher and harder, we are preparing our children less and less. The push now is to make every child feel great and special at all times. Boost a child’s self-esteem whenever possible. I say help children create self-respect. The difference? While self-esteem is a good opinion of one’s self, self-respect is respecting one’s self or character. So should we, as parents and teachers, continue to withhold the truth from children that they may not always be the best and everything may not always be great?

When I coached cheerleading, there were many little girls that did not make the team. I found out later that the mother of one of the girls went out and said very untrue and ugly things about the girls that did make the team. Instead of teaching her daughter that it was the fault of others that she did not succeed, the mother should have taught her daughter that it is okay not to be the best at everything and either helped the girl find a strength in another area of interest or helped her work hard to make the team the next year. Our children need to know that failure is okay as long as you take it and learn from it. I think that if children are taught how to deal with and overcome criticism, there may be fewer teenage suicides and shootings.

I agree that a report should not be sent home stating that a child is ‘fat’. But to inform a parent that their child may be at risk for health problems due to being overweight is our duty. I feel that protecting children from failure and downfalls could set them up for complete shock when they enter the real world. We need to be teaching children how to deal with these types of obstacles and how to overcome them through self-respect. Let’s face it. Many children that I meet already have a pretty high opinion of themselves. However, it is obvious that they do not respect themselves. They do not respect their body or their character. Self-respect does not come easy. It takes self-discipline and competence.

Even in kindergarten, I meet children that have been told how perfect they are so many times over the past five years that they believe they can do no wrong. I hand out an assignment and they immediately begin working and ignore the directions given out. After all, they know how to do everything. They are against letting anyone ‘teach’ them how to do something. They have been told that every picture they draw is the absolute best and every block building they build could be no better. These children can see no room for improvement. However, students with self-respect are eager to learn and to complete tasks to the best of their ability. They insist on tasks being completed the right way even if it means acquiring help from others.

I tell my children, both at home and at school, on a daily basis that I love them and that they are special to me. Yet, I also tell them when they make mistakes or when I see that an improvement can be made. I acknowledge the effort that they have put into the task and comment on the things that are right. Then, I offer advice on how their work could be even better. I cannot see how helping one better their work or life could be detrimental.

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