Self-interest motivates everyone. It’s our future; it triggers our actions. It determines what we do and say after this instant in time even if only to stand and think about what’s next.
A child’s self-interest starts as a function of genetics inherited at birth and self-esteem indirectly programmed into the subconscious by infant caregivers. After his conscious mind opens, his self-interest determines whom he will become after any moment in life. He knows best what’s best for him at that moment. Do his own thing or follow mom’s instructions? Probably without thinking, he acts.
When planned or dreamed of, it’s ambition. Or perhaps instantaneous, such as play with a toy. Or unexpected as in yell from anguish or flee mom’s anger. Or perhaps try to alibi but fail his way out of punishment for what he knows he shouldn’t have done, which prompts him to modify self-interest for different action and outcome next time. Lessons learned shape self-interest continuously.
Self-image is the picture of who and what we are. Self-interest is what we should say or do and to or with whom we should say or do it. Self-interest is our life agenda. Success broadens and deepens our belief in self, which broadens and deepens our self-interest and our liking of self. As self-developers, children are just like us.
Just as adults do, children learn from successes and failures made doing or saying what they think they should. However, kids don’t always make the call. Adults have a nasty habit of overriding a child’s assessment of whether he experienced a success or failure. It makes a critical difference in upbringing of children.
Parents or authority figures have multiple occasions. They call a boy’s actions as:
- successes and the boy agrees. If he acknowledges to himself that it’s deserved, it enhances his belief that he’s pretty good, which improves his self-image, confirms his self-interest, and adds to his liking himself as boy and perhaps undersized adult. Consequently, adult intentions are rewarded.
- successes and the boy thinks it undeserved. It registers as just okay in his heart. He didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. He just did something that others thought okay. Belief in self is unlikely to change and ditto for self-image, self-interest, and self-like. Consequently, undeserved praise may not be wasted but it’s not effective for parental intentions.
- failures and the boy agrees. He acknowledges to himself that he didn’t do what he should have, which enhances his belief that he knows what he’s doing, which improves his self-image, which modifies his self-interest, which adds to liking himself as boy or perhaps undersized adult. Consequently, just the mention of failure is sufficient to energize change in the boy. OTOH, highlighting well-intended actions as his incompetence is to challenge and over time belittle his self-image, drown his self-interest, and reverse his self-like.
- failures and the boy disagrees. He acknowledges to himself that he did do what he should have, which enhances his belief that he knows what he’s doing, which modifies his self-interest either to
- refuse to adjust to parental expectations, which adds to his liking himself as an individual and potential adult
- or adjust toward adult standards and expectations which weakens his self-image, which demeans his ability to like himself. Consequently, boy-judger disagreements foster potential for more relationship difficulties.
The difference in the boy’s modification of self-interest depends upon how he respects and accepts the judgment of parents or higher authority figures. The greater his respect for those who judge him, the less inclined to disagree with them. The less his respect, the more easily the boy disagrees.
In the final analysis, the boy-and-his-judges relationship determines the final outcome. And that dear ladies is why moms are so good at raising boys. Girls are somewhat different but moms are even more capable for adjusting girls’ self-interest. So it needs no more attention than just follow the boy’s model above with this exception. Girls do not think unearned gifts are undeserved.
To help make kids like themselves better, guide rather than demand of them that their personal agenda includes consideration for the interests of others. As their self-interest expands to consider others, selfishness dies and self-centeredness weakens a little. Starting in childhood produces more mature candidates to enter and pass through adolescence with little turmoil and thereby produce more mature adults.
Self-worth follows tomorrow.