Mothers, before you rebel and refuse the concept, finish the series. What you do today isn’t bad; no mom intentionally heads her child toward self-destructive behavior. But it happens accidentally or out of ignorance of what makes children tick. IOW, some mom-care is unintentionally ineffective. Trying to use love to convince a child that he likes himself is the prime example addressed in this series.
Self-esteem has a precise definition here. It’s how well a person of any age likes or dislikes himself as a person but not as man or woman. When a person doesn’t like himself as a person, it undermines significantly how well he can like himself as a man or woman and can cause role confusion among other problems.
It’s a natural development phenomenon. Each child’s self-esteem is hardwired into his subconscious mind—his heart as mothers call it— during the infant-care period before his conscious mind opens in the third year of life. Let’s compare two extremes:
- One infant is calmly treated preciously and loved endearingly with much fondling and less-than-excitable actions that transmit respect, immense attention, affection, and appreciation. He inherits a sense of high self-esteem, perhaps even self-love aka the highest. Subconscious conviction hardwires his psyche that if others like me, I should like himself.
- Another infant is treated terribly, frequently left in discomfort, jerked or handled roughly, yelled at, surrounded by loud and disruptive noises of people or media, unresponsive to caregiver demands, fed carelessly or not regularly, scared often, left to cry in frustration, and treated as unwanted by those around him. He inherits a sense of low self-esteem. Subconscious conviction hardwires his psyche that if others dislike or hate me, I should feel the same. He thereby becomes permanently conditioned to dislike, loathe, or perhaps hate himself, aka the lowest self-esteem. It’s a very high hurdle that anorexics, suicides, et al. never learn to clear.
Imagine a spectrum that runs from self-love on the high end to self-hatred on the low end. Without awareness of what happened, each child inherits from infant caregivers a narrow band of self-like subliminally hardwired into his subconscious mind. It’s the range of his self-esteem. Perhaps near the top, bottom, or somewhere in the middle, a very narrow or slightly wider range is mentally positioned to subconsciously govern his self-development. Never to be available for direct examination or evaluation, it’s inaccessible and unknown except as his feelings are routinely affected by it throughout life. (It also plays a major role in the unpredictability of human behavior.)
High self-esteem prevents a child’s likeness of self to sink very low. Low self-esteem prevents liking oneself very highly. Caregivers unwittingly lock in the range each child has for liking or disliking himself as a person. Not as boy or girl, which is a function of self-image (later). With self-development freedom and the adaptability available with self-image, a child can find many successes in life, which can enable liking himself separate and overpowering of self-esteem, which enables him to produce socially beneficial outcomes rather than self-destructive behavior, which can compensate for poor or inadequate parenting.
It’s a natural process. After the conscious mind opens, the child becomes aware that he’s also a person. Soon afterward he becomes aware he’s either boy or girl, which gives birth to self-respect, which gives birth to the expectation that he deserves equal respect from others, which gives birth to temper tantrums when denied the full expression of his self-respect, which arises out of his aim toward self-development, which emerges from what he inherited at birth and to which was added self-esteem. Out of all that, his attitude reflects how he uses or relies on self-esteem and self-respect to challenge adults who interfere with his self-interest.
(You don’t like a child’s attitude? More love won’t do it very effectively. You can’t change self-esteem, so show more respect, which helps elevate his self-respect, which broadens his ability to self-develop, which generates a better self-image, which enables better self-development, which earns successes, which makes him like himself better, which compensates for low self-esteem, which compensates for poor parenting, which improves his attitude because he likes himself better.)
Toddlers first become aware they too are a person. They have self-respect, can show respect for others, and expect it from other persons. Then, they become aware they are male or female, which triggers a whole new set of ideas that form their self-image, which governs their self-development and as much of their life as they can control.
Self-esteem across society should form a bell curve. However, the incidence of kids with low self-esteem suggests a statistical curve to be skewed far out of bell-shape. I’ve seen no evidence that self-esteem is observable or measurable. What we measure in others is their self-image of how well they can identify how and why they like themselves. If questioned or surveyed, children can only respond with knowledge in their conscious mind. If questioned about treatment before their third year, they have no memory. If mothers are questioned, they have an interest in admitting only to great motherly treatment. So, real self-esteem is undetectable.
A child’s self-esteem is molded completely by those who brought him through infancy. Development of it ends when his conscious mind makes him aware that he is also a person and able to form his own opinions of how he is treated. He’s full of enthusiasm for life, and so the self-esteem he possesses governs his actions as toddler until his self-image forms of how he likes himself.
Lack of knowledge about infant care can mislead both parents into doing wrong things for the mental adaptability of a child. High self-esteem makes a child easily adaptable to the good things in life. Low self-esteem fosters socially bad things. Regardless, whether high or low, the primal urge of self-development empowers the child to ambitiously move onward and upward to his satisfaction for boys and importance for girls.
Self-development is next for tomorrow.