Self Esteem

Children and Self-Esteem

One of the most common things that people complain of is low self-esteem. Like so many other additions to the list of psychological problems it is treated as a sympton that can be ‘cured’.

When children come into the world they do not lack confidence. When they learn to walk they don’t mind how many times they fall over as they learn to move their bodies. They are not lazy about walking. They keep on trying until they succeed. The same is true of talking. They have endless curiosity and constantly look for new things to do. Their imagination and concentration is aroused with delight when they find out something new that excites their enthusiasm.

Today, when I watch children and parents in supermarkets or in the street, I am glad to see most children are given a free reign except for the few restrictions to safeguard rhem from danger. I wonder why the parents treatment of their children has vastly improved? There is no doubt advantages in technology and transport have made hopusekeeping and shopping far easier now than ever before.

Once children go to school restrictions on their lives are much greater. Things begin to change. The ugly word ‘compulsory’ creeps in. Children can no longer do what they want to do. Everyone in the class has to learn the same thing at the same time. That is alright if what is being taught is the three ‘Rs’, Reading ,Writing and Arithmetic, in a way that the children can learn and enjoy and plenty of time during lessons for the children to get up from their seats and run around, preferably outside. Good teachers are born, not made. By the same token painters and writers are the same. Techniques can be taught but the foundation of all three activities comes from the heart and genes of the fortunate people who have these potentials.

Before the Second World War, the government took little interest in state infant and primary schools. Teacher Training Colleges ran two-year courses that were more than adequate for these state schools. They included a short period of experience in real schools but teachers were trusted to teach in their own way following the basic needs. People who went to grammar schools taught academic subjects in preparation for universities, Others who wanted to train for business and secretarial work went to technical schools and the rest left at 14 to take what work they could find.

Unlike today, it was rare then for children of 7 and 8 not to read and write and learn a little rudimentary arithmetic by the time they went from infant into primary school.

People who went to university were those who wanted to study academic subjects. Money was not a problem because anyone who wanted to go to university and was good enough was paid grants that made them independent of their parents. When I was up at Liverpool University im 1957 I went to a meeting for undergraduates. The speaker was one Bessy Braddok, a fierce left-winger.

She was behind the times , having made the mistake that we all came from families who could pay the university fees. Most of us had fought in the war and received very good grants from the the central government or had won scholarships from local governments. We heckled her without mercy. Taking us for middle-class toffs whose fees were paid by their parents she shouted out:

‘You will soon have the working class in your midst!’

With one accord we roared back “Who do you think we are!” She could find no response. She had made a big mistake.

In those dim and distant days we had never heard ssuch a phrase as low self-esteem. We were mostly overflowing with confidence because we had worked hard to get what we wanted to do and did it well.

Psychology was only just being recognised as a subject for universities. People of my generation find it hard to understand why so many people think they need psychotherapy and I can understand why.