Everybody’s talking about self esteem these days. I expect we’ve all struggled with it; I know I had a horrible self-image when I was young. A lot of parents are concerned that their children grow up with good self esteem. After all, how can you love your neighbor as yourself if you hate yourself?
So some parents praise their children a lot, even when they haven’t really earned it. Some follow the advice of a psychologist and never punish or say anything negative to their children. Some remind their kids often, “You are SOMEBODY!”
According to Scripture, it’s a mixed picture. We’re utterly depraved by nature, without any capacity to do anything good. All our thoughts and motives are selfish and evil. Nobody among us is worthy of the slightest respect in our natural state. Yet God is the one who sets value and we’re told that He loved us so much that He sent His only begotten son to die for our salvation. That makes us pretty important, doesn’t it? In addition, Psalm 139 talks about the infinite care God put into our design. He was intimately involved with each of us in our formative season. Obviously, God cares.
Teach the truth of Scripture to your children. Let them know how corrupt we all are by birth, how lost we are and how much we need a Savior. But teach them also that grace has provided that sacrifice and that love has made them the apple of God’s eye. He knows them exactly as they are and He cares so very much.
But still they will not respect themselves if they don’t also learn a sense of responsibility for things beyond themselves. Once their relationship with God is settled, He expects them to live as servants of God who are for others’ needs even above their own. After all, what right do we have to self esteem if we’re selfish people? If you want your child to have a good attitude toward self, you’ll have to teach him the right attitudes toward others. Jesus demanded a servant’s heart and even forgiveness for enemies. It doesn’t come naturally, but grace makes it possible.
You want your child to respect himself. Teach him what God has done for him and teach him to lay down his life for others in God’s name. He’ll have self respect. And he’ll be respected by others, too.