Kids today are depressed and anxious. They also seem to feel entitled to every advantage and unwilling to make the leap into adulthood. As Polly Young-Eisendrath makes clear in this brilliant account of where a generation has gone astray, parents trying to make their children feel special are unwittingly interfering with their kids' ability to accept themselves and cope with life. Clarifying an enormous cultural change, THE SELF-ESTEEM TRAP shows why so many young people have trouble with empathy and compassion, struggle with moral values, and are stymied in the face of adversity. Young-Eisendrath offers prescriptive advice on how adults can help kids--through the teen and young adult years--develop self-worth, setting them on the right track to productive, balanced, and happy lives.
Young-Eisendrath, a Vermont-based Jungian analyst, practicing Buddhist and author (Women and Desire), identifies a threatening and perplexing problem she calls the self-esteem trap. Today's children and young adults are suffering from a number of symptoms, including obsessive self-focus, restless dissatisfaction, pressures to be exceptional, unreadiness to accept responsibilities and feelings of either superiority or inferiority. According to the author, instead of contentment and positive self-regard, kids raised to believe they are extraordinary or special are more likely to be unhappy and disappointed. Being ordinary and realizing one's connection to the human community is the real key to happiness, she argues, and cultivating the qualities of generosity, discipline, patience, diligence, concentration and wisdom will lead to children who are self-confident and content. She also warns against parents who run interference, protecting their children from inevitable disappointments. Instead, letting kids develop autonomy and experience the consequences of their decisions, she claims, is the way to go. At times, Young-Eisendrath's scope seems unwieldy, but her message rings true.