Every parent wants to instill a sense of self-worth in his or her child. According to experts on the subject, Dr. Tim Clinton and John Trent, authors of The Quick Reference Guide to Marriage and Family Counseling, the Creator has given parents or guardians the huge task of leading youngsters in the right way—which hopefully, if done well, will result in children becoming healthy adults, good citizens, and loving parents themselves someday. Yet, one of the challenges parents seem to face in accomplishing this goal is how to help their offspring recognize their own intrinsic value.
More often than not, in today’s declining society, parents are disposed to using a parenting technique that features a fully nonjudgmental and accepting attitude—no matter whether or not the performance or behavior is really acceptable or desirable. This methodology, commonly known as unconditional positive regard, is the cornerstone of Person Centered Therapy, as developed by Carl Rogers. It includes universal acceptance of a child’s expression of negative, painful, fearful, defensive, or abnormal feelings, as well as any manifestation of good, positive, mature, confident, and social feelings. Dr. Steven Joseph, a professor of psychology, further clarifies that it means that the parent respects the child, regardless of how dangerous or dysfunctional they seem to be. Some psychologists state that this kind of parenting can be effective for children, since the process develops a sense of contentment as parents are showing that they appreciate everything kids are doing. Yet, in contrast, there is a group of child psychologists and parents who maintain that this approach teaches children to be self-focused, and ultimately spoils them; furthermore, the lack of an objective standard of truth hints of moral relativism. For these reasons, I agree that this measured parenting process—unconditional positive regard—seems imbalanced, unreasonable, and unfair to the developing child.
I do believe that a parent or guardian must freely exhibit unconditional love to his or her child, for this is fundamental of good parenting and to a Christian worldview. However, there is disagreement with the application of unconditional positive regard, since human beings are not inherently motivated toward positive growth. A better parenting method would include sound instruction and loving discipline.
Another expert, Dr. Neel Burton, explains that low self-worth can be deeply engrained in little ones, sometimes due to painful or traumatic childhood experiences, like separation from parents, negligence, or physical, emotional, or sexual abuse; and, in later life, self-confidence can be destabilized by “ill health, negative life events such as losing a job or getting divorced, deficient or frustrating relationships, and a general sense of lack of control.”
Nationally known family advocate and psychologist James C. Dobson, founder of the national radio show, Family Talk, reinforces the importance of a balanced method for building a child’s sense of worth, which he states begins with the foundation of the God’s view of mankind: “Every child is entitled to hold up his or her head, not in haughtiness, but in confidence and security.” He adds, “That is the concept of human worth intended by our Creator.”
A substantial part of a child’s self-concept materializes from the way the parent views him, and on the quality of the interactions between parents and child. For parents, the most important thing is to maintain a healthy, loving relationship with their children—a relationship that is emotionally and spiritually close. The truth is that successful parenting in today’s culture is no easy task; but, I suggest that new parents raise their children in a manner consistent with a Christian worldview, by first making a commitment to live by biblical principles, and to lead by loving example.
Editor’s Note: Keith Davis is a psychology student at Liberty University, and a staff member at Logan Mingo Area Mental Health (LMAMH). For additional information about today’s column, contact LMAMH at Logan, (304) 792-7130; or Chattaroy, 235-2954; walk-ins are always welcome and intake assessments are available on-site