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Parenting and Self Esteem

Updated on April 27, 2011

Choosing your parents well is the number 1 way we can ensure we have a healthy self-esteem.  Obviously we did not choose our parents but the research is very clear that children with self-esteem tend to have parents who model self esteem.  These are parents that are consistently loving towards their children, express their interest in their child's life and friends, and give their children time, attention and encouragement throughout the week.  Learning from the parents of adults with self-esteem may help parents of younger children encourage their children to develop self-esteem.

What is Self Esteem?

 Self-esteem is a realistic, appreciative opinion of oneself.

Many people will discuss having a low self-esteem or high self- esteem.  Low self-esteem is a low opinion of oneself and high self-esteem is a high opinion of oneself.  Many clinicians do not make this distinction and will simply state if someone has self-esteem or not and do not view this concept as something to be measured or compared across individuals.

Self-defeating pride is found in people who are attempting to be super-human or more than human. Self-dfeating pride is rooted in insecurity. Common traits for this individual include:

  • Narissistism
  • arrogance
  • a belief they are better than others
  • a belief they are more important than others
  • Have a tendency to compare themselves to others
  • overly competitive, everything becomes a contest


In contrast, self-defeating shame is found in people who believe they are less than human. They compare themselves often to others like in self-defeating pride except they tend to see themselves as below others.

Self-esteem is in between self-defeating shame and self-defeating pride.
Self-esteem is in between self-defeating shame and self-defeating pride.

Self-esteem is the balance of these two extremes. People with self-esteem believe they are neither more or less than human. They know their faults and rough edges yet they are still glad to be who they are on a deep level. Instead of becoming competitve or feeling less than, they are able to be good friends to others- they see their friends for who they are and like them anyway because they recognize that goodness, excellene, and potential that coexist alongside imperfections. People with self-esteem view others as equals.

Parenting Style and Self-Esteem

In general, parents of children with self-estee (or high self-esteem) have high standards and expectations that are clear, reasonable and consistent and given with support and encouragement. This, in sum, shows a democratic (or authoritative) parenting style. Parents using this style respect the child's opinions and individuality but still make the final decisions about the important things.  Authoritative parents monitor and impart clear standards for their children’s conduct. They are assertive, but not intrusive and restrictive. Their disciplinary methods are supportive, rather than punitive.

Self-defeating pride tends to result from extreme permissive parenting. Permissive parents are focused on freedom and enjoying the moment.  Permissive parents are sometimes referred to as indulgent parents because they place very few demands on their children. These parents rarely discipline their children because they have relatively low expectations of maturity and self-control. These type of parents are more responsive than they are demanding and avoid confrontation. Although permissive parents are nurturing, they have a tendency to be more of a friend to their children than a parent.

Self-defeating shame is often the result of extreme authoritarian parenting. This style of parenting is focused on teaching responsibility.  In this style of parenting, children are expected to follow strict rules established by their parents. Failure to follow these rules results in punishment. Authoritarian parents fail to explain the reasoning behind these rules and may simply tell the child "Because I said so." These parents have high demands, but are not responsive to their children. 

Authoritarian vs. Permissive Parenting

How to Be an Authoritative Parent

 Your parenting style greatly depends upon the parenting style of your parents.  If you have decided not to repeat the mistakes of past generations and change or improve your parenting style, you may want to start first with understanding how your parents parenting style affects you and how this has shaped you into the adult you are today.  Gaining insight into ourselves may be the best weapon we have against parenting our children in a way that may harm them.

Some individuals may want to consider psychotherapy to address personal issues.  Others may want to begin by making a conscious effort to review, consider, and attempt the following:

  1. Focus on being responsive, nurturing and involved with your children yet do not let your hildren get away with bad behavior.  Take a firm stand and expect your children to behave responsibly.
  2. Enforce rules while emphasizing the reasons for rules.  When your child makes a mistake or misbehaves, attemp to reason with them. 
  3. Encourage a verbal give-and-take, and explain the consequences of good and bad behavior.
  4. Do not control your children through harsh or arbitrary punishments, shaming, or the withdrawal of love.
  5. Encourage your children to be independent while you also encourage self-discipline, maturity and having respect for others.
  6. Keep in mind that how we treat our children is often how our children in turn treat us and others.
  7. Visualize a balanced scale with freedom on one side and responsibility on the other whenever conflicted with how best to approach a parenting challenge.

Please Give Feedback!

All feedback, comments, mail and discussion about this articile is welcomed and encouraged.


Schiraldi, Glenn PhD, The Self Esteem Workbook, New Harbinger Publications 2001

Parenting Styles: The Four Styles of Parenting by Kendra Cherry, Guide


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