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Aug 20 2014

Five Kids Who Tried the Ice Bucket Challenge & Adorably Failed

By at 12:31 pm

Water-falling

News flash: The ice bucket challenge for ALS has reached the elementary schools.

Seriously, ALL the kids are doing it.

It’s not all squeals of delight, though. Aside from the obvious schoolyard politics which dictate that your kid’s popularity and self-worth be determined solely by how many times he or she is nominated, the challenge often doesn’t go exactly according to plan. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 19 2014

My Kids Are Pretty Much Average

By at 12:01 pm

c-plus

A few weeks ago, I was at a 3-year-old’s birthday party, and I put my 6-month-old son down next to another baby. The other child effortlessly rolled across the blanket, while my son, a few weeks younger, mortified his mama by crying, in place, on his tummy. Oh no, I wondered, is my child not going to be a gifted athlete? Maybe he won’t be as flexible as his brother? Are these early signs of some kind of processing delay? I panicked. Will he be popular, or an outcast among fast-moving little boys? And the terror took hold.

Have you had that fear about your child? The fear that bubbles up when you notice they are not particularly good at singing, drawing or academics? You retaliate by frantically signing them up for soccer, karate, and music classes. You become certain that if you keep trying to find it, the prodigy in your child will emerge. You talk to other parents, trying to gain reassurance that all children are special at something. The other parents may even soothe your anxiety by pointing out how smart your child is because he knows 50 more words than the average kid his age. You placate your own worries by repeating that old idea that everybody has a special talent they excel at. Surely your child will find theirs at some point.

At the birthday party, my friends pointed out the benefits of a kid who doesn’t move: fewer worries about baby-proofing the house and those lurking dangers at the park. They referenced other children we knew who didn’t move until after a year (oh gosh!) but who were doing just fine on the playground now. Many also pointed out that while he may not be able to move, my son was so gorgeous and smart.

Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 5 2014

I Was Embarrassed of My Jewish Looks–Until I Saw “Dirty Dancing”

By at 3:58 pm

Dirty-dancing

I watched “Dirty Dancing” with my daughter the other night. It was the first time she had seen it and probably my 10th.

I was super excited for our girls’ night–we bought candy, made some popcorn and changed into our pajamas–but I also felt some pressure. What if she hates the movie and thinks it’s corny and old-fashioned? Maybe next time, then, she’d ask a friend over to watch a movie instead of me. Maybe next time she’d choose to watch “Gossip Girl” on Netflix by herself. I know she loves our time together as much as I do, but I feel the fragility of these moments–of an almost 14-year-old–of a blossoming young woman who will soon begin her own journey of self-discovery apart from me.

“Dirty Dancing” was a movie that had a profound impact on me back in 1987. I was 19 then, just a year or two older than Baby (played by Jennifer Grey). It was the first time I had seen a movie that featured a Jewish girl as the romantic lead. I thought Baby was just like me because she had a Jewish nose and frizzy, curly hair. In reality she looked nothing like me. We were alike, however, in the absence of certain physical attributes. Neither of us had long golden blond hair, small button noses, big blue eyes, or full pouty lips. In fact, girls like me and Baby were typically the best friend of the pretty girl who dates the good-looking popular guy. Jewish girls like us didn’t get the cute guys. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 24 2014

Is My Daughter Confident or Cocky?

By at 9:56 am

Rita-collins-cocky-kid

I’ve always wanted my daughter to be able to shine and feel good about her personal accomplishments, and so, like many parents who put their children into copious amounts of activities, I too have done that for my 7-year-old. She has tried soccer, tennis, piano, and competitive dance. In the academic arena, I have placed her in multiple summer school courses and I have her doing extra reading, writing, math, and even some educational documentaries thrown in for good measure. My hope was that her involvement in these activities would make her well-rounded and build her self-esteem.

But, what if I am creating a “cocky” kid?

Recently at my daughter’s Open House she was showered with praise for how well she had been doing in school, but her teacher also told us that she was being bossy with the other kids and sometimes acting in a “superior” manner toward them. When she was asked about it, she said, “Well, I’m smarter than they are.” Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 23 2014

What’s It Like at “No Body Talk” Camp?

By at 4:50 pm

No-Body-Talk-Rule

“NO BODY TALK!”

This is the refrain commonly heard at Eden Village, a Jewish organic farming camp, featured in the New York Times, where boys and girls can talk about anything under the sun except their bodies.

Eden Village joins a growing number of summer camps that discourage any discussion of clothing, nails, hair, or body parts. That means no insecure or negative body comments (“Do I look fat?”), or compliments (“I love your dress”). Even checking out one’s own reflection is discouraged. (A sign on the bathroom reads: “Don’t check your body, check your soul.”) Read the rest of this entry →

May 5 2014

Why I Tell My Daughter She’s Pretty, But Won’t Tell Her She’s Smart

By at 11:36 am

why-i-call-my-daughter-pretty

My 7-year-old daughter who, as we previously determined, is nothing like me in personality, also looks nothing like me. Which is why I can say, without a trace of self-interest, that she is a beautiful girl. She has luxurious black hair, olive skin, huge chocolate colored eyes, eye lashes that go on forever, and a perennial smile on her face–just like her dad. I constantly tell my daughter that she is beautiful. (My brother has dubbed her Beauteous Maximus, in Latin).

I know many beautiful women. Having worked in soap operas since 1994, I’d wager I know more beautiful woman than most people. Every year, around Daytime Emmys time, I would leave the house feeling I looked my very best. I’d get to the venue and wonder why I bothered; I wasn’t in these people’s league. I wasn’t in their species. And yet, a majority of these stunning creatures all think there is something wrong with them. Usually because of a lifetime of hearing from well-meaning people–more often than not, moms and dads set the stage for what agents and casting director and “fans” finish–about how they could really stand to lose five pounds. Or get a nose job. Or straighten their hair. Or wear more make-up/different clothes/stand up straight/smile.

I also know women who would be considered objectively unattractive in the conventional sense. And yet their self-image is amazing. Because no one ever told them otherwise. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 7 2014

The Self-Conscious Mom & Her Very Observant Kids

By at 9:55 am

hole-in-sock

This post is part of our Torah commentary series through the perspective of a mother. This Shabbat we read Parashat Tetzaveh. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.

I’d like to say that I’m the kind of woman who’s never given much thought to clothing and what I wear. I’d like to say that I’ve always just sort of thrown something on, and effortlessly, look pulled together all the time, or don’t, but either way, no matter. I’d like to remember my child-self as one who didn’t think tights were scratchy, who didn’t notice if her undershirt was tucked in, who didn’t have an obsessive penchant for the colors purple and orange, who didn’t mind wearing headbands, two-piece bathing suits, or ankle socks.

I’d like to say that I was and still am highly unselfconscious.

Except I am totally self-conscious, and have always been a bit of a nut when it comes to clothes. I’m not talking in a clotheshorse kind of way, where I’m off spending money on labels and status pieces. No, I’m talking about the much more existential and far less useful ways in which I obsess about how I look. I’ve never worn a bikini, I don’t really enjoy being photographed, and often notice myself fidgeting–with my clothing, my hair, whatever. While my neuroses are (mostly) in check, a healthy dose of anxiety runs through my bloodstream at all times, just to keep me on my toes. And often, this delightful kind of crazy rears its ugly head as I try and dress myself on any given day. Read the rest of this entry →

May 29 2013

The Secret of Parenting: Do Less

By at 2:36 pm

little boy washing dishesI have finally unlocked the secret of parenting. Here it is: Most Of The Time, The Less You Do, The Better Your Kids Will Turn Out.

Counterintuitive? Perhaps. Throwing a goose into the rotors of helicopter parents everywhere? Yes. But true? In many cases, yes: benign neglect is GOOD.

Important caveats: obviously, this theory does not apply to babies, children with special needs, or children who deal with some sort of disability. This also does not absolve you, the parent, of any and all childcare related activities. And, of course, results may vary. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 29 2013

Overcoming My Eating Disorder & Raising a Healthy Daughter

By at 5:07 pm

scale on a plate with knife and forkI gave birth to my daughter six months ago, and, a few sleep-deprived weeks later, I realized it was right around the 10th “anniversary” of when I was admitted to a hospital for an eating disorders inpatient program.

When I try to reconcile the memory of my scared, enervated teen self with myself today, as a (somewhat) confident mother of two with visibly muscled biceps from lugging around a giant purse, a diaper bag, a breast pump, a baby, and sometimes a 38-pound 3-year-old, it’s difficult. But I still vividly remember the feelings of insecurity, self-doubt, and physical weakness. As it turns out, you can be too thin after all. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 3 2012

Will Sports Really Raise My Son’s Self-Esteem?

By at 10:06 am

little boy soccer ballMy sister has five children. All of them are heavily involved in team sports, and thriving–great physical shape, good grades, active social lives, and high self-esteem.

She’s utterly convinced that team sports are crucial to self-esteem building, and that I’d better get my kid started with one–NOW–before he falls hopelessly behind.

First of all, HE’S FIVE. There are lots of reasons to do team sports, but there are even more reasons to build garages for all your BOB trucks. Or put on goggles and swim across the living room. He’s FIVE.

I totally believe in sports, don’t get me wrong. But I’m not so sure that it’s the only path to self-esteem. Read the rest of this entry →

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