Your son is behaving arrogantly—and he is only ten!
He expects everyone to treat him as special.
‘What has got into him?’ you wonder. ‘I want him to feel good about himself—but not to think that he is better than everyone else!’
Is it possible to teach a child humility without damaging his or her self-worth?
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
In recent decades, parents have been encouraged to yield to their children’s desires; to praise them generously, even if they did nothing praiseworthy; to withhold correction and discipline. It was thought that if children were made to feel special, they would grow up with healthy self-esteem. But what have the results shown? The book Generation Me states: “Instead of creating well-adjusted, happy children, the self-esteem movement has created an army of little narcissists.”
Many children raised with unconditional praise have grown up unprepared for disappointments, criticism, and occasional failure. Because of being taught to focus on their own desires, they find it hard as adults to form lasting relationships. As a result, many of them suffer from anxiety and depression.
Children develop real self-worth, not by being constantly told that they are special, but through genuine accomplishments. That requires more than just believing in themselves. They need to learn, practice, and refine chosen skills carefully. (Proverbs 22:29) They also need to care about other people’s needs. (1 Corinthians 10:24) All of this requires humility.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Give praise when it is truly deserved. If your daughter scores well on a school test, commend her. If she gets a low grade, do not automatically blame the teacher. That would hardly help your daughter learn humility. Instead, help her to see how she may do better next time. Reserve praise for actual accomplishments.
Give correction when necessary. This does not mean that you should criticize your child for every mistake. (Colossians 3:21) But serious errors should be corrected. The same can be said about wrong attitudes. Otherwise, these may become more deeply ingrained.
For example, suppose your son is showing a tendency to brag. Uncorrected, he could become conceited and begin to alienate others. So explain to your child that boasting makes him look bad and that it could set him up for embarrassment. (Proverbs 27:2) Explain, too, that a person with a balanced view of himself does not feel the need to broadcast his abilities to others. By giving such correction in the spirit of love, you will teach him humility without hurting his self-respect.—Bible principle: Matthew 23:12.
Prepare your child for life’s realities. Indulging a child’s every wish can cause him to feel entitled. So, for example, if your child wants something you cannot afford, explain why it is necessary to live within a budget. If you have to cancel an outing or a vacation, you could explain that disappointments are part of life and perhaps discuss how you deal with such disappointments. Rather than shield your children from every hardship, prepare them for the challenges they will face as adults.—Bible principle: Proverbs 29:21.
Encourage giving. Prove to your child that “there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” (Acts 20:35) How? Together you might prepare a list of people in need of help with shopping, transportation, or repair work. Then take your child along as you assist some of them. Allow your child to see your joy and satisfaction as you care for the needs of others. That way you will teach your child humility in the most powerful way—by example.—Bible principle: Luke 6:38.