Today we as parents, teachers and those interested in childhood studies are obsessed with a child’s self esteem. We look for clues to a low self-esteem, we cast a wide net of blame on absent fathers, over protective mothers, ambivalent teachers and well meaning psychologists yet for all this children’s self esteem is no better off. In fact with the alarming increase in bullying physical, emotional and now increasingly online, the rise of drastic body image archetypes that are unrealistic, the over sexualization of children at a younger age than ever before. This is because in our desire to alleviate the problem we have become to focused on the study and have forgot to look for a solution. Children have been too long ignored or at the other end of the spectrum placed in glass houses as if they were nothing more than sociology experiments and the results are alarming. Abortion rates among young women continue to rise, suicide has reached into younger ages than ever before, plastic surgeries are being given to preteens to correct even the most minor physical attributes that if given time would change with the malleability of the normal aging process. While many argue for the importance of teaching 11 years old about the proper use of condoms because, well “children will engage in sex” we overlook the greater problem that 11 year old’s simply don’t have the emotional or physical maturity to engage in sexual behavior. What was once discouraged is now being normalized and in some cases even encouraged and the detriment to our children could not be more obvious. Childhood in America today is broken a state of being.
But what can we do about it? How can a problem be fixed that we adults have been fostering for so many years? How can we shift our attention away from studying modern children’s psychological troubled state and begin to correct that state and return childhood to a a healthy state where bullying, when it does exists is not malevolently violent. Where a child does not look in the mirror and see fat or short or a bad nose and where our young children do not validate themselves through the pantomime of maturity that ranges from the most obvious (preteen beauty pageants) to the most subversive (internet relationships and overtly provocative body displaying clothing).
I believe on answer is simple. We, the grown up needs to start acting the part. We have ceased the pursuit of wisdom in favor of immediate gratification of the internet or armchair quarterbacking over athletic events or arguing over politics while removing ourselves from the actual issues. In a nutshell we, the grown ups need to grow up! If we fail in this the price will be our own children’s well being and that cost is too high to take so lightly.