How not to raise a president

Or: Can you keep your child a child?

From an old column of Peggy Noonan’s – which was quoted by James Taranto in yesterday’s Best of the Web Today:

I love some of these children. Some of them have been my son’s friends and in my house since preschool–and I want to hug them when I see them. Some are so kindhearted that they bring tears to your eyes. Some of them are deep inside good and mean to do good in the world. A handful of them are brave, too, and have had a lot to put up with in their parents.

But some of them are victims of the self-esteem movement. They have a wholly unearned self-respect. No, an unearned admiration for themselves. And they’ve been given this high sense of themselves by parents and teachers who didn’t and don’t have time for them, and who make it up to them by making them conceited. I’m not sure how this will play out as they hit adulthood. What will happen to them when the world stops telling them what they have been told every day for the first quarter century of their lives, which is: You are wonderful.

Maybe it will make for a supergeneration of strong and confident young adults who think outside the box . . . and proceed through their lives with serenity and sureness. Maybe life will hit them upside the head when they’re 24 and they get fired from their first job and suddenly they’re destabilized by the shock of not being admired. Maybe it will send them reeling.

I always want to tell them: the only kind of self-respect that lasts is the kind you earn by honestly coming through and achieving. That’s the only way you’ll make a lasting good impression on yourself.

Reeling…let’s send The Current Occupant REELING into his next adventure, shall we?



  1. Generally I think the outcome is a result for the worse. I’m reminded of a comment made about one of those ‘progressive’ schools: the children who come out of it might not be able to count or spell, but their sense of self-esteem is sure to be well in place.

    1. My grandparents and parents, along with quite a few aunts, uncles, and cousins have been schoolteachers. I’ve been a preschool ‘teacher assistant.’ The younger teachers believe self-esteem is more important. My grandmother could teach a dog to read, but didn’t care much if it felt good about it. Instilling self-esteem is impossible (it’s an inside job) but making the little darlin’s into arrogant, self-centered monsters? THAT is what they actually accomplish.

      You are so right and I’ve seen it so often over the years – the kids can’t read or write or do ‘rithmetic, but they sure feel good about themselves!

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