Blog Entry:

Hanging It All Out

June 14, 2012

Welcome! I’m glad you’re here.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to introduce myself to you. I could tell you I’m a proud Southerner who  lived in Manhattan, and loved it, in spite of not having a clothes line for my sheets and towels. I could tell you one of my greatest joys in life was raising my wonderfully precocious identical twin sons who turned thirty on St. Patrick’s Day. I could explain why my full name is Jill Anne Boler McDonald Rigby Garner, but that would take a book, not a blog. I could convince you I have more stories to tell than you can count. But today, I’m just going to tell you why I founded Manners of the Heart. (I’ll save the rest for days ahead.)

My sons were born at the height of the self-esteem movement. You know, the love yourself theory. I did everything the parenting books told me to do…I tried to be their best friend, not their authority figure. I attempted to use reason with my five-year-olds. I allowed the boys to choose the menu for dinner. I let them decide what they wanted to do when they wanted to do it to empower them, as the experts instructed. But when my best friend suggested in her best “bless your heart” way that the boys were going to be in jail before they turned 10, I knew she was right. My sons were turning into brilliant little monsters instead of brilliant little angels. 

I changed my goal as a parent from raising children who loved themselves to raising children others would love. Rather than worrying about whether or not they liked me or their moment to moment happiness, I became more concerned with how my parenting affected who they would become. I discovered as I gave less and expected more, the boys began to mature. As I expected them to respect others, their ability to put the needs of others ahead of their wants, at home, in the classroom and on the soccer field, began to take hold. 

Parents and educators are still being told the secret to raising respectful and accomplished children is to build their self-esteem—praise ‘em in the morning, praise ‘em at the noontime, praise ‘em till the sun goes down. Parents are told to offer praise without merit, to never refuse their children, and to stand against anyone who dares to correct their little ones. But rather than appreciate all their parents do for them, today’s children only become ungrateful and resentful of the folks who give them everything. Educators are told to offer incentives to motivate their students to succeed in school. But their students are not succeeding. We all know the grim statistics about today’s students…more entitled with lower test scores.  This generation is dropping out of school and life in record numbers.

That’s why I founded Manners of the Heart…to help undo the damage created by the self-esteem movement. My deepest desire is to help parents instill the qualities of respect and empathy in their children. To encourage educators to replace the incentive-based programs that offer external awards with merit-based programs that offer internal rewards. As we often say around here, we don’t tell children they’re great, we help them become great. We don’t tell children they’re the best, we help them become their best. One of the elementary schools we work with gave up the self-esteem philosophy this year and followed the principles of Manners of the Heart. They had the best school year in several years, both from the perspective of the teachers and the students.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. This article by Dr. Roy Baumeister, one of our leading sociologists, tells of how he redirected his thinking based on unexpected outcomes from his research:

Gotta’ go for now…The washing machine just beeped, letting me know the sheets and towels are ready for the clothesline.


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