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Independence or Interdependence?

by Janet Gonzalez-Mena
September/October 1997
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Article Link: http://www.childcareexchange.com/article/independence-or-interdependence/5011761/

When I was a new teacher faced with the job of educating parents, I had great enthusiasm for sharing all that I knew. My energy was boundless, matched only by my zeal. I will never forget trying to explain the concept of self-esteem to a newly arrived Mexican immigrant mother. She kept insisting that there was no such thing in Spanish. I didn't give up. I kept trying to explain it to her. She sat there the whole time with a blank look on her face. She wasn't getting it. Finally she said in complete bewilderment, "You can't esteem yourself, you can only esteem others."

I've been thinking about that exchange for 25 years. She didn't get what I was saying, but I didn't get what she was saying either.

Finally I'm starting to get it.

Newborn babies are faced with the two major tasks of childhood:

- to become independent individuals; and

- to establish connections with others.

The parents' job is to help their children with these tasks. Most parents focus more on one task than the other. Some even ignore the other task and leave its accomplishment to chance.

The choice of focus is cultural, and the outcome is that the child comes to define "self" ...

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