Pride in a Self-Centered World

Dr. Kristi Smith, Director of Education & Training   •   August 8, 2018

pride    verb
a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one's own achievements and/or the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated
Can pride be considered a character value?  To answer this question, we first must understand the concept of pride and its antithesis, shame. The formal definition of pride is a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one's own achievements and/or the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated. When people do something successfully out of pride for their accomplishments, they instinctively want to share what they have done with others. Children are no different. In fact, they have an innate need to share their triumphs as they develop self-awareness. Pride, in its defined form, is healthy. It is how a person expresses their pride that has influenced our perception of this character value. Adults must watch for opportunities to teach the difference between heathy pride and boastfulness. Children must be taught that an attitude of superiority and arrogance is not healthy pride and can cause relational problems.
Pride and shame are opposites on the spectrum regarding self-esteem. While pride builds up a positive self-image, shame has a negative impact on the soul, mind and spirit, especially in children. A child feels shame when they are scorned for a variety of reasons. Scorn happens when a child is ridiculed, looked down on, mocked, scoffed, sneered or even laughed at. Scorning a child has negative psychological impact on a child's development, can cause lasting scars on a child's self-esteem and often will alter choices that they make in life. Altered choices can span from refusing to try something new to lying about actions for fear of mockery or disdain. And yes, even preschoolers will lie. This is especially true if they anticipate being shamed.

The renowned educational theorist Erik Erikson developed a matrix charting the extreme characteristics of the stages of psychosocial development of children. He first identified how pride and shame are closely tied to the autonomy children develop from 18 months to 3 years of age. Erikson called this stage "autonomy vs. shame/doubt," and explained that it is where a child begins separating from total dependency upon adults. It is during this stage that pride takes the forefront in development, as children look to the adults in their life for reassurance that they can take on responsibilities for themselves.

Children deeply desire parents to share in their pride, and they need adults to help temper pride as they learn social interactions. One of the best ways to accomplish both is to praise children for their effort and doing good toward others starting in toddlerhood. Pride influences choices around 4 years of age. Knowing this, we should always be looking for ways to praise children for showing character values such as kindness, helpfulness, self-control, cooperation, diligence, determination and even patience when they put someone else's needs first. One word of caution; individual children should never be given a tangible reward for displaying a character value. Doing so changes pride from being intrinsic with a goal of internal satisfaction to an "I did this … now you owe me" mentality.  Since the true definition of pride is associated with a feeling of satisfaction from one's own achievements, we do not want to feed the "me-monster" that often plagues today's children. Me-monsters are boastful and arrogant while demanding tangible rewards for behaviors that should come without renumeration. The reward of praise and physical affection for accomplishments is all a child needs to build healthy pride while making this world a better place for all.
Character Values Count
Children's Lighthouse staff are dedicated to helping children in our early learning schools to feel pride in their accomplishments. Pride has direct ties with our proprietary Lighthouse C.A.R.E.S.℠ curriculum through our units such as kindness, helpfulness, cooperation and patience.
Understanding Children's Emotions: Pride & Shame by Ken Barish, Ph.D. suggests that "[...] children want their parents to share in their pride and to be proud of them. Our children's feeling ... that we are proud of them is an essential good feeling, an anchor that sustains them in moments of discouragement, aloneness, and defeat."