Building your child’s self-esteem is a pillar of adolescent psychology. Doing so instills your child with a sense of self-worth and confidence, which seem like pretty good traits. Go ahead – Google it. I did, and the results all pretty much say something like, “Hence it is not surprising that parents and clinicians want to foster self-esteem in young people.” To that I say, fuck that noise, especially if it comes at the expense of my self-esteem and self-worth and confidence.
When a badass dad lion in Africa has a son, he isn’t thinking about building up his son's self-esteem, he is thinking that in a few short years that little bastard is going to be competitor number one for a gazelle liver. You know what badass dad lion does? He sure as hell doesn’t show his son how to gouge a liver out of a gazelle. Oh no, he eats every damn liver he can.
All of which brings me to ping pong, which for purposes of this story, will be a metaphor for a gazelle liver. Over the summer, the boys and their friends have been playing copious amounts of ping pong in our basement. A month or two ago, I thought I would enter the fray and play them. I hadn’t played ping pong in some time, but nonetheless, I of course considered myself awesome, certainly capable of beating my two fourteen year olds. Possessing such confidence, I thought during the first match that I should “take it easy” and then promptly lost 21-8.
“Okay,” I thought, “enough with that strategy, time to show them the mane and the big scary teeth.” And then I lost 21-12.
But once your cub discovers how tasty a liver is, the cat (so to speak) is out of the bag. So then I determined that to rightly assume my place in the pride, I had to not only just win, I had to completely dominate. I played ferociously. When a ball offered itself to be spiked, I not only wanted to smack it, I wanted to crack the ball off of my son’s sternum (after it hit on his side of the net, of course.)
My record improved dramatically, which is to say I no longer lost every game, just most games. On the rare occasion that I won, I rocked it. I talked smack. I screamed things like, “I’m dominating you!” And then they would beat me again.
So my new and possibly controversial advice is this. Kick their ass while you still can. Don’t feel bad about it. In fact, relish it. You’re certainly not “fostering their self-esteem” by handing them a liver in a nice patch of tall grass. And then, when they are better than you, when they routinely beat you at ping pong, pat yourself on the back. Your kids are supposed to be better than you.