QUESTION: Do you ever favor removing a child from one school to transfer him to another?

DR. DOBSON: Yes, there are times when a change of schools – or even a change of teachers within a school – can be in the child’s best interest.

Educators are reluctant to approve these transfers, for obvious reasons, although the possibility should be considered when the situation warrants.

For example, there are occasions when a young student runs into social problems that can be resolved best by giving him a “clean start” someplace else. Furthermore, schools vary tremendously in their difficulty; some are located in higher socioeconomic areas where a majority of the children are much more intelligent than would ordinarily be expected. The mean IQ in schools of this nature may fall between 115 and 120.

What happens, then, to a child with average ability in such a setting? Although he might have competed successfully in an ordinary school, he is in the lower 15 per cent at Einstein Elementary.

My point is this: success is not absolute, it is relative. A child does not ask, “How am I doing?” but rather, “How am I doing compared to everyone else?” Little Johnny may grow up thinking he is a dummy when he would have been an intellectual leader in a less competitive setting.

Thus, if a child is floundering in one academic environment for whatever reason, the solution might involve a transfer to a more suitable classroom. Sometimes a change of scenery is as positive as a fresh start.

QUESTION: I am an adult who is not coping so well with the problems of self-doubt. I feel ugly and unrespected and unworthy. What encouragement can you offer?

DR. DOBSON: Isn’t it about time you made friends with yourself? Aren’t there enough headaches in life without beating your skull against the old brick wall of inadequacy, year after year?

If I were to draw a caricature that would symbolize the millions of adults like you with low self-esteem, I would depict a bowed, weary traveler. Over his shoulder, I would place the end of a mile-long chain to which is attached tons of scrap iron, old tires and garbage of all kinds.

Each piece of junk is inscribed with the details of some humiliation: a failure, an embarrassment, and a rejection from the past. He could let go of the chain and free himself from that heavy load which immobilizes and exhausts him, but he is somehow convinced that it must be dragged throughout life. So he plods onward, digging a furrow in the good earth as he goes.

You can free yourself from the weight of the chain if you will but turn it loose. Your inferiority is based on a distortion of reality seen through a child’s eyes. The standards by which you have assessed yourself are themselves changing and fickle.

Dr. Maxwell Maltz, the plastic surgeon who authored Psycho-Cybernetics, said women came to him in the 1920’s requesting that their breasts be reduced in size. Compare that to the trend today where so many women are ashamed of what nature has provided them.

In King Soloman’s biblical love song, he asks his bride to overlook his dark skin that had occurred from exposure to the sun. In the day, right meant white. But now bronzed Soloman would be the pride of the beach. False values!

Modern women are ashamed to admit that they carry 10 extra pounds of weight, yet Rembrandt would have loved to paint their plump bodies.

Don’t you see that your personal worth is not really dependent on the opinions of others and the temporal, fluctuating values they represent? Don’t get caught up trying to live up to someone else’s ideal. The sooner you can come to accept the transcending worth of your humanness, the sooner you can come to terms with yourself.

I must agree with the writer who said, “While in the race to save our face, why not conquer inner space?” It’s not a bad idea. Think about it the next time you’re feeling inadequate.

These questions and answers are excerpted from the book Dr. Dobson Answers Your Questions. Dr. James Dobson is a psychologist, author and president of Focus on the Family, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of the home. Correspondence to Dr. Dobson should be addressed to Focus on the Family, P.O. Box 444, Colorado Springs, CO 80903. ©, 1982, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.