What Kids Need: Self-Esteem

Search Institute reports that only 47% of kids feel good about themselves.  As a school administrator and teacher for many years, I can easily vouch for that figure.  If you ask many kids about their future and how they see themselves, you will get answers that range from concrete plans to I probably won’t be around that long.  It is shocking when a young person says the latter to an adult.  How do we help kids with this?  First on the list is certainly to tell you, kids, that you love them regularly.  They likely cannot hear it too often, and soon they grow up and will yearn to hear you say it.  Each of our kids is unique and different in its fun ways.  Discover that in each child, celebrate it, and realize that no matter how irritating their particular trait may be, somewhere within that uniqueness lies a strength that, if played correctly, will pay off for them.

For example, if you have a very spontaneous child and maybe you are a planner.  You may find it difficult to openly and flexibly respond to their whims.  But think for a minute how that could be an asset for them?  For example, in a company meeting, they might have a creative idea for a problem that gets them noticed.  Not everyone has that skill, and those that do and recognize it as an asset in themselves can use it to their and others’ benefit.  When we help turn kids’ natural tendencies or quirks into assets in their lives, we help them learn their gifts to the world.

I am a musician, and I can’t help but think about successful musicians who followed their hearts and used their uniqueness to benefit the world.  Kris Kristofferson is an example of this.  His father was a General in the United States military.  Kris also joined the military and became a helicopter pilot.  He volunteered for Vietnam as a pilot but instead was sent to West Point to be an instructor at a very young age.  The appointment was an opportunity, and Kris was on track to have a brilliant career like his father.  But he yearned for something else and left the military and went to Oxford as a Rhodes scholar.  Still quite impressive, but not what his parents had in mind.  The rest is history; he majored in literature and wrote some of the most poetic and heartfelt lyrics and songs in music history.  If you read the words to Come to Sundown or any of his songs, you quickly find that he is very gifted and has given the world some incredible and touching music.  But his decision to do this was not something his parents wanted.  They asked him not to come back to the family.

After learning about Kris Kristofferson, what would it have been like if they supported his dream and gifts?  Did they take the time to get to know his heart, and what was in it?  What if they had helped him realize much earlier than he was a poet of grand proportion?  What about your kids?  What trait do they have that drives you crazy?  How can it be turned into an asset and thus make a significant contribution to their self-esteem by helping them to follow their heart?  I challenge parents to help their kids keep a journal of accomplishments, their natural tendencies, and how they use them.  If they make a poor choice, allow them to learn from it and make a better one next time.

Another look at my posting on Self-Esteem can be found at What Kids Need: Self Esteem – Dr. Rich Patterson (pattersonphd.com)

For a solid definition of self-esteem, click here What Is Self-Esteem? (verywellmind.com)

I hope that each parent will positively recognize the wonder and uniqueness of each young people and help them turn it into an asset.

Yours for Better Parenting,