What Kids Need: Self-Esteem

It is reported 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 their fun ways.  Discover that in each child, celebrate it, and realize that no matter how irritating their particular trait maybe, 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?  In a company meeting, for example, they might be the one that has the creative idea to 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 to turn kids’ natural tendencies or quirks into assets in their lives, we help them to learn their gifts to the world.

I am a musician, and I can’t help but think about successful musicians who followed their heart and used their uniqueness to benefit the world.  Kris Kristopherson 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.  This was a prime appointment, and he 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 went on to write some of the most poetic and heartfelt lyrics and songs in music history.  If you read the words to Come Sundown or any of his songs, you quickly find that he is very gifted and has given the world some tremendous 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.

I wondered after learning that about Kris Kristopherson what it would 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 that 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 to keep a journal of accomplishments, of their natural tendencies and how they use them.  If they make a poor choice, help them to discover how to learn from it and make a better one next time.

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

Yours for Better Parenting,