Improving Self Esteem
Growing up, I always felt a bit different from the other kids. As an adult I can see that most kids feel this way from time to time. But there were also reasons I was different including the fact that I was a year younger than the rest of the kids in my class. Birthday parties were the places the age difference was most often pointed out as classmates with early birthdays suddenly sounded as if they were two years older than I. Beyond that I was also a tomboy for much of my childhood and the awkward little sister of a very popular older brother. Add into that mix the desire to get out of my small farming town as quickly as possible and my first eighteen years could have been awful.
Yet for all of that adversity, my childhood was far from awful. I grew up with parents who could be overly critical with high expectations, but who also helped me not only focus on my strengths but develop them. Friday evenings were spent in the car making the forty-five minute drive to the piano studio. Summers involved writing workshops at far away universities. My dad used to respond to my tales of bullying with, "You're a Lupold. You're special and different and not everyone can handle that." Thinking back on those words makes me laugh now, but at the time they gave me strength.
I absolutely feel that one of the most important jobs I have as a parent is to protect and improve the self-esteem of my children. Beyond the funny sayings my dad used, it is absolutely critical that parents focus not only on where kids need to make changes and improve, but also on what they do well. My parents never hesitated to embarrass me by asking me to play the piano for guests, and as much as it agitated me, it also gave me the confidence to play in front of anyone. This confidence followed me in other areas such as college and job interviews and public speaking opportunities.
Parents should also help children set realistic expectations for themselves. I like to remind my daughter that as good as she is at a task, there will likely always be someone out there in the world who is better. The goal is to be great, not the best. And my goal as a parent is to direct my children in setting these reasonable goals so that they aren't frequently disappointed or feeling inadequate.