Courage comes from a belief in yourself: that regardless of any particular outcome, you are a loveable, capable, giving person who has a good chance to succeed. And when you don’t succeed, you look inward for a belief that you are more than just your achievements, that there is something worthwhile about you just because you are yourself. This belief-which we call self-esteem-helps motivate our kids to continue to work hard for good grades even after they’ve received a low one. It gives them the confidence to say “no” to friends when they’re asked to do things they know they should stay away from, such as being invited to use drugs, alcohol or to smoke.
When self-esteem is high–when our kids think they have a reasonable chance to succeed but all is not lost if they don’t–they have the confidence to tackle life’s challenges. They have courage.
HIGH SELF-ESTEEM = COURAGE
- Teens with high self-esteem have the courage to take positive risks. They are more likely to:
- Risk making mistakes in school by tackling hard problems and trying their best.
- Do what they know is right even if they lose their friends to the process.
- Cooperate with others for the greater good even when they don’t always get their way.
- Find positive ways to achieve independence and challenge themselves.
Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. When our kids think of themselves as unlovable or incapable of success, their self-esteem drops. This produces discouragement and fear.
LOW SELF-ESTEEM = DISCOURAGEMENT
When teens suffer from low self-esteem, they may not bother taking risks at all, or they may become reckless and take unwise risks. They are more likely to:
- Develop an “I don’t care” attitude toward school and stop working or drop out.
- Change their values to conform to those of their peers.
- Resent authority and rebel, either openly or passively, through intentional failure and other means.
- Resort to negative behavior-often involving drugs, sexuality, and violence-to achieve independence and challenge themselves.
So parents, my question for you is this: What are you doing to encourage high self-esteem in your kids? What have you found to be successful/not successful?
It’s also helpful to make sure–to the extent that you can–that your child surrounds themselves with friends who have high self-esteem. Whether we’re children or adults, we all tend to live up to the expectations of those we surround ourselves with, so the more positive people in your child’s life, the better off they’ll be.
Dr. Michael Popkin, the longtime spokesman for Lorillard’s Youth Smoking Prevention Program, is the founder of Active Parenting Publishers and is the author of many award winning video-based parenting education programs.
An expert in the field of parenting education, Dr. Popkin earned a doctorate in Counseling Psychology from Georgia State University and has served as Director of Child and Family Services at an Atlanta hospital. He and his family currently live in Atlanta.
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