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Want Self-Esteem? Practice Accountability!

Posted: February 07, 2018

An important ingredient missing in many of today's kids and young adults is accountability.  Everyone is worried that these age groups are exhibiting low self-esteem and an inability to handle the challenges life send their way.  The issues these young folks are facing likely came from a shortfall in the lessons of accountability they learned earlier in life. Learning to behave with complete accountability is a necessary part of a healthy growth and maturity process.

Accountability, the act of following through on one's promises and the open acceptance of the consequences of our choices and actions, is often a concept that parents find difficult to teach their children.  While they understand the concept, model the concept and attempt to help their kids learn the idea, it often seems too painful to hold a child to the core of the concept. This reluctance to fully teach the meaning of accountability can have a large and lasting impact on a child's self-esteem.

First, let's look at promises.  When a potential student comes into our school for a Student Assessment and Family Meeting one of the processes I go through with all children, ages 3-16, is the concept of "Answering Up".  In our school we use the "Answer Up", saying "Yes, Sir/Ma'am!", as a way of showing respect as well as a way of maintaining safety in a very dynamic environment.  During the potential student's initial visit I challenge them to "Answer Up" every time I ask them to do something as part of one our Student Assessment Challenges.  I also remind them that when they "Answer Up" at home and school, as they should, they are making a promise to whomever they are answering.  They are saying, "Yes Ma'am/Sir, I will get that done right away!"  I turn this into a powerful tool that parents and teachers can use to help keep the child on track and focused by linking it to idea that, "A good Black Belt Leader ALWAYS keeps their promises."  The most interesting thing about this very short process is the immediate effect it has on every child that comes through my office.  Every one of them responds more quickly with the "Answer Up" after I explain the reason behind it and it's real power.  Their Self-Esteem jumps and they become more inquisitive, willing to try new challenges and more respectful towards their parents.  As they begin to "Answer Up" and then execute the simple instructions I am giving them you can almost see their self-worth and belief intheir ability to accomplish anything grow!  Promises do not need to be complex to be powerful, encourage accountability through the use of simple promise-making and promise-keeping cycles.

The Power and Importance of Self-Awareness

Posted: January 31, 2018

Self-awareness, the understanding of our selves, our choices and actions, and our impact on the world around has agreat deal of power in our lives.  As children grow up it is important that these lessons and understanding start early, giving them the opportunity to harness the power granted by true self-awareness.  When a child can see, for themselves, how their choices and actions, or inaction, effect themselves and the world around them a new path to greater self-esteem is opened to them.

As a martial arts instructor I work very hard to begin this learning process with all of my students, especially the youngest classes. The simplest, yet most profound, way to approach the development of self-awareness is simply to ask questions.  It is important that when using a technique such as guided response through the use of open ended questions that it be applied in both positive and negative situations.  If we only ask a child questions that lead to negative answers and the "rehashing" of actions or choices that are seen as "incorrect" or "bad" behavior, it can cause them to close up and stop responding.  I use the same process, often using the exact same questions for helping a student explore both positive (accomplishment) and negative (failure) outcome experiences.  The whole process should be conducted to help the child explore the situation, their choices, their actions and the resultant outcomes on their terms, not ours as adults. 

As a child goes through this process of self-exploration and discovery of their impact on their world they see that they matter, their actions, words and choices matter.  When they see that they can have a positive impact on their world their self-esteem rises.  The exploration of negative outcome experieinces, in their terms, gives them the opprtunity to exercise their growing ability to feel empathy.  The ability to feel empathy and act on related emotions then gives them a growing satisfaction in their actions and in themselves. 

Positive Attitudes Foster Self-Esteem

Posted: January 24, 2018

So, how does helping a child, or anyone, develop a positiive attitude make it more likely they will grow in self-esteem?  The answer lies in the changes in response people with positive attitudes have to thier world and the challenges they encounter.

Self-esteem is the feeling of confidence and the idea that we are capable of achieveing anything we put our mind to doing.  Having a positive attitude plays a large part in that ability.  Imagine seeing everything that "goes wrong" as a negative.  Even when something goes "right" you still feel it is only "the way it should be" and therefore only neither positive or negative.  Living this way leaves little room to grow from our experiences and build the confidence needed to pick ourselves up after things go against our expectations. When a person approaches life with a positive attitude, even the times that fail to meet their expectations, they become more confident in their ability to accomplish their goals.  They see the opportunities that are presented in every experieince, both positive and negative.

Operating from a focus on the positive in every situtation allows a person to learn and grow.  Instead of the urge to retreat and "lick their wounds", a person who lives with positive attitude sees the opportunity to learn and gorw in knowledge and ability.  Becoming more resilient and able to overcome challenges and failures can create a strong sense of self-satisfaction.  A person with a strong positive attitude is able to find satisfaction in what they learned and their new found ability to deal with setback.  The opportunity to experience increased satisfaction,even in the face of tough times, makes a positive attitude important to satifying the second part of the Merriam-Webster definition, "... and satisfaction in oneself."

Confidence: Cornerstone of Self-Esteem

Posted: January 17, 2018

Self-Esteem begins with confidence.  It is difficult to help a person grow in self-esteem if we do not first understand how to build that person's confidence in themselves. So, what is confidence? How do we help a person build this important life skill? More imortant than these questions is the question of why.  Why is confidence so important to the development of self-esteem?  Let's dig a bit deeper...

Confidence is believing in ourselves and our ability to succeed. As Martial Arts Instructors and Coaches we look to find the "little personal victories" that will help each of our students begin to believe in themselves. With each small victory, each technique learned and done correctly comes a boost in confidence.  Students quickly become more confident in all aspects of life through the successful experiences they have on the mats.  As their confidence grows they begin to feel the satisfaction in their own abilities.

Confidence and self-esteem do not grow over night. The development of strong confidence and lasting self-esteem takes time and repetition.  To improve any of our skills we must practice that skill.  It is in this repetition, the act of repeating the skill correctly over and over again that we ceate a habit.  This includes believing in ourselves, one victory is not enough.  Self-Esteem, and the cornerstone of confidence, require repeated reinforcement to become a natural habit of believing.  Helping a person develop confidence and self-esteem starts by getting them involved in activities and situations that give them the opportunity to have those "little personal victories" repeatedly.  Building strong confidence, like building strong muscles, is done through both repetition and slowly increasing the "weight" of the challenge.

5 Tips for Helping Your Children Develop Lasting Self-Esteem

Posted: January 10, 2018

Self-est*eem (n.): A confidence and satisfaction in oneself. (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)

Notice that the definition given be Merriam-Webster does not use the word VALUE? Self-Esteem, arguably the basis for all positive emotion, should have nothing to do with the value one sees in oneself.  Instead, as parents, mentors, coaches, and educators, we should be looking to enhance a child's confidence and levels of satisfaction in what they do.  One way to accomplish these goals is to get them involved in the community.  Helping them find positive ways to integrate into the community will ensure healthy development and a strong sense of self-esteem. 

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