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.
We all enjoy giving a child praise, the natural consequence of a positive behavior, but want to hesitate when it is time to allow the natural consequences of a negative behavior to befall our children. In the picture accompanying this blog is two of our upper level programs, Leadership and Legacy, places where we have seen the real power of accountability in strengthening self-esteem. All of our students, from ATA Tigers to Basic to our Instructor Trainees learn the concept of accountability in both it's positive and negative forms. With each group and age bracket the lessons are designed to help them learn and grow without destroying previous gains. This does not mean we "spare" the student when they step outside of expected proper behavior, we find a way to allow natural consequences to take place and then help the student deal with those consequences and grow from the experience. In the Leadership and Legacy Programs these lessons are intensified as the students learn to reach beyond themselves and help others. The consequences of poorly chosen words, inproper actions and rash choices can often have a bigger impact when they are helping others, so we make sure that the lessons include this concept. Some might think that this would be daunting and create an environment where the students would not want to reach out, would resist attempting something new. Quite the opposite, our Leaders and Legacy Members are almost always the first to jump into a new class or situation, the first to step up and help out because they have developed the self-esteem and confidence to do so through their training. If you look deeper into that training process you will see that it is not the successes that they had in training that make them more willing, but the failures. They did fail, they suffered the natural consequences of their mistakes. Then they picked themselves up, with a bit of help and coaching, and tried again. Through this process of failure-consequence-coaching-try agian they learned important lessons about who they are on the inside and what they are really capable of achieving. When held accountable to mistakes and mis-steps a child naturally grows a stronger, more resilient self-esteem.
Get your children involved in activities that encourage healthy accountability, they will thank you for it later!