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Children need charisma from individual adults- Be a strong adult with influence

May 9, 2013

By Michael C. Blackwell, President/CEO

Problems that can’t be resolved with a big solution are problems overlooked. Governments, community groups and programs try to fix things with a big sweep of their hands, with overwhelming size, and with a huge budget and staff. Smaller problems are recast, reshaped and trivialized into digestible bits that can then fall under big program categories.

Five-year-olds not ready for school? Head Start.

Pre-schoolers not learning what they need? Smart Start.

Students having problems reading? Communities in Schools.

Elderly need medical care? Medicare.

People don’t plan for retirement years? Social Security.

Big problems. Big solutions.

There’s no room, time or budget for individual solutions to small problems – small problems like a single life adrift.

If we have a problem with teenagers in our community, city councils look for remedies they can prescribe for whole groups.

What we really need is individual solutions, because the problems are about individuals. What we really need is for individual adults to invest part of themselves in a single child adrift, and care for that child long enough to pull him to shore.

Every child needs a charismatic adult in his life, someone from whom to gather strength.
Whether this person is a parent, relative, teacher, or coach; whether a child has one or two or even more in her life – these are not the important details. What matters, is that one such person exists to give a child an edge.

Such personal involvement by a charismatic, encouraging adult even helps insulate children from drug use and other delinquency.

How can one person make such a difference?
Because one person can help a child believe in himself. Not in a false way. Kids can see right through that. You can’t go around telling a child she did a great job if she really didn’t. You need to be sincere but honest.

While a parent is the most obvious candidate to be the charismatic adult in a child’s life, research shows that a teacher is often the adult who makes a difference. Teachers are perfectly positioned because they can not only help a child believe in himself but also provide situations where he can taste success.

Parents, teachers, neighbors, Sunday School teachers, Royal Ambassador leaders, pastors, youth ministers, music ministers, uncles and aunts, bus stop buddies. . .the list of those who can be a significant, charismatic adult for a child is long. It just takes a willingness to quit hand wringing and start talking.

Talk to the kid who rides his bike through your grass, or who walks by while you’re in the yard, or who comes to your door to sell a magazine. Kneel down and greet the child in the corridor who seems all alone at church.

Call their names. That says you know them, you identify them and to you, they are important. The solution to young people who can’t seem to find direction in life is for someone like you to show them the way.

You can help the teachers in your children’s lives be special if you take some responsibility. For instance:

• Volunteer in the school so the teacher is free to be doing greater things with kids.

• Thank a teacher for any help she’s given your child, however small. Even the least effective teacher can become more effective if he feels supported.

• When a teacher contacts you, don’t put him or her on the defensive. Hear them out.

I had such a charismatic adult – my elementary and junior high school principal, R.K. Hancock. He encouraged me to see beyond the hills of my mill village. He said I could soar where others would walk. He said I could sing where others would only mutter.

While others attached anchors that held me to the earth, R.K. Hancock called the wind and clouds to lift me aloft.

Seek charismatic, energetic, encouraging teachers for your children; help your children’s teachers be that way by encouraging them; and find a way to be that adult for your children, and someone else’s.