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Invest yourself in a child’s life

Updated: Apr 19

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 his life—these are not important details. What matters is that at least one such person exists to give a child an edge.

Search your growing-up memories. Who gave you the kind word or encouraging smile at a critical time? Can you recall an emotional ache, a silent scream for someone—anyone in authority—to notice you and give you approval? Your children and all other children know exactly how you felt then. Try to remember yourself. 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? By giving a child the emotional permission to believe in himself or herself. Of course, faking it won’t make it. Telling Susie she is the best soccer player on her team when she is a liability whenever the ball gets near her, or Johnny that his piano playing is divine when it crinkles the wallpaper, can have two outcomes—neither of them good. Either the child realizes that you are being untruthful and begins to discount everything you say, or believes you and develops the mother of all persecution complexes since no one else recognizes his or her marvelous talent. Instead, pay close enough attention so that you can see where actual progress has been made and praise the effort the child put into making the advance. This teaches that obstacles are real but many can be overcome with work and patience.

Providing a “yes-I-can” attitude for a child is a big deal. It’s what leads to resiliency. Kids’ abilities to rebound from setbacks is a key to success in an increasingly complex world. And while all children need resiliency, it is critical for those with low self-esteem, especially those who have learning or behavioral disabilities or whose home lives are unstable. What every child needs, and especially these kids, is to look in your eyes and see home, not despair, encouragement rather than disappointment.

While a parent is the most obvious candidate to be the charismatic

adult in a child’s life, most of us can vouch that a teacher is often

the adult who makes a difference. Teachers are perfectly positioned because they cannot only help a child believe in himself but can also provide situations where he can taste success.

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