confidence adults & tweens

So.

Sometimes I write about something because I was thinking about it … but them sometimes a picture makes me write. This picture reminded me that a lot of teens & tweens feel this way <in fact … one posted this picture she made>.

This picture also reminded made me think about kids & confidence & resilience and the role us adults play in their success with all.

“Someone was hurt before you, wronged before you, hungry before you, frightened before you, beaten before you, humiliated before you, raped before you…yet, someone survived…You can do anything you choose to do.” – Maya Angelou

Growing up is tough (stating the obvious).

I began with Maya’s quote because I often believe that a tween/teen’s world is very small.  What I mean by that is that it often seems like the entire world is against you (as an individual) and that everything seems to revolve around you & only you in terms of issues, parents, the bully in the hallway and the mean chemistry teacher.

It is difficult as a tween to remember that others have been there (this little space in hell you seem to exist in) before you … and the others before you made it … yep … they all pretty much survived.

And, as a teen, you are still in the development stage with regard to the self confidence (and resilience) that will carry you through this seeming hell.

Self confidence is important in almost every aspect of our life but it is especially fragile in the tween years.

Think about this next thought (to compound that last thought).

At the same time the tween is struggling finding their own self confidence … there are many adults who are also struggling to find it.

Ok. That last thought is an important point. Because this self confidence struggle thing can be a vicious path. People who lack self-confidence can find it difficult to become successful – kids and adults. Therefore if we don’t invest the energy to get someone on the right path as a tween the likelihood of success (self confidence-wise) as an adult diminishes accordingly.

Low self-confidence is self-destructive. It often rears its head as negativity. And that is a slippery slope difficult to get off of when on it … therefore it begets itself all over  … and over … and, well, you get it.

So imagine the importance when you think about over and over (and how many times that cycles) if you permit it to begin at 12. Or 10. Or 15. Or … well … you get it.

Ok. So.

It seems like good ole Maslow suggested several things contribute to self-confidence — self-actualization (what I do) and self-esteem (what I feel/believe).

We gain a sense of self actualization when we see ourselves mastering something, gaining some skill and attaining some tangibleness  (a result?) to hold on to as actualization. This gives someone a tangible proof that they really don’t suck. That if you learn and work hard you can succeed.  Self actualization actually leads to accepting bigger and more difficult challenges and teaches resilience and persistence (and managing mistakes/failure).

And then there is self-esteem.  This is more a general sense that we can cope with what’s going on in our lives. And we feel good, or at least ‘good enough,’ about ourselves. Partially this comes from a feeling that the people around us approve of us. But it also comes from the sense that we’re competent at something and that we can compete successfully in the world by being who we are.

Some people believe that self-confidence can be built with affirmations and positive thinking.

Yikes.

There may be some truth in that, but I just cannot accept that self confidence can be all ‘fluff.’ You have to be good at something … have some competence at something. To me, without this underlying competence, you just have ‘empty’ (or maybe better said … ‘hollow’) self-confidence.

If you believe that, then self confidence in a tween is part mental and part doing.

And that means the truly difficult part is it is easy (or easier) to build self confidence if you focus on what you have achieved … but young people just don’t have the body of accomplishments to draw upon.

Oh.  The issue is exacerbated by the fact lack of self confidence typically leads to inaction.

Therefore this is an evil doom loop.

If true confidence (as you get older) shifts from a mental aspect to one drawing from a ‘deed’ (what you have done) aspect and yet, as a kid, your lack of confidence begets continuous non action (no deeds) … well … you are screwed (from a confidence standpoint).

Sure.

Someone could argue that you can build a portfolio of accomplishments to draw upon even at a young age … but it is different.

Frankly … a tween/teen needs to be less reliant on what they have done but rather start by managing their mind. Learn to defeat the negative self-talk which can destroy confidence.

And this is where us old folk play a HUGE role.

“Mind” stuff is fragile.  And we tend to be ‘realistic’ or “manage the mind” differently because … well … of our perspective.  Because we are supposed to be ‘practical’ adults. We aren’t really wrong in how we look at it … but we are maybe wrong for who and what is going on.

Let me remind you of a Lao Tzu quote: “Kindness in words creates confidence”.

Now.

I am not suggesting we need to pamper kids …  maybe just pamper their dreams & hopes?

Maybe it is not even pamper … maybe it is just caring.

I saw some findings from the Tween Confidence Index  and the results were clear: tween confidence is short-lived, yet can be safe-guarded by maintaining strong communication between tweens and their parents. In fact, the majority of tweens surveyed found talks with their parents to be “very helpful,” and there was a measurable relationship between tweens’ confidence levels and the value they placed on these talks.

“The Unilever Tween Confidence Index reveals just how critical parent communication is to help tweens transition into competent, confident teenagers. By keeping the lines of communication open, parents can minimize the decline in self-esteem that we know begins around age 12 or 13.” – Rosalind Wiseman, internationally recognized educator.

Some facts for my parent/adult readers from The Unilever Tween Confidence Index, conducted by KRC Research:

–          A majority of tweens (69 percent) find talks with their parents to be “very helpful” in dealing with the pressures and challenges they face.

–          Tweens are most stressed about hearing rumors about themselves or friends (68 percent), getting good grades (61 percent), dealing with hard teachers (68 percent) and their first kiss (51 percent).

So <this is a fairly big thought coming at you next>.

We may not feel like we are saying the rights things but more often than not we are doing the right thing by trying to say the right things.

While you can’t stop a child from harshly judging how their abilities and bodies match up to others, there are a number of ways we can make a positive impact.

Because confidence to a kid doesn’t happen overnight.  It is built little by little … thought by thought.

And each positive thought ultimately creates the resiliency which is at the foundation of anyone’s confidence.

And a tween can never start building the resiliency characteristic early enough.

Because life is relentless at that age. Frickin’ relentless. Here is the definition of ‘resilience’:

Resilience: Resilience is the ability to work with adversity in such a way that one comes through it unharmed or even better for the experience.

That means having the ability to face whatever Life decide to throw at you … and refuse to give up 9keep on moving). Resilience is what allows a kid to move beyond whatever misfortune, hardship, mistake or …. at its worst … an emotional or psychological trauma (an extremely stressful or life-threatening situation or abuse) a child may face.

Resilience is, in some ways, about tenacity and fortitude and character. Having the character to find the determination to embrace all that makes life worth living … even in the face of dire events.

An aspect of resiliency has to be a belief for ‘something better’ which can be embodied in a vision or purpose.

I tell kids – everyone faces adversity. Everyone. Adversity is an equal opportunity employer.

Resilience is especially important during the tween years when children face new academic challenges, pressure and rejection from peers, and increasing awareness of their own limitations. Resilient children bounce back well after they face these issues. They are less likely to develop depression, anxiety or unhealthy coping mechanisms like aggression, eating issues and substance problems. Some characteristics that encourage resilience are innate – such as intellectual ability.

“If you voluntarily quit in the face of adversity, you’ll wonder about it for the rest of your life.” – Bill Clinton

Truer words have probably never been spoken.

And every tween should be told this (by an adult). Even if the adult is struggling with their own self confidence. We owe it to them to at least show them the way.

It is our responsibility, yes, our responsibility … to create opportunities for tweens (young people) to develop a positive self-concept. Praise. Listen. Take interest. Show respect.

Allow them the opportunity to develop their own sense of self and self confidence.

For we don’t want them to follow in our footsteps … we want them to go beyond our footsteps.

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Written by Bruce