Skip to Content

Forget Building Self-Esteem: The Best Thing We Can Do for Our Kids


The best thing we can do for our kids is to make their lives more difficult.

What do you think about this statement?

I struggle every day with the idea behind this statement.

As a mom who can actually give her kids the world, I carry tremendous guilt, fear, and often the embarrassment of fortune.

Growing up, I worked hard to contribute to my family, help out my mom, be a good friend, work hard, play hard, get into a good school, get a good job, and surround myself with people that would get me “to the next level” {whatever that means}.

Growing up, I knew we didn’t have a lot of money but I never felt a lack of anything.

My life was rich, full, and joyful.


In almost 2018, like many parents, from where I sit, my husband and I can give our children anything they need and when it comes down to it anything they want (of course we don’t give them everything they want).

We earned it, right? To give our kids the things we never had…isn’t that the dream? Isn’t that the goal?

Purpose & The Meaning of Life

So, now, with three young children, I am experiencing the crippling fear and guilt that “having it all” is obviously much more than money and is far more difficult to achieve than financial security and stability.

Most of all, I feel like I am falling short and doing my kids a disservice.

I am not being short-sighted.

I am not being naive. I simply never understood the power of not “having it all”.

When I was a child I woke up everyday feeling lucky to have the life we lived…even though we had tough days, that was life and if I didn’t accept that fact (e.g. that life can be hard) then I certainly was not going to “make it to the next level”.  

I love this quote by Viktor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning, and it sums up what I am trying to say, what I desire for my kids… “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”


How to help kids reach their potential

I sit for hours every day wondering, reading, and searching for a way to insert challenge into my sons’ lives. That looks strange to write but I think you understand my point.

I think about gratitude and empathy and grit and perseverance and confidence…all those “good to have” qualities in life.

But how do you get there?

I can’t teach “gratitude”.

I can’t teach “grit”.

I can’t teach “perseverance”.

The “Little Engine that Could” would be disappointed in those statements…

..but what I mean is that experience has to develop those skills. Building relationships and hearing stories is what will develop these skills. There is nothing I can preach to my children that will make their character stronger.

I decided the absolute best thing I can do for my children is to help them find purpose in life and to try to interject that purpose into every action in their everyday life.

Finding a way to help them connect that purpose to the greater good – whether our family’s well-being, their education, their profession, our community, their sports teams, and so on – that is how I will succeed at growing happy and productive human beings.

The actions they take every day must be connected to that purpose in life. Connecting the act of helping with the laundry with the time spent building lego (because that activity is a passion) is key. Connecting the act of working hard and doing well at school to their happiness in life and not simply doing well in school because that is what we do…

I cannot simply say, “Fold the laundry because that is what we do.” I have to word it differently so that they make the connection that helping around the house leads to more happiness and more time to do the things they want to do in life.

Their purpose has to be at the center of their story and I truly believe the rest will follow.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.